Shine On

For more than twenty years, Philip Hamon has championed local music. Now he's got his own act together.

In his closet, which holds several hundred band T-shirts given to him by area musicians over the years, Hamon also stashes a collection of vinyl recordings that rivals that of many local record stores. Pristinely preserved in plastic, they remain largely untouched, arranged alphabetically with cardboard letters separating one group from the next. While many of the titles are of more well-known national punk acts like the Butthole Surfers and the Dead Kennedys, the majority are seven- and twelve-inch releases from local acts, many dating back to the mid-'70s.

"I hardly ever play any of them," Hamon says. "I just like to keep them so I can look at them and remember the bands that made them. I listen mostly to the CDs and tapes that people give me. I put those on real loud, I turn it up, and I dance like a skeleton."

Hundreds of posters of local bands overlap on the walls of Hamon's apartment; they compete for space with photographs of Hamon smiling, embraced by Denver musicians past and present. "Ooh hoo, if you look around, you can see me with Maggie Jack and Rainbow Sugar and Brethren Fast," he says. "I know all the bands. Some of these pictures were taken in the '80s, back when I had a Mohawk and wore punk suspenders. And there," he continues, rolling up onto the balls of his feet as if to emphasize the supreme coolness of the next exhibit, "is me with my favorite band in the entire world."

Phil "the Fan" Hamon has found a home in the Denver clubs where he works as a light man.
John Johnston
Phil "the Fan" Hamon has found a home in the Denver clubs where he works as a light man.
Hamon's apartment is a gallery of music-related memorabilia and artwork, most of which he made himself.
John Johnston
Hamon's apartment is a gallery of music-related memorabilia and artwork, most of which he made himself.

It is a photograph of Hamon and Dear Marsha, the acoustic-driven rock act led by vocalist Raina Ayres and guitarist Wendy Clay. "I love it when [Clay] gets up on the table and plays her guitar," Hamon says. "She's very talented and very good-lookin'." Taking a close look at the photo, he notices that Clay, who is standing with her arms around his neck, has a genuine grin on her face. His own smile widens slyly. "She always told me she likes the way I do the light show. I wonder if maybe she likes me a little bit. Girls always like light men and magicians."

Many of the posters have been customized to reflect Hamon's feelings about the artists they depict. They are colored with Magic Markers, doused in glitter, covered with stickers and laminated. Of the more current pieces, Hamon is proudest of a large flier announcing a recent gig by Tequila Mockingbird at Cricket on the Hill: Around the flier's perimeter, he has fashioned the band's name in multicolored yarn, spelling out each and every one of the eighteen letters. What started as a simple black-and-white Xerox of a gig flier is now a multi-media collage, a folk-art assemblage of pop culture and history.

"I always see people throwing away fliers, throwing away posters, and it's like, someone has to keep track of this stuff," he says. "I figured, well, I'm already Phil the Fan, so it might as well be me. I think if you like something, if you can do something, you should show it. I always watched people make art with their music, and I realized I could do it, too, with my posters. I never get bored. And when people see my posters and they see my light show, they realize that maybe I can do something."

For most of his life, Hamon has been proving that maybe he can do some things.

He was born with a developmental disability that manifests itself most prominently in his below-average intellect and a diminished range of cognitive abilities. He is articulate, but it is clear to even the most casual listener that he is also different, the kind of person that elementary-school children are encouraged to think of as special, not weird or, worse, retarded. The son of a homemaker and a retired postal worker, he has always been somewhat dependent on the people around him. Yet he has never relied on "the system." He attended public schools, owns and maintains his own apartment, and travels by bike and bus. For the most part, Hamon controls the money he's earned from his job at the University of Denver, where he was hired as a custodian in the facilities-management department back in 1978. That was twelve years before the Americans With Disabilities Act -- which criminalized discriminating against employees on the basis of mental or physical disability and required that disabled employees be accommodated in the workplace -- was signed into law in July 1990.

Tony Sears is an advocate with the Denver office of the Association for Retarded Citizens, a nationwide nonprofit that helps disabled people obtain housing and employment, monitors ADA implementation and provides general support for clients. Hamon has been involved with ARC for nearly fifteen years -- he comes and goes of his own volition, and sometimes even provides lighting and entertainment for the group's annual picnics. Sears, who became Hamon's advocate this year, says he demonstrates a self-reliance that's uncommon among ARC clients.

"About 95 percent of the people we work with have a certain dependence on the system," he says. "Many are employed in programs and workshops that have been created specifically to provide work for them. As far as I can tell, Philip has always managed to provide for himself, with the help of natural supports like his family and friends, of which he has many.

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