The Next Stage

Jimy Murphy, the Kamikazi Kid, gets his act together.

Life had changed for Jimy Murphy. "I was married to a beautiful woman who cooked me huge meals," he says. "I was eating and sleeping for what seemed the first time in years." He was also moving up in the video industry, rising to the position of assistant first director on several projects. It was hard work -- fourteen- and sixteen-hour days for three or four days, then hustling for another project. His musical ambitions had ground to a halt; he'd tried playing with a few people, including Rick Delano, but the Klones magic was missing.

The birth of a second child, a boy they named Jimr, made Murphy reassess his future. Even if he achieved the height of his dreams -- directing his own projects -- he would have to give up an awful lot. Directors worked longer hours, and even their vacations were consumed with fretting over what was happening back in California. And Los Angeles was no place to raise children, not for a couple lucky enough to have been raised in Colorado.

On a vacation back in this state in 1987, the Murphys took their children on a hike in the mountains. Sitting in a field at 13,000 feet, breathing fresh air and mesmerized by the scenery, they suddenly turned to each other and said, in unison, "I'm not going back." Delinda never did -- and Jimy returned to California only long enough to pack their belongings.

We're with the band (from left): Kamikazi Klones Mike Lenz, Mark Hopkins, Jimy Murphy, Mark Hagen and A.J. Coon backstage at the Rainbow Music Hall before opening for the Motels; Murphy's grandfather's band (right).Enter, stage left: Jimy Murphy, performing with the Evergreen Players (top); a scene from Murphy's Heaven?s a Nude Beach, now playing in Evergreen (above); and Klones Mark Hagen and A.J. Coon taking off.Send in the klones: Jimy Murphy, still crazy after all these years.
John Johnston
We're with the band (from left): Kamikazi Klones Mike Lenz, Mark Hopkins, Jimy Murphy, Mark Hagen and A.J. Coon backstage at the Rainbow Music Hall before opening for the Motels; Murphy's grandfather's band (right).Enter, stage left: Jimy Murphy, performing with the Evergreen Players (top); a scene from Murphy's Heaven?s a Nude Beach, now playing in Evergreen (above); and Klones Mark Hagen and A.J. Coon taking off.Send in the klones: Jimy Murphy, still crazy after all these years.
We're with the band (from left): Kamikazi Klones Mike Lenz, Mark Hopkins, Jimy Murphy, Mark Hagen and A.J. Coon backstage at the Rainbow Music Hall before opening for the Motels.
We're with the band (from left): Kamikazi Klones Mike Lenz, Mark Hopkins, Jimy Murphy, Mark Hagen and A.J. Coon backstage at the Rainbow Music Hall before opening for the Motels.

Murphy got a job with the Denver crew making the Perry Mason TV movies. But he was again at the bottom of the totem pole, and he soon realized he couldn't support a family that way. So he got a job -- "the first, and hopefully the last, real job" -- in telecommunications, placing responsibility ahead of a creativity. But he didn't give up music entirely; he called the rest of the Klones and asked them to get together for a reunion gig. The bandmembers were still a bit miffed over Murphy's departure, but they agreed. They even pooled their money to fly Hopkins and his family up from Florida, where they now lived.

There was just one problem: They'd forgotten a lot of the songs. Fortunately, Steve Neal had not, and he rehearsed the band until it was ready.

That first reunion show in 1988 was a huge success. Their fans had stayed faithful to the Klones, "although a few of them were also angry that we'd never made it," Murphy says. "They wanted their backstage passes to Red Rocks, I guess." With no big breaks to worry about, the bandmembers were free to enjoy the music, and each other, again. Their farewell reunion shows became a regular thing.

Murphy might have continued eking out a nine-to-five existence, with occasional gigs, for years if his father hadn't died in 1990. When Jimy thought about his father's life, he realized that whether his father was practicing law or the piano, he was doing what brought him joy. And he decided that if he wanted to be true to his father, he could do no less. So after the funeral, he quit his job and never looked back.

Looking ahead, Murphy realized that what he wanted to do was provide a creative outlet for kids. So he started a children's theater group -- the Kamikazi Kids, of course -- and wrote play after play for the young actors to perform. They were so successful that by the second year, Murphy had been awarded an arts grant. Soon he took his new calling a step further and became the drama coach at his almost alma mater, Evergreen High.

Murphy returned to college to get a degree in theater and a teaching certificate. He also incorporated meditation and yoga into his daily life, as O'Brien had once suggested. He went on to help found one of the first charter schools in the state, Jefferson County's Community Involved Charter School (since renamed Center for Discovery Learning) in 1993. It was a school designed for experiential learning: "Instead of reading about stuff, we'd go out and do it," he says. The excursions might involve taking a play on the road, studying a community's geography, economy and history at each stop. Or building a set on a stage and learning geometry as they went.

Most of the kids attracted to the school reminded Murphy of himself: They simply didn't fit in a traditional learning environment. Most were brilliant, and bored, at their public school; often they had problems at school or at home because they were different. But at this new school, their differences helped them bond. They knew what it was to not be accepted, and so they accepted each other.

Murphy was busy with the school, his family and his plays when he got a call from Hagen, the almost-doctor, in June 1998: Hopkins had cancer, and things didn't look good. "We'd better go down there and say goodbye," he told Murphy.

The two flew to Florida, where they found their old friend doped up on morphine but in good spirits. They talked about growing up in Colorado, and how it was as close to heaven as you could get on Earth. When they finally parted, Murphy hugged Hopkins and said, "I'll see you in Colorado." He was sure the shy guitar player understood what he meant.

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