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An Incomplete and Random List of Beloved Characters in Duluth

Hung – Vo Hung has bought more rounds of drinks than the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Richard Wozniak – The longtime proprietor of Young at Heart Records could find anything you needed.

Frank Nichols – He’s lovable, he’s cuddly, he plays harmonica and rides the lift bridge.

Christmas Tree Lady – Claudia Abrahamson put up 37 Christmas trees in 2008, carefully placing them in every room of her house.

Five-mile-an-hour Harold – Harold Nelson was an elderly Duluth Heights resident, known for constantly walking around the city. Sadly, he was struck by a car while crossing Central Entrance at Trinity Road on August 10, 2009. He died three days later. Up until the very end — at age 83 — he was still walking, often stopping to pick up garbage or clear snow from bus stops. In his younger days he worked for the city of Duluth in the purchasing division.

Old Man Carlson – Although he’s best known in Duluth as owner of R.O. Carlson Used Book & Record from about 1976 to 2003, Robert Olaf Carlson’s real brush with fame came in St. Paul during the late 1960s. His Wabasha Book and Magazine Store was raided by police at least eight times, resulting in multiple arrests of Carlson and his business partner, Joseph Lee, for selling “obscene literature.” The store in Duluth was famous for it’s sheer immensity. When Carlson filed for bankruptcy, the IRS estimated the store’s inventory was worth $61,500.

Loud Radio Guy – The guy who, according to Baci, lives at a group home on Fifth Street and rides his bike with a little radio blaring out a tiny speaker. “He’s always slowly pedaling by with a helmet on and a smile on his face,” Baci wrote. When I lived in the Hillside, I used to hear the unmistakable sound of his radio as he pedaled past my window, but I only saw him maybe once or twice.

French Larry – Larry Whalen was an infamous Duluth character before he became an infamous Madeline Island character. According to Baci, French Larry was one of the first residents of Emerson School Apartments, a regular at the Mr. Franks open stages (the only bohemian performance venue in the early 1980s), and a founding member of Colder By The Lake. According to Starfire, Larry is also a modern dancer and a great maker of iced coffees. Why do people call him “French Larry”? No one has told me, or else I forgot.

Mr. Gastler – Retired Denfeld social studies teacher Richard Gastler taught at the school so long that, near the end of his career, he would actually say to students, “I remember when your grandfather was in my class.” Gastler was famous for his wit and his green polyesther leisure suit. In the mid-1980s, in an effort to raise money for starving Ethiopians, he wore his famous suit every day until he raised a certain amount of money. He was interviewed about this on Good Morning America. His suit was eventually burned, and the ashes remain in Denfeld’s trophy case at the main entrance to this day.

Rod Stewart” – The Ripsaw did a story about him once. I think he’s from Superior. He looks like rock singer Rod Stewart, so everybody calls him Rod Stewart. He’s takes it in stride and is quite a nice guy.

Ray Ray” – Edward Ray Erickson of Superior has worn at least one item of Green Bay Packers clothing every day since about 1975.

Colleen Shannon – The host of Public Access Community Television’s infamous “In My Room” show during the 1990s, Colleen was a pre-vlogging sensation, pointing the camera at herself and going off on unscripted rants. She would also occasionally just put on the radio and shoot video of herself dancing around the house to the music.

Steve at Eighth Street Video on Ninth Street – Steve Lichterman was amazing in his ability to remember all his customers.  I’ve never been much of a video renter, so I was amazed the second time I went to his store, probably eight months after my first rental, and he said something like, “Hi Paul. Looking for another Western?” Steve is apparently running a video store in Superior now, according to comments to this post.

Mr. Lookup – Roger Lookup was a homeless man who enjoyed reading at the Duluth Public Library. Legend has it that he would so frequently ask the librarians to look things up for him that they started saying, “Hey, here comes Mr. Lookup!” when he walked toward the desk. Eventually, he had his last name legally changed to Lookup. He died a few years ago.

Dusty Olson – You have to love a competitive distance runner with a penchant for chemical indulgences. There are many tales of Dusty’s antics, but the one I hear the most is the time he drank until closing time at the Anchor and feared he might oversleep and miss the bus to the start of that morning’s Grandma’s Marathon. Being intoxicated, he did the only logical thing. He ran across the bridge, then headed north to Two Harbors, running the marathon course in reverse to the starting line. He then took a nap on someone’s lawn until the gun went off, after which he ran the race in the direction it was intended, finishing it in just over three hours.

The Mayor of West Duluth – His first name was Terry. He died maybe 10 years ago. Everyone called him the Mayor of West Duluth. He could usually be found sitting on the bench outside Brad’s Barber Shop. The story is that the city repaved the sidewalk and removed the bench, and he hounded officials to restore it. When the city gave in and installed a new bench, everyone in West Duluth joked that Terry had the most clout in the neighborhood.

The Unabaker – Dan Proctor was dubbed “the Unabaker” because of his work at Positively Third Street Bakery and his non-conformity (similar to the Unabomber, but totally different). He’s known for being an all-around nice guy, walking everywhere and living almost (or is it entirely?) removed from the power grid.

Uncle Paul – Paul Steklenski is also known as “The Cider Man,” profiled in Barton Sutter’s book Cold Comfort. If you bring him a bag of rotten apples in the fall, he’ll make cider for you. He is also a founder of Positively Third Street Bakery.

Mrs. Pelican – Mardelle Pelican was the super nice lady who owned the old Eighth Street Market and always said hi twice.  “Hi-hi!” My dad told me once that she lived by the zoo and called the Police about a disturbance once and was hung up on because she said, “Hi-hi, this is Mrs. Pelican by the zoo.” I’m not sure if that’s a real story, something my dad made up or an urban legend.

Cereal Box Collector Dude – I read a long time ago about a guy named Rob Zenner who has a renowned collection of old cereal boxes. I think he was from Duluth or close by.

Bud James – Beloved singing janitor at MacArthur Elementary School who was recently the subject of a photo archive post.

105 Comments

Barrett Chase

about 10 years ago

Terry lived upstairs of Brad's Barber Shop (or at least in that building--maybe not directly above) and sat in that bench all day every day.

Beverly

about 10 years ago

Paul Steklenski is The Cider Man, I think. He has made appearances at the Scottish Rite Clinic for Childhood Language Disorders, and I believe it's his wife who tests children's hearing at the clinic.

zra

about 10 years ago

How about the old white haired guy who lived somewhere in the vicinity of my old digs over on 9th ave & E 4th...always had a broom with him, and i'd randomly see him sweeping the sidewalks in different parts of the neighborhood...

Angel

about 10 years ago

there is also that old bag lady that owned a house over by 6th ave E.she usually totted around a shopping cart. her story escapes me..

Paul Lundgren

about 10 years ago

Hold it now, people. This isn't a list of weirdos who wander the streets. If it were, I would have included Turban Lady, the old crab in the West End who walked around wearing a turban during the mid-1990s picking up garbage and complaining about how children should not be allowed to have things that come in wrappers.

No, no. This is a list of people who are awesomely eccentric. Let's make sure we have this straight.

tony

about 10 years ago

brad's barber shop was my grandpa's barber shop. i knew terry well. he pronounced denfeld "denfield." he once rode his bike from duluth to sturgeon lake to hang out with my grandpa. he smoked many, many cigarettes in his day. one of his eyes had a white cornea from a childhood accident where some kid whipped him in the face with a wire, i want to say.

the guy i always think about is the guy from 8th street, the one who'd wave at the cars.

tony

about 10 years ago

i also have always wanted to know more about the "white lady" of the wheeler-lincoln area of town. she used to walk up and down grand avenue dressed in a white, burqua-esque garment. one time, i was attending a denfeld assembly, and she marched in the auditorium, came onstage, took the mic, and told everyone she used to be a cheerleader. it was weird.

adam

about 10 years ago

Crazy Betty?

Barrett Chase

about 10 years ago

Tony: The guy who waved at cars on 8th Street was named Fred. He had maybe four phrases that he'd repeat over and over, my favorite of which was "Get BB gun!"

Paul Lundgren

about 10 years ago

"How you been?" was Fred's signature phrase.

baci

about 10 years ago

wait for it ... wait for it.....tey're comin...er.....skizzleix frackenfreef...aaaaa

8th on 9th Street Steve the video savant
Albert Woolson
French Larry
and dont forget Jack fucking Mckenna

..er...buddabuddabudda ...

Barrett Chase

about 10 years ago

I would also like to nominate Roger Lookup, a homeless man who enjoyed reading at the Duluth Public Library. Legend has it that he would so frequently ask the librarians to look things up for him that they started saying, "Hey, here comes Mr. Lookup!" when he walked toward the desk. Eventually, he had his last name legally changed to Lookup. He died a few years ago. I also seem to remember that he lived beneath the Norshor/Orpheum building for awhile. He was super intimidating to look at, but he was actually a nice, intelligent guy.

Speaking of people who changed their names, how about Elijah? I don't know his original name, but he was older, bald, and usually wore a suit and a hat. He changed his name to Elijah because he believed himself to be a prophet. You'd see him at City Council meetings where he'd speak about the importance of young people in our culture. I think he also had a column in the Reader. He died a few years ago, too.

Then there's Colleen Shannon, who had the public access show, "In My Room." If you remember her, you remember her, if you don't, I certainly can't describe her.

Paul Lundgren

about 10 years ago

Baci, I don't think Jack McKenna and Albert Woolson qualify, as they are established mainstream celebrities in Duluth. I didn't really spell this out, but what I'm going for here are the more unsung heroes. 

And I don't think French Larry has made a name for himself in Duluth, except for those who know him as a beloved Madeline Island character.

FrenchLarry

Paul Lundgren

about 10 years ago

Elijah. Damn, that rings a bell, but I can't quite call him up in my memory bank.

Rae

about 10 years ago

I think Steve at Eighth Street Video on Ninth Street may now be "Steve from 2nd Street Video" in Superior (the old Prime Steer restaurant).

I've had the same experiences with him.  My parents brought me in there once about 8 years ago and introduced me.  We had a quick conversation about Donnie Darko.  Five years later they sent me to bring a video home for them. He looked at me, knew who I was, and suggested some videos based on our prior conversation.  

A sucker for knowledgeable, courteous, hard working local business men my parents try to rent from him often.

wildgoose

about 10 years ago

I know this isn't what you were looking for, but in my alter ego as speedy wienie I have spent a lot of time in public spaces watching people, after a while you become part of the fabric of the place and you see things differently, and people respond to you as though you were more of a fixture than a person.  Now that I think of this, it occurs to me that aside from getting rich which is unlikely to happen, my next best legacy might be to end up on a list like this someday ... 

Anyway, what I was going to say that about a year and a half ago I stopped seeing a lot of the truly truly down on their luck chronic alcoholic types that used to come around constantly in Lake Place or Leif Erikson park.  Knowing how very very hard life on the streets is I figured that I stopped seeing them because they were dead or possibly in jail.  Last fall I saw a video documentary about the San Marco apartments and there they were, a few of them anyway, alive and quite well.  I decided that I'm a supporter of the San Marco project after that, even though I thought it was a terrible idea to start with.  For me it's more like a Lazarus project because in my mind it's brought people back from the dead, or back from the brink anyway. 

Also, thanks Rae, I'm glad to know Steve the video guy is still around, I thought he was dead, too.  I had the same sort of experience with him, met him three times maybe and everytime he asks me about my brother and the movies he used to like back in the early 80s.

Gwanto

about 10 years ago

All great ones, and the Twin Ports has plenty. 

How about Paul Franklin? The seemingly homeless man who I'm sure everyone has seen for years walking around downtown? Hates people and is always pissed off. Almost always wears camo everything year round despite the heat or cold. Appears black but really isn't - those are burns all over his body. I wondered about him for years and Charlie Parr, who used to work for homeless shelters, finally clued me in about 7 years ago. He was an instructor at St. Scholastica who rescued a family from a burning house and thereafter (and no one knows why) decided to live on the streets. Sad, but very interesting. Like I said, he hates just about everybody, so use your best judgement if you try to speak to him. For some reason he took a shining to me when I lived in Duluth and I felt.... honored. Used to recite lines from Moby Dick every time he spoke to me. 

In the summers of mid-late 1990's/early 2000's, there also used to be a downtown guy in his 60's or so that would impeccably dress in an all- white or all- black suit and carry a parasol of the same color. Someone once told me he believed himself to be a vampire. Anyone know of him?

Barrett Chase

about 10 years ago

Yes, I remember the vampire guy. I don't know anything about him, but I do remember him.

Then there's Deb Penry, the woman who walks 5 miles a day through downtown Duluth pushing her arthritic poodle, Mr. Bubbles, in a wheelchair.

baci

about 10 years ago

French Larry was the one of the first residents of Emerson, a regular at the mr. franks open stages (the only bohemian performance venue in the early eighties), an local internet early adopter and a founding member of Colder By The Lake...He was a Duluth character before he was an island dweller..I remember seeing him frequently drive his 50cc scooter up 3 St. W to Emerson, it took an hour for that little red thing to grind it's way up the hill, FL sitting there the whole time looking like a cross between Marcel Marceau and Alister Crowley. Anyone who knew me at that time (maybe Tim K) will know it's actually odd for me to be ...er..nominating...i guess...FL, him and I were often at lager heads. Anyway, this is a good topic...video steve for sure!

Gunns

about 10 years ago

What about the Rod Stewart look-a-like guy? It's been a couple years since I've seen him but I dont' get out as much either.

Jim M.

about 10 years ago

Charlie the Yellow Cab driver has got to be on this list.  Perpetual UWS theater student since 1976.  Ride at your own risk.

Paul Lundgren

about 10 years ago

I just got a cab ride from Charlie about four months ago. We had a few classes together at UWS. We reminisced for most of the ride, and then just before he dropped me off he said, "We should get together at the Y some time and box a couple rounds." 

The thought of me boxing Charlie is about the funniest thing I can imagine, other than Emo Phillips boxing Bea Arthur.

dawn

about 10 years ago

how about that guy who rides his bike around canal park pulling his two little dogs in a wagon he made out of a plastic storage tub? 


oh, and then there's roland the window washer. he always trys to bum very specific amounts of money. "i need $3.25. pay you back on thursday!"
he used to work on a demolition crew. ask him about his experiences with dynamite sometime...  


hey jp - i had a few frequent residents of the shelter i work at seemingly disappear and, like you had, assumed that they had met their end due to the bottle or cold. but there they landed, at san marco. i'm so thankful for that place.

baci

about 10 years ago

...oh, I know i know...oh oh....they guy who lives at a group home on 5th St. and rides his adult trike thing with a little radio blaring the oldies or something I cant even make out b/c it's frapping the 4 inch speaker. I dont know his name but he's always slowly pedaling by with a helmet on and a smile on his face.

Starfire

about 10 years ago

French Larry=Larry Whalen. He was my neighbor at Emmerson back in the day. He is among other things a modern dancer, great maker of iced coffees and one of the messiest people I have ever known. He currently has some sort of blood disease that requires a blood letting once a month.

Starfire

about 10 years ago

What about the sweeping guy on 3rd street and 7th ave east. I haven't seen him around in a couple of years but he used to sweep for hours at a time. He also swept the ghetto bank parking lot. He had the greatest head of grey hair I have ever seen. I also think I could become a sweeping guy when I hit my 80's.

Starfire

about 10 years ago

What about the Rod Stewart look-a-like guy?

I believe he is in prison.

Beverly

about 10 years ago

baci: the man on the tricycle with the radio came down my street once. it's a remote, wooded street, and i could hear him coming for awhile. i walked up the driveway to see what was going on, and there he was, slowly pedaling up the hill. he asked me how to get back to the main road. he wasn't lost in a bad way, just driving down some unfamiliar roads to enjoy himself, i think.

Dulusion

about 10 years ago

I lived at Emerson for a short time in 1988. Larry had a collection of ceramic prayer hands in his refrigerator. He also had more things plugged into extension cords than was prudent! It drove his next door neighbor Beetle V. crazy. 
Anyone remember Disco Bob? He was a heavyset guy with thick dark framed glasses who loved to dance to live music. He was a regular fixture at the downtown clubs in the 80's and 90's. He usually had on shorts and a t-shirt that didn't cover his belly, and he could shake that belly!

andy

about 10 years ago

I had a few classes with Charlie the cab driver at UWS. I had forgotten all about him until this post. Wow. I also remember Larry Whalen at Emerson. Was he the unofficial/official leasing agent? My friend Frank and I met with him in his unit so he could talk to us about our intentions. I remember that his place was packed and he offered us some food from a plate that he was already eating from.  

Also, thank you for bringing up Roger Lookup. He would always sit in the same seat at the NorShor and had a LOUD laugh at the most inappropriate times during the movie. My dad always said that he was going to sit in his seat before he got there. My mom knew him from the library and I am sure that she has a few stories as well......

maria

about 10 years ago

Once the grey-haired sweeping guy swatted me on the ass with his broom outside the credit union. 

I nominate Frank Nichols.

andy

about 10 years ago

Oh! And Cuban Jim. They guy that lived in the apartment building up from Luce who would sit at the bench by the Fetus and play drums. Usually the same Santana song over and over again. This would have been 1991-1992 or so.

He also attended UWS and I had theatre classes with him and Charlie the cab driver in the same class.

Paul Lundgren

about 10 years ago

Re: "Cuban Jim"

Jimmy Dunleavy!!! I loved that guy! Where is he?

Marin

about 10 years ago

I never had the pleasure of meeting him, but my sister always told me stories of an impeccably dressed man in a purple suit, who insisted he was homeless. I think he went by the name Soggy Dawg, or something close to that. Anyways, he would saunter around Downtown with charisma, and would confidentially ask if you had any money to spare him, for he was homeless (although his appearance suggested otherwise). If you told him you hadn't any money to spare, he would pull out a huge wad of cash and hand you some money. Then he would leave you with an extremely crass joke and wander off to hit up some other pedestrian.

Dizastress

about 10 years ago

OMG, Colleen Shannon provided hours upon hours of viewing pleasure for my friends and I.  Favorite quote?  'I would like to be the slave of Janet Reno.'  Bless her, I hope she's still alive somewhere, listening to Marley and looking thru a lens at the fuzzy image of the ore docks.

And the waving 8th street dude - we always gave him a 'beep beep' with our wave.  Sometimes it got us a thumbs up!!  

I'd like to also submit for honorable mentions, the guy who drives his car around the Superior area with his windows down and his left fist pumping wildly and emphatically out the window to music.  And also, Superior's own 'running dude'.  Don't know him or anything about him, except that he runs EVERYWHERE, all the time.  Has for years.  I feel like it's kind of an extra special day when I spot him on occassion.

Calk

about 10 years ago

There was an old lady in my hometown far away from here, she used to ride a big tricycle around town and pick up trash, recyclables, and stuff, which she'd put into her two bike baskets-- she had a "shop" downtown, where she sold the crap she found on the street. When she died, something like a million dollars was found stuffed underneath her mattress. She would have fit in well here in Duluth.

Dave Sorensen

about 10 years ago

Deanie from Superior, who seems to make it across the bridge once in a while. He has a fetish for revving car engines and plexiglass. You can sometimes see him at an intersection making an odd flagging motion with his hand, signaling the drivers to rev their engines. Sometimes he carries plexiglass while doing so. 

Also, the old guy whose hair had formed into one big dreadlock, like a ram's horn, on the side of his head. You'd see him at the library with pee-stains on his pants, reeking to high heaven. When he died he left $75,000 to the United Way. R.I.P.

amy a.

about 10 years ago

I talked to 8th Street Video Steve just a month or two ago. He has a video shop in Superior now. He's in fine health, and hopes you come rent some videos from him.

So, I work at a bookstore in the mall, since there is only one now you can probably figure out what it's called. We get our share of eccentrics that bus it up from downtown.

We call one "shopping cart man" because he always brings his shopping cart into the bathroom stall with him. I've seen him around town. He's older with white hair and wears a fedora and a suit with Converse All Stars, usually. He likes to run down nuns. There was a rumor that he killed his wife and got away with it. I've seen him at Carmody and at several different doctor's offices sitting in the waiting room. He shows up at events where there is often free food.

I have my own list, too long to mention here, but I love getting together and talking about all the great characters around the Twin Ports, they provide endless hours of fascinating discussion.

Paul Lundgren

about 10 years ago

Amy, I think you are referring to Burton Fialk, and I'm not sure you want to consider him a "great character."

5 F.3d 250: United States of America, Plaintiff-appellee, v. Burton Fialk, a/k/a John Staknis, Defendant-appellant

I've never seen him with a shopping cart, but I see him talking to various young women at art shows all the time.

Paul Lundgren

about 10 years ago

Marin, your Soggy Dawg story is the best one yet. I'll have to wait for another source to verify it before including it in the list, but even if you made it up I thank you.

Marin Christensen

about 10 years ago

Oh! Speaking of men with shopping carts, has anybody ever seen this homeless man with black stains on his face? I've never gotten close enough to actually see what's all over him, but I first saw him at the bus stop at Super One, then later that day I saw him at Mount Royal.

And now I'm thinking of this other homeless man who used to stay in Graffiti Graveyard, and he was a hardcore paint sniffer, and according to him the gold paint was the best way to get high, so his hands and face were completely stained gold. Everyone referred to him as "The Gold Man".

Paul Lundgren

about 10 years ago

Once again, people, I must remind you all that we are gathered here today to honor "beloved characters," not every weirdo and homeless guy we can think of.

starfire

about 10 years ago

I think French Larry coined the term himself. He made the buttons for sure.

zra

about 10 years ago

I think the homeless guy with the "stains" on his face is the one the Fetus staff affectionately call "Burnt Face." There was also the group of Native Americans who hung out (read: drank) behind the Fetus in front of what is now the used vinyl store called the "Good Time Gang."

PartsGuy

about 10 years ago

Good ol' Deanie.

I was sitting at a stoplight in my truck last fall, and there he was, making the waving motion. So, I slipped my truck into neutral and blipped the gas for him. He only seems to be interested in vehicles with a nice rumble to 'em. I've seen him look at a Honda with a fart can on it, and sneer and walk away. Kinda funny.

c-freak

about 10 years ago

rod stewart guy is not in prison.

vicarious

about 10 years ago

Has anyone else seen that weird, somewhat round-headed writer/journalist dude who often gets on stage at local events (often drunk) and sings off-key. That guy is SUPER weird.

starfire

about 10 years ago

rod stewart guy is not in prison.

My source mislead me...

Shane

about 10 years ago

Should I take being related to someone on your list as a positive or negative thing?  A few years ago I decided to get off of my ass and run Grandma's.  During my training the subject came up with a friend, he was advising me "Take it easy, don't over train, be careful to not injure yourself, a lot of people over extend themselves training, blah, blah, blah... wait, I just remembered, you are related to Dusty, you should have at least ten percent of the freak gene, you will have no problem. Have a fun time running Grandmas's."

rollergirl

about 10 years ago

What about Bob Carlson??????

wildgoose

about 10 years ago

Drum Jimi still calls me once in awhile -randomly- looking for gigs.  He calls himself "chunky" jimi to me.  He used to play in the park try to find people to jam with when I was there vending.  I let him busker on my permit so he didn't have to get a license

Cathyp

about 10 years ago

Is Loud Radio Guy the same as Radio Suitcase Guy? He was on 1st and Lake often, and was very happy. I don't work there anymore, so I don't know if he's still around.

jamie

about 10 years ago

This is my all time favorite PDD thread!

wildgoose

about 10 years ago

How about the guy with dark hair who is hearing imparied and hands out mushrooms and stuff.  That he grows on his farm.  Quite a ladies man, especially if they sign.  Met him a couple times

zra

about 10 years ago

the hearing impaired guy's name is John, i think.

heysme

about 10 years ago

Reviewed the comments and did not see any discussion about the woman with a guitar. Short hair - may have had a tail at one point, and overly dressed for conditions. Dances to her own beat - nomination? Usually see her in the Plaza neighborhood.

wildgoose

about 10 years ago

Mari or Mary may be here name.  She collects bones and dead things.  She has described her self as a shaman to me or around me, I'm not sure which.  She also has a lazy eye or some such thing.  I am not sure if she falls under the category of beloved or not, as in Bud the Singing Janitor beloved.  Last year I saw her quite a few times in the Hillside area and think she may have been living thereabouts.

amy a.

about 10 years ago

thanks for the info, paul. now i know the rumor isn't false and i will steer clear of this guy whenever i see him.

adam

about 10 years ago

Mark is the hearing impaired fellow's name.

Old Man Carlson is still around and doing well. Last time I saw him was at the Black Water with Jim From L.P.O.E. the other month.

I love that Beaver Tail left $75,000 to the United Way.

What about Vo Hung?

wildgoose

about 10 years ago

there's a guy I know who I just talked to today.  I don't know him from Speedy Wienie, but I used to see him almost every day when I was in Lake Place, and I still see him often in Leif Ericson, every time I see him he asks where Speedy is going to be.  His name is Tom, he is a professional gambler.  That is, he plays tournaments, etc and wins often enough that that's how he makes his living. I am not describing him as a card counter or any other such thing, and he is not like the old drunk-ish gambler in Kenny Roger's song, but he makes enough money to live from his winnings tournaments, etc.  He is late 40s, maybe 50. He has long hair,a few days or weeks growth but not exactly a full beard.  He always wears a hat and a leather vest, but he is not a biker, he has a van that he may even live in.  He speaks so very quietly that you almost can not hear him, but everything is incredibly wise and deep.  He has a great reverence for nature.  Oh ... he follows Buddhism or taoism or an eastern philosophy of life. But he is not Asian, he is, actually Native American, but not from here, his people are from out west.  And he swims.  He swims as much as he can wherever he can, he told me today that he is waiting for July 15th because that's when Lake Superior is ready.  He is so reverent about his swims that he talks about them like they are his children, or sacred ceremonies, even, he describes the place, how the water was if he sees trout or not (he won't swim in a mine pit if there aren't trout there, for example, trout indicate health of the water). I'll stop there, I really like this guy and wouldn't want to make him into a cartoon or anything, but I suggest him for the list since he just might fit.  Would he?  Does anyone else know him?

---

I thought of vo hung, too.

---

also that guy some call Red, he is mid thirties or forty, goes to a lot of shows ...

hotdog

about 10 years ago

banana man? comes into the coop, with an appetite for potassium and a witty conversation. very nice man, ledgend with coop staff.

kkop

about 10 years ago

Doesn't Dusty Olson support himself by stealing construction materials?

xkabukislaybaler

about 10 years ago

French Larry?!?! Musta been that cheesy beret of his. I first saw Larry at UMD, we both took a class on Dante's Divine Comedy, taught by John Ciardi.I thought Larry was British until I heard him ask a question, he always wore this tweed hat and matching scarf.Bears Eat Berries...Buddy was a great guy to run into on the street in the 80s.Anyone know where Pete the Yeti and/or Kevin Sirek are these days?

hmmm

about 10 years ago

Banana Man! Thank you hotdog.
My first interaction with him was while I was weeding at city hall when I worked for the city.
Banana Man: Whacha doing. Planting bananas?
Me: Nope. Just weeding.
Banana Man: Are sure you're not planting bananas?
Me: Only weeding.
(Long Pause)
Banana Man: (With a strange smile) I want to have a sex change operation. I want to be Cyndi Lauper. 

Such a strange conversation. If you aren't familiar with him, he is a larger Native American man. Would not think Cyndi Lauper when looking at him. I have seen him since and every time he is asking someone about bananas.

Barrett Chase

about 10 years ago

Native American guy + Cyndi Lauper ... Oh THAT guy! I have some experience with him. I want to say his name is Lyle? He carries around a small photo album full of Cyndi Lauper pictures clipped out of magazines.

ben boylan

about 10 years ago

My brother lived next door to the trike guy, on 16th E between Superior and First.  The whole family has 'em.  There were, at one point, at least three trikes in operation.  They pedal fast.

The Superior Runner!  I love that guy.  We call him the "half-runner".  He's not full-out running or even jogging, mind you; he just looks like he's always in a hurry.  He was going to UWS while I was there (2000-04).  I believe he's from eastern Europe, though I could be wrong.

The SINGING TRENCHCOAT GUY!  He would walk around near campus and break into song.  I'd see him all the time.  I know now that he was a retired professor of English at UWS, but I didn't then.  I was told that they were Finnish folk songs, but I can't verify that either.  I think he has influenced my life's direction in ways I cannot yet comprehend.

Dave Sorensen

about 10 years ago

Has anyone ever encountered the " Laughing Man"? Haven't seen him for several months, but he will laugh uproariously, sincerely ,at virtually anything or nothing. Bald,plump,wears glasses. He'd be annoying if he wasn't so genuine, and his "humor" is contagious. Very strange.

baci

about 10 years ago

@xkabukislayer -- Buddy lives 1 house away from boyscout landing in gary. Pete the Yeti works for Monsanto now ..jkjk I have no idea on that ... and I dont know about kevin either

Jim M.

about 10 years ago

I used to live across the street from the "trike guy" on 16th E and Superior.  Thats Marty, former drummer from the Noyz Boyz.  During the summer, he would bring his drum kit outside and play along with KQDS much to the delight of us neighbors.

Richard Wozniak, former owner of Young At Heart Records has got to be on the list as well.  One time in the '80s, one of my friends as a joke asked him to find copy of some obscure Husker Du 45.  About three years later, his mother got a call from Richard saying that he found it.

kelli

about 10 years ago

On the Superior side of things:

UWS has another perma-student whose name is Brad, I think, and he was often referred to as "Bomb-Bag Man".  He is tall and lanky, wears glasses, and regardless of the weather, dons a furry hat and vintage gray wool trench coat, and carries this ratty ol' leather bag filled with what some students believed was a bomb.  I had a film criticism class with him once, and for his contribution to a group presentation on the various types of horror films, he read 3 pages from a Fay Wray biography and told the rest of our group that we were working too hard.  After class, I was informed that he'd made the very same contribution the past 3 times that particular class had been offered (thanks for the info, Joe T).

There's also an awesome fellow over in Superior who is referred to as "Detroit" by the SPD and the folks who live in his neighborhood.  When we lived over there, he'd walk by our house multiple times a day yelling whole conversations to himself at the very top of his lungs, and the conversations were always about how "This kinda shit would NEVER fly in Detroit, man" or "that babymama was drunker than anyone I'd seen in Detroit, and I have a mind to call her mother on her".  One of the main reasons we moved from Superior was to get away from some of the creepy riff-raff we had to deal with over there, but I have to admit that there are quiet evenings that I dearly miss good ol' Detroit.

Dulusion

about 10 years ago

Davey Jones just popped into my head. He'd fit right in with the Phelps religious group. He drove around town with obnoxious signs all over his truck. He also ran for city office once, can't remember if it was mayor or a councillor

Paul Lundgren

about 10 years ago

For the third time, let's stick with beloved characters, please.

kelli

about 10 years ago

Also, why isn't Jody Kujawa on this list?

baci

about 10 years ago

I 2nd slim jim on the young @ heart guy ... you'd go in there and there would be nobody there, you'd look around and then a pixie-esque voice would say "can I help you?" ... look look look...nobody...turn around...POP...a little analog audio elf is next to you with a stack of 45's in his arms

hotdog

about 10 years ago

oh, that doesn't sound like the same banana man that i was refering to. however, i would like to meet that banana man someday. the one i have talked to several times has had something smart and clever to say about a ton of various topics, but never cyndi. i need to get out and meet more people. these folks sound more interesting then who i currently encounter.

Marin Christensen

about 10 years ago

Ok, Ok, I know you want "beloved characters", but I have the best story to tell. Last night I went to see the Hangover with my buddy. It was about 12:30 am when we started heading back to my truck which was parked at Fitgers. We were walking on the Lake Ave. overpass, when I looked down onto Michigan st. to find a man completely naked and masturbating onto a chain link fence. Right behind the Fetus. It was like a bad car accident, I couldn't look away. 

There just happened to be a cop car parked on Superior St. And although I hate to ruin a man's romantic evening with his favorite fence, the lure of busting a guy while masturbating was far too strong. 

"Umm yeeaah, hi Officer, I don't know if this is a concern to you, but there is a man over there completely naked and masturbating."

"That would be a concern to me, yes."

So the questions remains, which one of you fuckers was it?

vicarious

about 10 years ago

Fess up, Lundgren.

Shane

about 10 years ago

Where was Gremmels last night?

No Name Please

about 10 years ago

OMG, I can't even believe you ratted out Danny!

vicarious

about 10 years ago

Today at Sixth Ave. and Fourth St. I saw a gentlemen in colorful Zubaz with socks pulled over the bottoms, a long-sleeve sweatshirt covered by HUGE #4 Packers jersey, leather gloves, and a 3/4-size Packers football helmet on his head.

zra

about 10 years ago

@ vicarious...yeah, that guy used to wander around the Plaza/Armory area.

@ goose..."red" is Dave Sorensen. Used to roast @ alakef, now bakes bread @ 3rd St.

Rae

about 10 years ago

Dizastress/ben boylan:  Is Superior running man the slight build of a man with dark curly hair who runs in khaki pants and goes to every gas station around lunch time asking for old lottery tickets?  I've seen him around quite a bit and even pointed him out to my brother the other day.

Deanie was around when my parents where younger, early 1970's, and the legend is that he actually got into some peoples garages and blew their car engines up because he was revving the engines too much.  He love engines and we always try to play into his fascination with a little engine revving teaser.

Chad

about 10 years ago

Lyle the Banana Man lives in Gary.  I've had several encounters with him on the bus..  most ending up about smoking bananas.

Something that comes to my mind is from the 90s, I vaguely remember an old man who would would play music from his mini-van.  I remember seeing him at the boardwalk and the Walmart parking lot at least.  Anyone know anything more about him?  I think he might have had "the music man" or something like that on his van as well.

lojasmo

about 10 years ago

Second N8 (RIP)

And Andy Nelson, former colder by the lake actor...a true character (RIP)

If anybody goes to Steve's video store, ask for something Jason Askelin would like.  I haven't been there in over 20 years, but I bet he'll remember...you'll get soem WEIRD films.

Rij

about 10 years ago

"Five mile an hour Harold"...had that name when I was a kid in the 70's because he drove his car around Duluth Heights, never exceeding 5 miles an hour.  Most recently(the last 20 years) he can be seen walking all reaches of the city, wearing two different shoes, in all types of weather.  I saw him in the last few days trekking through a road costruction site up by the mall, with a walker.

amy a.

about 10 years ago

i work in the mall, and i see harold walking up there nearly every day.

baci

about 10 years ago

I just saw loud radio guy, riding his three wheeler adult trike thing on 5th street heading east. He had on RADIO EARPHONES!

jim wilferling

about 10 years ago

As to the 'French Larry' thing, Larry spent a lot of time, like alot of us, owing phone bills, magazine subscriptions, etc. half of Larry Whalen's old mail was Adressed to 'Larry French'. When he would return from the island, he'd call to get the phone service reconnected, and upon hearing the adress and room number, the phone co would inquire about the former tennant, Larry French, about which Larry would deny all knowledge. and git his phone hooked up. Or someting like that. At least thats what Larry told me back in the day. I remember when emerson coop was trying to railroad me out, thet trumped up some instant eviction noise complaint. To which I fired off a point by point, by-law based rebuttal letter, printed on Larry's  printer. after reading it, he exclaimed 'Bravo!' and made me a coffee. I think he was titillated to se the system we just set up rigorously tested. Starfire, Larry himself showed me a 'I opened my mind to French Larry' button. And yes, he was a professional dancer before he fried his knees. Jules Hart once referred to him as an 'Aging Tart'.

cannon crombie

about 9 years ago

Shit, Duluth is filled with nothing but characters! Hopefully someone like myself or another person will use this material to write a good book about them. If it hasn't been done already. I've come across my fair share. How about that one midget? F**k ,he was one mean son of a bitch. This was circa late 1970s or 80s? You could see him often sitting on a stool at the counter in that one cafe that use to be on Superior Street. Was it called the Capri?

Rusty Murphy

about 9 years ago

I read through all the comments you all had, very enjoyable reading.  I am looking for Larry Whalen, you call him French Larry. He is my old roommate, way back in 1976.  Larry and my sister Robin were a big part of Colder By the Lake back when it first started. I was studying ballet at the time, and found myself one day dancing with the San Francisco Ballet. Before this, when I was at Milwaukee Ballet, I brought Larry in to be Dr. Coppelia.

No one knows Larry like I do, yet I have no idea how to get ahold of him.

Can anyone help me out ... he is on Madeline Island.

Thanks,
Rusty
415-726-3063

Dave Sorensen

about 9 years ago

Rusty- you might try Tom's Burned Down Cafe on Madeline Island. They might know where Larry is. I was on the island several years ago and saw Larry's last name on a mailbox outside of La Pointe. 
http://www.tomsburneddowncafe.com/

Edwin

about 8 years ago

About Zra's comment that he lived at Ninth Ave. & Fourth St.  During the Depression, I lived at 421-1/2 N. Ninth Ave E.  The house is still there, I saw it on a Google Earth map.  The heat was a stove in the living room, with no heat upstairs in the bedrooms.  My dad worked at the Kitchi Gammi Club and would occasionally being home a ham sandwich from the club.  That was a great treat for us kids then.

I remember our first telephone -- our plan allowed us 30 calls a month.  The exchanges were Hemlock, Melrose, and later Radisson. 
I later attended Emerson Grade School, which seems to have been converted to some sort of a residence.  Same for Washington Junior High.  I left Duluth in 1950 to join the Navy, later went to UC Berkeley.

c-freak

about 8 years ago

I saw loud radio guy last Thursday morning at Ghetto Spur. His trike was parked outside. Radio off.

zra

about 8 years ago

What a coincidence, Edwin. I joined the Navy in 1989 (okay, so 39 years after you), went to the west coast and visited UC Berkely a few times before moving to MN, and eventually Duluth!

zra

about 8 years ago

Oh yeah, I've always wondered why loud radio guy's trike is geared so low: he lives on 15th Avenue East between Fourth and Fifth streets. It only seems like he's over pedaling when he rolls by the 'Kef on Superior St. Not so much when he's going uphill.

Baci

about 8 years ago

@Zra,
When it comes to blaring radio and a adult sized pedal trike, it's not about where you're going, it's about how you're getting there.

Character Alert!

Richard "Heatwave" Berler. He came to my 8th grade math class and showed us how cool long division can be.

LumberJill

about 7 years ago

I know you are trying to keep this positive BUT,...
Re: "Shopping Cart Man" Burton Fialk
He is a dangerous man!  He stalks and harasses women of all ages, and has harmed at least 2 women that I know.  I am trying to help a friend get evidence for a court case against him.  If anyone has anything that could help me out with the case I would appreciate the info.

I loved reading these posts, except for the one I'm commenting on.

Thanks!

De man

about 7 years ago

I can't believe this list doesn't have Hippy Dick on it. Richard Rosvall is a local artisan and all around happy-go-lucky guy. He always has a smile on his face and will randomly give friends (and hot girls) stuff he's made. He always undercharges for his stuff and is genuinely happy when people like his jewelry/steampunk/pinewood cars.

Conrad

about 7 years ago

I haven't lived in Superior for many years but fondly remember "the running man." He always had his hand on his pants holding them up running everywhere he went.

FranceneStarr

about 7 years ago

I like the short, older woman who wears jeans and carries a walking stick, walking purposefully through Lakeside. She picks up litter...someday I want to stop and talk to her! She looks very interesting.

lhertzel

about 6 years ago

This might be the best Perfect Duluth Day entry ever. Re-reading it with sadness after hearing about the death of French Larry.

Dave Lull

about 6 years ago

Here is Mr Lookup's obituary:

http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/event/obituary/id/87053/

Apparently, he got his surname from his stepfather, as did his brother:

"Robert was preceded in death by his parents and his stepfather, Arthur Lookup. He is survived by a brother, Andrew Lookup of Forked River, N.J. . . . ."

Barrett Chase

about 6 years ago

Weird, Dave. Looking at that obituary, I guess the story of Roger Lookup's name is an urban legend, or something I misunderstood. It seems to be his actual given name.

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