Published January 2010 Vol. 14 Issue 1
by Gretchen Crowe
Mention metal music, and “Fuzzy,” as we call him, perks up. He’ll tell you who’s sincere, who’s based on fashion or who’s down right bad. Eric Johnson is “Fuzzy.” His nails might be painted black or his hair dyed, but Fuzzy is unmistakable. His most noticeable trait is his candor, and his words and veracity are the precise reason he’s probably still here today. Even though he might be the first to criticize us here at the VOICE, his patriotism for it is inherently folded into the core of his own identity. “If it wasn’t for this paper and Rick, I would be dead. That is really, really real.”
Fuzzy was born in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, in September 1973. After finishing high school, this bass and guitar player took off on a hitch-hiking journey to New Mexico. Resonating with this freedom, he found a home within the “tour-heads” of the Grateful Dead. He branched out to some Jerry Band (that’s Jerry Garcia) tours, and he stayed mobile for two years. At age 20, he settled in Denver, because in his travels, he liked it. Like most kids on tour, life wasn’t just happy hitch-hiking and music; there’s an underbelly, and it set the seeds for the next years of Fuzzy’s life.
He was married, had a son and then divorced. He lived on the streets for the next six years. Caught up in the social problems of street drugs, Fuzzy drifted, making enough money day-to-day by reading poetry for tips to the pedestrians he encountered. “Would you care to hear a poem for a small tip?” was his catch phrase. “I lived on hand-outs.” One day, his waitress friend at Marlowe’s introduced him to Rick Barnes, who had just launched the new Denver VOICE the same month. Something, Fuzzy said, clicked. Rick tipped him well and said to call him, because he could help him work. Fuzzy wasn’t sure if Rick was sincere or if he was trying to proposition him (not a far-fetched notion to people on the streets). With a chuckle, “I figured out he wanted to help,” Fuzzy said. Fuzzy became vendor #9. Out of thousands of vendors since the time he signed up, #9 is a pretty amazing number to still have. “The VOICE lifts people from the ashes of life. Look at me, it’s given me a way to make a living and get an apartment. Since being a vendor, I got my head where I can go to school.” He’s also been published in the VOICE several times, earning the nomination for a North American Street Newspaper Association award, “2009 Best Vendor Contribution.”
Fuzzy celebrates his beautiful fiancée, Xea, and their apartment together. He celebrates getting to go to college. His wit might make him seem contemptuous or wry, but we know better; Fuzzy, true patriots always offer the hardest questions of all!