Back in March, we wrote a feature about Violent J of the Insane Clown Posse, who was about to play a solo show in town. We interviewed J, and, as is the way with the man, he wasn’t short on a thing or two to say. As we noted at the time, perceptions of J, as well as his partner-in-clown Shaggy 2 Dope, are usually wrong. “Scratch the makeup away, just a little, and you may be surprised by what's revealed,” we said.
The two men are savvy businessmen, family guys, warm in conversation, and fiercely loyal to their fans, the Juggalos. That latter quality apparently extends to the people who work for them at their label, Psychopathic Records. Just ask Joe Mekan and his mom, Ann Baatz, of Denver.
In September 2013, Joe was camping up in Rampart Range with his buddies. To catch a better view of the sunset, he climbed a tree and then, in his own words, “acted recklessly” by swinging from side to side. The top of the tree snapped and came down, taking Joe with it.
“He had to get airlifted out by the Swedish Medical Center,” says Ann. “They did some surgery, put a bunch of rods in there, but he’s been paralyzed ever since, because it damaged his spinal cord.”
Joe was a nineteen-year-old Juggalo when the accident happened. He then put all of his energy into researching surgeries, physical therapies, medications and any other treatments that might help, never giving up hope.
“He found a place in Thailand that actually uses stem cells,” Ann says. “They’ll take cells out of his body, probably his hip, inside of his bone, and then they put it in this big machine and are able to separate the stem cells from it. Then they inject the stem cells back into his spine to do what they do best, which is to regenerate with whatever they’re in there with.”
If Joe does manage to get to Thailand, as is his wish, the family is aware that there are no guarantees with this sort of experimental treatment. Nobody goes in paralyzed and then runs out a few days later. But there is genuine cause for hope.
“They’ve had a couple of cases of full success, but in every case they’ve seen at least minor improvement,” Joe says.
According to Joe, he has nobody else to blame for his accident, so there’s no point being miserable about his situation — a remarkably rational attitude for one so young.
“I’m sure I wouldn’t be like that. I’d be bitter and angry,” Ann says. “He’s just been amazing. He just goes about his life in a chair instead of on his feet.”
To get to Thailand for the treatment, Joe needs to raise a whopping $70,000, and at the time of this writing, he had just broken $1,000 on his GoFundMe page. He has some way to go, and that is why Ann wrote to a bunch of media organizations for help. Only one replied: Psychopathic Records. Rob “Jumpsteady” Bruce, a Psychopathic artist and older brother of Violent J, contacted Ann to say that the organization would be donating 25 percent of the proceeds from the auction that takes place annually at the Gathering of the Juggalos festival to Joe’s GoFundMe. In addition, Joe and his family will be hooked up with tickets to the event.
“I was floored,” Ann says. “I could barely even talk, I was so excited. I told him that they called me, and he couldn’t believe that Jumpsteady Rob had called his mom. He was speechless for a moment, which is strange for Joe. He wrote to them and couldn’t thank them enough. He's just ecstatic that he finally gets to go to a Gathering and they’re gonna help him. It amazes me, but it really is a family feeling. You can count on these guys to help when it’s needed.”
With the Gathering scheduled to start on Wednesday, July 20, the Psychopathic/ICP organization are up to their collective necks in work and couldn’t offer a comment at time of publication. But the fact that they’ve been prepared to reach out to help Joe speaks volumes.
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“I’ve been a fan since fifth grade," Joe says. “I was shocked, at a loss for words, because I can only imagine how many e-mails and messages they receive each day.”
So now the family is off to the Gathering, including Joe's mom and step-dad, Ron.
“My husband and I are going for moral support in case he needs us for anything, because I’m a little worried,” Ann says. “It seems like it’s going to be a wonderful time.”
No doubt, especially because Ron is organizing a charity ride to the Gathering, tagging it “For Joe’s Legs I Ride.” For information on that ride and Joe’s general progress, visit the Facebook page Help Joe Get His Legs Back.