Go-go godfather Chuck Brown’s death Wednesday is a family tragedy and a loss for D.C. music and culture. It’s also cause for a moment of collective mourning deserving of a grand send-off for a civic icon.
Some sort of public memorial is almost certain, several city officials said Wednesday evening. But where and how? Quite simply, there might not be a room in the city large enough to handle the crowd.
Keep this in mind: When legendary broadcaster Petey Greene died in 1984, the Washington Post reported more than 8,000 people came to pay their last respects at a Northeast church. More recently, many hundreds attended the Washington Convention Center goodbye to trumpet man Anthony “Little Benny” Harley in 2010.
Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s administration has not yet been able to speak with Brown’s family about planning an appropriate goodbye, said spokesman Pedro Ribeiro. Until that happens, he said, officials will be “thinking about” the planning but making no actual plans.
”It’s obvious that the city has a role to play in remembering Chuck,” Ribeiro said. “It’s what the family wants.”
But several D.C. Council members discussed using city sports facilities for the send-off.
”Nationals Park,” said Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), “because he’s a national treasure.”
The 41,000-seat baseball stadium has the advantage of being city-owned, but scheduling might be complicated by the fact it’s baseball season.
Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) — whose ties to Brown go back to the early 1970s, when Brown performed for members of Barry’s Pride Inc. — had a different space in mind.
”The verizon Center’s just right,” he said, rejecting the notion that Nationals Park or RFK Stadium might be appropriate. “Can’t have anything outside.”
The 18,000-seat downtown arena, however, isn’t owned by the city but by Monumental Sports and Entertainment, controlled by businessman Ted Leonsis. Barry said that didn’t figure into his thinking. “Money should be no obstacle for Chuck Brown,” he said.
Council chairman Kwame R. Brown (D) said he would “do anything it takes” to assure Chuck Brown gets a suitable goodbye.
”Nationals stadium, RFK Stadium, anything,” he said. “You’re talking about a parade around one area of the city to the next.”
In terms of grand D.C. goodbyes past, present and future, he said, “He’ll give Marion Barry a run for his money.”