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Farewell, Andrei Gheorghe

Last evening, former radio and TV show host Andrei Gheorghe was found dead in his bathroom, at the age of 56. Apparently he had been dead since morning and the death seems to have had natural causes, his heart failing for good after having had problems with it for a while, including previous heart attacks. Doesn’t seem that any of these problems had been public knowledge so far, and even some who knew him say they were not aware of his failing health, but that this was probably just how he wanted it, and that he’d likely lash out at those mourning him if he could.

Now I’m not usually affected when more or less famous people die, even if I appreciated their work and public life. I’m not particularly affected even when people I actually knew die, probably the only exception being my grandfather. But this is somewhat different, because I can say that to some extent Andrei Gheorghe formed me, those communication tools of mine that Liz so well described as being those of debate and conflict. As hard to be influenced by others as I am, that’s in part thanks to him and his shows from his “glory years” at ProFM, Midnight Killer and 13-14, between 1996 and 2002. The way in which I debate and argue, even more so the way in which I did, back when I was doing it far more and far more publicly, the fact that what others think and say about me doesn’t affect me, my willingness and courage to hold and advocate for deeply unpopular opinions, to think for myself and, to whatever extent, stand for what I believe in, even if I stand alone. I don’t know exactly how great the part is, but for some part of all of that, I definitely have him to thank.

As one of the messages I saw last night said, for those under 30 Andrei Gheorghe is nobody, but those of us between about 30 and 40 and who were teenagers, especially in Bucharest, during that time, especially those of us who ended up more vocal, fighting for something, we grew up with him, with Midnight Killer and 13-14, and that stayed with us. His skill at debating, his obvious intelligence, how he readily assumed the role of Devil’s advocate, how he could argue, even brutally, but stick to the matter at hand and not get to personal attacks, the fact that it was said he was undefeatable in a live debate, regardless of topic or opponent, because he mastered the art of it and knew how to use the other’s mistakes and arguments against them, some of that rubbed off on us, made us think better, harder, more clearly, not tolerate stupidity. It made us bolder, more willing to analyze the world, to care, to fight, to try to change it. Made us better.

Unfortunately, his career went down after being caught smoking weed back then, his glory days at the radio were over, his attempts at television weren’t exactly successful and none of the shows lasted long, his attempts to continue his radio shows at other stations rather faded into obscurity and again ended quickly, as did his involvement in politics, at some point I know he ended up working in Moldova… I did listen to the radio again for him at some point, when he had a show with Liviu Mihaiu for a while, watched the one actually successful TV show, a game show filmed in Panama, that he hosted, but while I occasionally happened to bump into one of his posts and most recently saw him when he moderated an event I attended in October, in between I rather lost track of him and his more recent attempts to return to the radio, in the past few years, I think between 2014 and 2016, apparently back at ProFM, doing the morning show, after some years away from the media. He was fed up with it and it was fed up with him, there was no room for someone like him anymore, he bothered too many, too much, and the sort of freedom he thrived in, the audience he had, they’re not to be found anymore.

Still, he had his site and Facebook and used them to continue to lash out at what he saw as wrong, to comment and bother, and to support those protesting, those fighting for something, those thinking for themselves and trying to bring about necessary changes. He was even named by politicians among the “opinion leaders” supporting the more recent massive protests, and he was involved to some extent in protests since they started here, in 2012, 2013, albeit always avoiding being too visible. Maybe he faded for the average person, maybe he was never really noticed by the young, but plenty still did appreciate and respect him, as shown by all the messages flooding since last evening, perhaps most of all by all those from people pointing out how they and him frequently didn’t see eye to eye, frequently argued, yet this never negatively affected their respect for him and their appreciation for how he viewed and approached life.

As for me, on top of, like I said, growing up with 13-14 and Midnight Killer and being formed to some extent by that, I was also particularly active on his forum back in the day, even being made moderator, but never actually acting on it since it happened just when I had become overwhelmed by it and withdrew. My activity on that forum was responsible for perhaps my first direct contact with the authorities, however, since Ralu Filip, at the time president of the National Audiovisual Council, contacted me in order to discuss the Romanian media landscape of the time and how the institution handled it as a result of what I was writing there, which pretty much caused me to be paralyzed with fear when I realized it wasn’t a prank, ending up doing my best to move the discussion to the forum and, sadly, run away. But even so, perhaps that was a spark as well, one more element that led to where I ended up all these years later, still doing far too little, embarrassingly so, yet at the same time so much more, and so much more openly, than all those years ago that I’d likely be unrecognizable for those who knew me before that time and lost touch since.

As a somewhat funny moment, I remember that time when I went to pick up Andra from the train station on my own and we got back after 13-14 had already started, so instead of jumping right on each other we ended up making out on an armchair in the kitchen while watching the show, since it was on TV too at the time, delaying other “activities” until it was over. But I guess that’s the last thing I’ll mention, as this is too long already, and likely going places it didn’t need to go to, and perhaps actually shouldn’t have gone to. So I’ll end it simply: Goodnight, AG, wherever you are.

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