Bill Narum ( January 11, 1947-November 18,2009)
We were just getting into our El Pastor tacos at Fonda San Miguel when my pants vibrated. It was Tolleson, the music lawyer that I've known since Armadillo days. It was Wednesday and the week had already been pretty full. I had met with the EUC on Monday in Executive Session and on Tuesday with the RMC in another executive session. In both Committees, we received endorsements for the Generation Plan that will provide the residents of Austin around 55% of their energy from Renewable energy and efficiency by 2020 at a cost of about 22%.
I told Dana as we walked to dinner that night, how happy I was, and I remarked that just about now would be the time for something terrible to happen.
"I have bad news,"says Tolleson.
I almost quipped back, "What is Ed even more dead?"
"Bill Narum died this afternoon while out at Acorn."
Acorn was the 20 acres out in Milam County that Bill and Paula and Dick had purchased the last time the world was ending back in the mid 70s. I pretty much started my renewable career out there building Dick's passive solar house.
At the time that the land was purchased, we all lived in a old cotton baron's mansion outside of Taylor where we had Herbie the Weather Scan in our living room and a giant coaxial cable running from there out to the head end of the Taylor Cable System, thanks to its owner Gillis Connelly.
Taylorvision was an out growth of the video group Space City Video, which had moved from Houston to shoot the shows at the Armadillo. But at Taylorvision, we shot the football games, the fourth of July picnics, and we actually sold advertising to the merchants in town. For several seasons, I was the basketball voice of the Ducks, calling one season with my infant son resting in my tummy pouch.
Bill was the leader and artistic director of this group of vidiots. I joined the group as my advertising agency in Austin went Everwuchawe, and I fell in with Dee, who would become the mother of my children, and partner during our young adult years.
It was from this giant house that Bill art directed the Video Primer, a seminal book of the Guerilla TV movement. The Austin Sun's graphics were born here as Nightbyrd came out for several weeks to focus Bill on his project.
The video commune consisted of Paula, Dee, Mike and Kathy and their family, Dick, Mitch, John, and a few others. We didn't just connect to Taylor's cable head, a group would also be dispatched weekly to the head-end of the cable in Austin, thus giving ACTV its first presence.
Bill was one of the most unusual combinations of scientist and artist I ever met. A trip through his web site will give you the amazing breath of his body of work.
He was not just a music artist, even though that may be how the story will be written. He, in fact, didn't do a lot of Armadillo Posters. He did do the first ZZ Top poster for Armadillo... I saw it last night on the mantle in his studio off 360 while visiting with his partner Gloria. True. his work with Bill and Billy and ZZ Top was exceptional. He designed their logo, their albums, their stages, their trucks, and he created their visual image. He also designed their web page presence.
Even though Bill did do the "Silver Haired Daddy " Threadgill album design for me, most of our work was in promoting renewable energy. Bill was the Art Director for Spectra, the official publication of the Texas Solar Energy Society in the early 80s. He illustrated one issue which covered every energy technology known and still not known in a beautiful work called the Compendium.
He helped design my solar gas station, an advanced electric vehicle, a 100% self sufficient solar double wide, a wind turbine, and all kinds of things as we worked together thinking and plotting a new world and future.
When I wrote Silver in the Mine for the City of Austin, Bill did the design and illustrations for the book. Like any good project, we almost strangled each other over it, getting over it before it went to press. Bill also helped with my three other books, most recently doing the basic layout for Beyond Light and Dark.
The last time we saw him was on the east side. We bumped into Tolleson on 11th street across from the Victory. He invited us to come inside. There was Bill. Soon, Hoover delivered his smothered Pork Chop special. We chatted for a good bit and left him and Mr. T. to do their legal work.
Many years ago, Paula, Bill's partner at the time, told me she asked Bill who was his best friend, and he apparently said it was me. I would have thought he would have said Macho, his good friend in radio at KLOL in Houston.
I talked to Dan last night from Bill's studio. (Captain Macho) He had called Gloria to see how she was doing.
He was out spending the night at Acorn trying to sinc in with the vibes of his longtime good friend. He told me he even talked to Bill on the day that would prove to be his last.
Bill had a jillion friends, and almost that many clients.
He was a genius.
He merged the world of art
with the art of being.
His daughters, Michelle and Nico,
his brother Jon, sisters Heidi and Wendy,
were graced to have been his family.
As were we all.
As were we all.