A Year On: Remembering Chez Pazienza

Last week, my wife gave birth to our baby boy and I’ve been in a sleep deprived daze ever since. However, I awoke today with a gnawing sensation that I had something important to do. Having lost almost all concept of time, I checked the date, and to my surprise it was already the 25th of February — a date that had been stuck in my mind for the past couple of months. 

A year ago today, the Banter’s Chez Pazienza passed away, and there hasn’t been a single day I haven’t thought about him. I found out about the news late on the Saturday night of his death, and spent several hours desperately trying to get someone to tell me it was a hoax, that Chez was fine, and that his friends were playing a horrible practical joke on him. Somewhere deep down though, I knew it was true. 

I sat down to write a eulogy in the days after he died, not really knowing what I was supposed to say. So I decided to do what Chez always did whenever he was sad, upset, or angry. He wrote exactly how he felt and held absolutely nothing back. I did the same and attempted to put my conflicted emotions about my friend and his untimely passing into words. My eulogy was not received well by some of his family given I mentioned the cause of death (a suspected heroin overdose) before an official toxicology report had been compiled. I was asked to retract parts of what I had written, and at his memorial in Los Angeles, I was confronted by a friend of his who was extremely angry about what I had said. It was an incredibly difficult experience and I felt horrible knowing I had caused pain for those close to him, but I chose to leave my words intact. Chez had taught me to stand by my writing if I meant what I said, even if it meant upsetting or angering others, no matter who they were. I felt he would have been angry and proud at what I had written all the same time, and that was something I could live with. We had a great working relationship and friendship, but it was often incredibly difficult and frustrating. Along with Bob Cesca, Chez had been with the Banter from the very beginning and he was a part of its genome. He helped set the tone and standards for the site, and his input makes up a great deal of what the Banter is today. 

I can’t count the number of times I have wished Chez were here to weigh in on a particular issue with his unparalleled invective. I miss being able to pick his brain, ask him for advice or send him a topic he might like writing about. I miss the fun we used to have poking the radical left or causing mischief with crazy conspiracy theorists. When a fringe left “activist” hilariously tried to sue us last year, I could only think of how much fun Chez would have had with it.

We are a tight team at the Banter and we have done our utmost to continue without Chez. But the loss was a heavy one and we have struggled. Chez was a unique and irreplaceable force and not having his voice has been difficult, particularly in the era of Donald Trump. Chez took on the fascistic movement that swept across America in 2016 fearlessly, and he was a relentless in his attacks on Trump and the Alt Right. I can’t say enough good words about the team who have picked up the slack in his absence, and we are fighting as hard as we can to keep up the standards and pace he helped set. 

Chez stuck with the Banter when we almost collapsed several years ago, and I will always fight to keep the site he helped start alive. When the days are long and the ever changing media landscape makes our existence more and more precarious, it is helpful to remember how much he believed in the site. There was no quit in Chez and if he were alive he would still be firing on all cylinders. Here’s what Chez emailed me in the days after the election in 2016: 

We are still here my friend, fighting with a vengeance in your absence. And we miss you. 

Ben 

PS: Stay tuned for more Chez related posts this week, particularly Banter Members — many of whom support the site because of him. 

Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.