Rest in Peace, Big Josh

Photo taken April 23, 2011.
April 23, 2011.

I didn’t know Josh Burdette, who was widely known as “That Guy from the 9:30 Club.” I only spoke to him once in person, when I asked to photograph him wearing his Caps jersey before a playoff game. I conversed with him a few times on Facebook, like when I sent him an article that mentioned him that he hadn’t seen before. I have never been to the 9:30 Club – his employer (where many people knew him from) – and I can’t say that I run with a crowd that lists tattooing and piercing as a hobby.

Yet, I read every article about ‘That Guy’ and followed his Facebook page. I found myself curious for whatever reason about what he had to say – about his life and opinions. My first time seeing him was in the mid 90s in the Stamp Student Union at University of Maryland. We were about the same age. And though it was ultimately his appearance which made folks – myself included – notice him, I can honestly say that there was something else I saw – something about him that was clear to me that he was a good person. Yet, I knew nothing about him at the time.

He proved me right over the years, as so many folks shared a nice story about him and had great things to say. The interviews he gave to newspapers and magazines about what he does for a living – security at concerts – showed an extreme level of class and morale.

After watching his handling of an incident involving a skinhead at a concert this past June, I went home and wrote to him: “I have a renewed appreciation for what you do for a living after watching you handle the situation with the skinhead after GWAR. Great job.”

Josh replied that night: “Thank you, sir. That situation could have easily gotten ugly. I’m glad we were able to resolve it without anyone getting hurt.”

Finding out about his death (from a WJLA TV reporter, no less, who asked my permission to use my photos of him on the air), upset me greatly. But learning that his death was a suicide tore me to pieces.

I can only speculate why he would do such a thing. I wonder – despite the thousands of folks who complimented him and got to know him – despite all his friends and 9:30 Club family – was he lonely and depressed? Was the appearance he worked on, and the (positive) attention he attracted from it, one of the few things that kept him going in the first place? Did he find himself fed up in a profession that attracted so many trouble-makers and sleazeballs? Did, collectively, these things weigh on his mind to the point that he couldn’t take it anymore, and saw no way out? He died three days before his 37th birthday. Birthdays are often a time for self-reflection. Did that play a part?

Again, I can only speculate, and I could be completely wrong. But what I do know is that this world was a much better place with Josh Burdette in it, and whatever pushed him over the edge is still here, looking for its next victim. Rest in peace, Josh.