Friday, September 02, 2005

Alex Chilton is missing


The former Box Tops and Big Star frontman (and inspiration to countless bands, from REM to the Posies) has not been heard from in New Orleans since late Monday. Here's a post from

Alex Chilton Missing

Family and friends of musician Alex Chilton (lead singer for 1970s powerpop band Big Star and 1960s rock group the Box Tops) have not been able to locate him since late Monday when he was last heard from alive at his house in NewOrleans after the initial storm before the phones in the area went down. His sister in Memphis and friends are very worried because people are now dying in New Orleans from exposure and he has still not been able to get to a place to
contact his family and friends. It is believed he may possibly be waiting to be evacuated in the French Quarter, which was within walking distance of his home. Please contact with any information about his condition.

I emailed the individual, and got a response from a former Box Topper:

Statement by Bill Cunningham, Box Tops
New Orleans is world famous for its contributions to music and art. Artists who have reportedly been caught up in the New Orleans hurricane disaster include Allen Toussaint, The Nevilles, Big Star and Box Tops lead singer Alex Chilton, Irma Thomas, Chuck Carbo, Clarence Henry, Frankie Ford, Harold Battiste, Cosimo Matassa and numerous others.
Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew were reported to have made it to safety, but many other outstanding artists known to have been in the city during the disaster have not been heard from. The chaos and the degradation of the situation should concern us all, and a swift response restoring order is needed at once.
Claims of communication and logistical difficulties by governmental representatives are not acceptable excuses. Our National Guard is trained to handle such situations, equipped with its AWACS planes, technology and troops. If these troops are not being allowed to do their work to maintain order, this shortcoming speaks of bureaucratic red tape and a lack of planning.
This situation could arise in any metropolitan area due to natural disaster or terrorist attack, and our inability to effectively manage the crisis does not speak well of our current homeland security capabilities. These management failures are a deadly mistake and a national disgrace.
Disaster plans are made years in advance, and are executed speedily. Since the United States is not executing a disaster plan effectively in the current emergency, one has to question our readiness in the future. Inefficient handling of this emergency has brought about a sense of false hope regarding homeland security, given the apparent inability to evacuate our citizens to safety from a major disaster.
The government's slowness to act creates an unfortunate impression to some members of the public that racism may be a factor in the inadequate response. There is no reason why this country, with its vast resources, should not be able to effectively evacuate everyone from New Orleans. Imposing order and structure to stabilize the situation promptly will build public confidence in our nation's ability to manage future disasters.
We need troops, supplies and evacuations now; we need immediate action from the federal government to save lives. Besides letting down the people of New Orleans who are dying and in misery, the United States also stands to lose a major part of its cultural heritage by the loss of many artists and cultural icons currently trapped in that great city.
Thought you might be interested. I got to meet Chilton a few years ago after a show in Hoboken and asked him how to play "When My Baby's Beside Me." He told me it was classic Stones DADGAD. That was a pretty great moment. My friend Louise also did one of the all-time great interviews with the notoriously media shy man a few years ago. Let's hope for the best.
UPDATE: The New York Times has a brief article that essentially recaps what I have here.
Also, I am emailing a woman who has been friends with Chilton since 1985. Here is part of her email to me:
Alex was fine as of Monday afternoon, but then the floods came and the phones went down.

He has not been heard from since. The Box Tops website is a good contact on this situation. Cecelia, I, Bill Cunningham and Jody have been in touch about this. Also, Peggy and Dan Rose, who evacuated to Memphis, are who last spoke with alex on the phone Monday after the storm and so that is why we know he is alive.

Some friends and family think this screen capture [above] from CNN might be Chilton
Here's the Box Tops website:
More from the friend named Lisa [via rant-a-bit]

What I've heard is this-

He loaned his car to a friend, to drive several people to Memphis, but refused to go with them. He boarded up his house and stayed there.

The following day he spoke on the phone to the friend he loaned his car to. And some people were able to get in touch with other friends there in his neighborhood who also stayed in town, and they said they saw him that next morning.

Then the other levies broke. Apparently his neighborhood was flooded badly.

Everyone was worried again. Then a girl in Memphis said she also heard from him, but nobody seems to know whether that was before or after or the same time as the friend with his car.

Next the friends from his neighborhood got a message out (apparently people cannot use cell phones to talk, but are able to send text messages) that they had a group who were apprantly going to try find their way out of town. Alex was not with them.

Somehow some of these people seem to have actually made it out of town, and called friends in Memphis from somewhere in Mississippi. Alex was not with them.

Now his friends in Memphis are starting to ask what happened to Alex. There was contact, but then he seemed to have seperated from people there who knew him and nobody has heard from his since.

His friend in Memphis who has his car still has no knowledge of his status.

There is a rumor that he walked to the French Quarter.

The general consesus is that he is in the French Quarter but nobody has heard from him. That shouldn't be surprising, many people are alive there, and nobody knows where they are.

Everyone should assume he's OK for now.

I just spoke on the phone to an old friend of Alex's who lives here in NY. He's making phone calls down to Memphis to see if he can learn anymore info.

Later Chilton's Daughter Added:

Not likely he'd be "getting drunk in the French Quarter" all of a sudden when doesn't drink (hasn't for 25 years) and is likely dodging armed looters. I do think he might be in the French Quarter because it's near his house and he may not have been able to walk to the Superdome due to water levels and distance.

He waited till the last minute thinking that the storm would go east of N.O. and let two close friends from New Orleans take the car, while he continued boarding up the house all night long. They helped him board up a bit before they left at the last minute possible. At least now he still has a car, thanks to them, since it would have done him no good after things flooded after the storm. He got through the winds shaken but ok, but then the floods came and the phones went down. Nobody knows what happened after that except people with him in New Orleans, possibly these people you mention went around "with shotguns" although that bit about "three shotguns" sounds a bit exaggerated by the source you found it at, somewhat like an urban legend thought up after people saw all the gun chaos via cable news tv. But that's not your fault someone wrote that wherever you found it.

If everyone will hang tight and wait for alex to get to a phone, we'll all know soon enough. I just wish someone would find him and get him out of there. I tend to think he's still walking around there. I made sure I had the Coast Guard check his house. I think he's probably just stuck in a big mess with thousands of others, but this is a mess that can lead to death and dehydration (another reason I doubt he's "getting drunk" anywhere). He had some big water bottles with him for the storm, but likely now he is without water or food. I'm really worried. There is no reason to be assuming he's just fine at this point after being forced out of his house without food for 5 days even though he was fine on Monday.

i hope someone finds him soon.

Chilton lives near the French Quarter, which was not as hard hit as other parts of the city (i.e., it did not flood). It is still worrisome that he and so many others have not been heard from. Any tips, send to:

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 11:25 PM

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