By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
part 3 of 3
At first, Michelle says, everything was perfect. Jeff displayed his sensitivity, his humor, his good-heartedness. But he was keeping a lot of secrets. She didn't learn much about the horrors of his homeless period until months later, and she discovered only after he died that Jeff had (in Sheila's words) "made a habit" of trying to terminate himself.
As for Jeff, reining himself in took its toll, and after two weeks or so, he couldn't be good any longer. The location of his first post-marriage explosion was the Lion's Lair, an East Colfax bar where he had been told he could play before an appearance by Babihed. But the opening act played longer than expected, eating into his allotted time, and Jeff, frustrated, erupted into a screaming fit and demanded that Michelle and a friend who had accompanied them to the club leave with him immediately. Reluctantly, Michelle did so, hoping that the outburst was merely an aberration. But she soon discovered it was a permanent part of his personality. She called it "the dark side."
Not all of Michelle's moments with Jeff were so black. Jeff incorporated her and a friend, Tina Hedlund, into his act, dubbing them alternately the Dead Virgins or the Donkey Girls. The three of them would dress up--the outfits varied with each show--and deliver Jeff's songs in a manner that struck friend Baggs Patrick as kinder, gentler and better than his trademark shtick. But Jeff's obsessiveness eventually sucked much of the amusement out of the performances for Michelle. He would spend days before a gig agonizing over every aspect of it, she says, and if the tiniest thing went wrong during the show itself, he would sink into a rut. And when Jeff was depressed, Michelle says, "he'd throw a tantrum. If he didn't get his way, nobody was going to be happy."
Of course, Jeff was also under pressure. Michelle, according to Bill Houston and Gary, tried to turn him into an approximation of a suburban husband--dressing him in better clothes, encouraging him to keep up his appearance and giving him housekeeping responsibilities. A few of these chores he handled with aplomb. Somewhere along the way, he had become a good cook; Michelle says she's still trying to lose the weight she gained because of his culinary skills. But because he ate so much food himself, she was soon urging him to find at least a part-time job. At one point, he claimed to have done so, but she later discovered that he was only pretending to work.
Before long, the drug use became an issue, too. Michelle tried to convince Jeff to enter a treatment program, but he refused. A few times, he pledged to quit on his own, but after three days or so without the stuff, he'd be back in his dealer's good graces. Hiding his stash didn't do any good, either: She says he would tear the house apart to find it or spend money he was supposed to be donating to household expenses on it. He expressed some guilt over this behavior, but not so much that he wouldn't behave the same way the next time. After all, Gary and Jonathan say, he felt that his pot use was medicinal, not recreational--a buffer between him and the rest of the world.
Attempts by Michelle to interest Jeff in something other than music failed. She tried to teach him how to use her computer and was heartened by his genuine efforts to learn its secrets. But after mastering some of the basics, he became bored and stopped. His vow to work toward a college degree was broken as well; a bill for a film course at the University of Colorado that recently found its way to Sheila is practically the only evidence of this aspiration he left behind. Confirmation of Jeff's fits was easier to find. During various rages, he punched or kicked numerous holes in the duplex's walls, smashed cups and dishes, and once broke Michelle's dresser.
In October, with Michelle herself near breaking, Sheila and Albert came to town. Sheila knew that things were not good between Jeff and Michelle: Jeff had called her, asking for tips about how he could prevent himself from verbally abusing his wife. She gave him advice, but in many ways, she was more sympathetic to Michelle than to her own son. Sheila believed that Jeff had tricked Michelle into marriage by not leveling with her about his past or the extent of his problems. During the stay, she took Michelle aside and said as much to her. "I told her that Jeff wasn't her responsibility," Sheila notes. "I told her she had to think of herself."
And so Michelle did. In November, less than a year after they met, and fearful that Jeff's verbal attacks would eventually lead to physical ones, Michelle told him they should part. Jeff put her off for a time, but Michelle thinks that even he knew that the match would never work out. When she reiterated her demand for a divorce, Jeff made no empty promises and threw no fits. Instead, he sat down with Michelle and cried. They both knew it was over.