By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Q: What does it take to get Dallas hipsters to do the hokey-pokey?
A: A large bald man with a Santa Claus beard and earrings with a string of fake diamonds cascading off his earlobes.
John "Beard" Brewer, the large bald man with the beard in question, almost died a few weeks ago. Alone in his house, he had a seizure and passed out, banging his head and leaving him collapsed, unconscious, on the floor. For 17 hours.
His daughter found him, and he spent the next week in the Parkland ICU sans consciousness.
He finally woke up, recovered (though doctors still cannot figure out what caused the seizure) and came home after more than a week. Which is why about 75 Dallas music fans ended up doing the hokey-pokey last Sunday night at Club Dada.
See, Beard has worked at Dada for more than 20 years. He is the ultimate doorman—a bulky, bald badass of a gatekeeper. He is generous, humble and as sweet as Tuaca. But if you fuck up, if you start a fight or try to stagger in all Axl Rose-style, or if you're a 14-year-old white boy trying to pass yourself off with an ID that says you're 46-year-old Phan Huc Cho, well, you will be very sad. Beard protects his own.
And his own give back. Ambulances, tests, 'round-the-clock care, CAT scans—that shit is expensive, y'all, even at Parkland. All of Beard's care ended up costing tens of thousands of dollars. And the man doesn't have insurance.
So, led by Dada co-owner Amanda Newman, the folks of Deep Ellum—both old and new—threw Sunday night's fund-raiser, named the "Beard-a-Fit," to help yet another good soul whose health insurance needs have fallen through the chasms in our system. And that's when one of the old, Brave Combo—a band that's been around as long as Beard has—convinced several dozen people to engage in a mid-set hokey-pokey.
It was the first of many small moments, both musical and personal, that highlighted the Beard-a-Fit. After Brave Combo's polka-gypsy-rock set, another old-schooler, David Garza, returned to Dada and bopped out a set of funky jam-band-lite fare, including his rendition of Prince's "Kiss." Garza and band were joined at one point by 17-year-old Fred Holston, who busted out his sitar. They were followed by newsters Airline, The Felons and others.
Musically, the evening was a downright gorgeous success, with the variety of bands, buoyed by the extra enthusiasm of doing it for Beard and by the crowd of around 250 people, many of whom had been sipping Shiners since about one in the afternoon. But there was more: Kettle Art proprietor Frank Campagna painted 25 original, limited-edition portraits of Beard, and the proceeds of their sale also went toward medical costs. They almost sold out (drop by the gallery to grab one—they're a steal, and they'll go fast). The Beard-a-Fit T-shirts, donated by Team Evil and designed and printed within a week, almost sold out also. Up-and-coming artist Richard Ross' tiny, strange works sold out. The proceeds of these sales, plus checks and cash donations at the door, totaled between $4,000 and $5,000. Oh, and there was also the anonymous donor (and trust us, this person is legit) who scribbled out a $10,000 check.
In the end, it was a perfectly Beard evening: a fine lineup of local musicians, a fine mix of silliness and rock 'n' roll, art and song, the ghosts of Deep Ellum hovering about benevolently, grinning.
Oh, right, those earrings: Toward the end of the night, after many beers had been imbibed and Smashing Pumpkin shots (don't ask) swallowed, Beard stood at the entrance, the door where he usually checks IDs, the spot to which he naturally gravitates. Flanked by his daughter, Campagna and several other pals, Beard turned his head to show off his bling, laughing, saying something like, "You get those video cameras over here to film this!" He was joking, of course, because Beard guards the door so others can take the spotlight. That's just the way he is.