GOODNIGHT MR. WELLS: PW Writer Extraordinaire Steven Wells Loses Long, Public Battle With Cancer


Damn. Steven Wells was THE funniest, ballsiest, take-no-prisoners writer to grace the pages of Philadelphia print media in recent memory. His long, tragic battle with cancer was no secret, he wrote about it with the same unflinching honesty, hair-on-fire rage, savage wit and gallows humor he wrote about everything. Sir, it was a privilege and an honor. You will be sorely missed. Good night Mr. Wells, wherever you are.

PW: Steven Wells Farewell Column

steven_wells.jpgWIKIPEDIA: Steven Wells is was a British journalist and author currently based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Born in Swindon, England in 1960, Wells moved to the northern English city of Bradford with his family in 1968. Leaving school with minimal qualifications in 1977, Wells worked in a factory and as a bus conductor while becoming involved with punk music, including the radical socialist Leeds art-punk band The Mekons. In 1984, he began appearing as a punk poet and stand-up as a support act to various Northern punk bands, such as The Fall, The Mekons, Gang of Four along with fellow ranting poets Attila The Stockbroker, Swift Nick and Porky The Poet where he performed under the names “Seething Wells”, “Swells” or “Susan Williams”. In this last guise, in which he would sometimes wear a dress, he received fan mail from Kathy Acker who saw Susan as a fellow radical female writer. Later he moved to London and began to write for the NME, initially under the name Susan Williams. In this guise he championed socialist soul/punk band The Redskins along with American hardcore bands such as Black Flag and the Butthole Surfers. Later on he championed British bands which merged thrash, hardcore and heavy metal, such as Extreme Noise Terror, Napalm Death and the various bands that followed them. He also championed disposable pop artists, such as Daphne and Celeste, as successors to the punk aesthetic. In the 1990s, he diversified, occasionally writing comedy (for shows such as The Day Today) and other non-music related journalism. MORE

THE GUARDIAN: Steven Wells’ Columns

STEVEN WELLS: This is a story about dignity. I used to think I knew exactly how I’d respond in moments like wellscover.jpgthese. I’d be like Cary Grant in His Girl Friday: Pithy, sophisticated, dryly witty and unflappably handsome. But, in fact, every time I’ve faced real-life drama I’ve been more like Ben Stiller at the end of There’s Something About Mary: running down the road screaming, flapping my arms, blubbing like a baby. Which is what I’m doing now. […]

“Anyhoo, it’s malignant,” says the doctor to the cancer patient in the cartoon on the wall of the cancer doctor’s office. The horribly informal word strips away the patient’s last shred of dignity. Ordinarily that’s funny, unless you’ve just been told—for the second time in less than three years—that you have cancer. Then it’s fucking hilarious.

This particular cancer doctor has festooned his walls with framed magazine covers that roar AMERICA’S TOP 100 DOCTORS. In England such a display would be considered frightfully immodest. In Philly it’d be considered a tad gauche. But in look-at-me-everybody New York it kinda looks cool. Dignity is a moveable feast.

Three years ago I was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma. I did chemo and suffered an allergic reaction that nearly killed me. I wrote a story for PW about it. Shortly afterward a neighbor in my Mount Airy apartment block accosted me in the laundry room. “I was really amazed you could write a story like that,” she said. “I mean, you English—you’re so aloof … ”

I went into remission—and then spent ages with various straight-outta-Alien super-long-necked, hi-tech mini- plumbing-robots probing my drugged-to-fuck innards trying to find the cause of an entirely new set of nasty symptoms (including, but not limited to, puking, shitting through a needle and stomach pain).

wellscancerscar_1.jpgIn June 2008 I was diagnosed with celiac disease—a wheat allergy gig. I cut flour and cake and croissants and (sob) the crusty baguettes from La Colombe on Manayunk High Street from my diet and spent hours interrogating waiters and shop staff about their food preparation procedures.

I became one of those insufferable, sniffy, subhuman asswipes who pisses everybody off by asking the deli counter guy to please change his gloves. I’m now a member of that species of prissy, nit- picking, ingredients-reading, self-obsessed bastards who always got on my nerves. I’m a cousin to the loathsome vegan, the tedious vegetarian and the religious nut job.

In short, I’m a full-blown fussy eater.

On this new diet the vomiting and the shitting through the needle ceased, but the stomach pain just grew. More sexy, sinuous, stainless steel snakebots were sent slithering down my throat and up my anus; snipping chunks out of my slimy guts.

Then on Thurs., Jan. 29, 2009, I got a phone call from my gastroenterologist. He told me I’ve got a cancer called enteropathy-associated T-cell lymphoma— which only afflicts a small percentage of the small percentage of people who develop celiac disease. And as cancers go, it’s a bastard.

Anyhoo. I put the phone down and let out a huge, self-pitying “Why me?” The answer, of course, is the same as the answer to Travis’ shit-awful 1999 international breakthrough hit, “Why Does It Always Rain on Me?” Because you’re a fucking dick. Now shut the fuck up and grow a pair. MORE

ALSO: Longtime radio talk show host Irv Homer has died.

IRVHOMER.COM: Irv Homer was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Philadelphia. Irv didn’t plan to become the popular and controversial talk-show host he is today. He originally owned three bars in the Philadelphia area. He also spent a lot of time listening to and calling all the different talk-show hosts in the area and even described himself as a talk-show freak. In the 1960s Irv and some of his friends bought some air time on the controversial station WXUR. Irv and his friends were so popular with the audience that they bought more time and started a program called the Right, Center and Left. Irv was the Center. It was Irv’s job to listen to the view from the left and the view from the right and then throw both views out the window. The listeners loved it. […] Irv Homer is a man of and for the people. Known for taking the common man approach, his daily show is the jump off point for many of his crusades. Here also do the ideas and ideals of freedom, liberty and personal independence go out over the airwaves to the homes of many of his listeners. Irv wants to make you listen, Irv wants you to think and Irv wants you to act. MORE

PHAWKER: Amen. Evil Irv will be missed if only because he coined the term ‘Boobus Americana’ and used it often. But also because he was, as it says in his bio, ‘a small ray of sanity’ on the airwaves. Good night Irv, wherever you are.

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