Clinton Street resident Joe Dec, who died on December 1, was loved by the people in his co-op and on his street. With no living family members left to make sure that his final wish to be buried with his mother and brother be carried out, his neighbors took on the responsibility. In a time where bad news and polemics rule the news cycle, this story of a community coming together is particularly uplifting.
What many of his Brooklyn Heights friends may not know is that Mr. Dec’s life presented him with challenges that few of us are forced to deal with. And because of this, Mr. Dec is also being mourned by a different group of people – the devotees of his late brother.
Francis E. Dec, Esq., who died in 1996, has been a “cult hero” for decades. There are websites dedicated to him and his Wikipedia entry rivals that of some significant historical figures:
Wikipedia: Francis E. Dec (January 6, 1926 – January 21, 1996) was a U.S. lawyer from Hempstead Village, New York, disbarred for fraud in 1959, and later known for the bizarre socio-political tracts of conspiracy theories he mass-mailed to the media. Often denouncing a “Worldwide Mad Deadly Communist Gangster Computer God” mind-controlling mankind, Dec is considered to have been a paranoid schizophrenic of the influencing-machine delusion kind, and is often referred to as a “kook“.
Not unlike Ed Wood, Dec later became a cult figure referenced in underground culture. He was the subject of a 1994 book chapter, a 1998 comics, and a 1999 stage play; he also made his way into the folklores of the Discordians and the Church of the SubGenius. His rants have been reprinted in a 1983 issue of Robert Crumb‘s magazine Weirdo and circulated since 1986 from recordings by KROQ-FM host Doc Britton; they have been sampled in 1991 and 2004 by Psychic TV, in 2004 byVenetian Snares, and inspired a Coldcut album in 2005; they have been archived as outsider art by UbuWeb and WFMU; they spawned a fanclub and website; they have also been used as a gauge in 1994 for “kook typography” and in 1998 for the entropy of the undeciphered Voynich manuscript.
After Francis’ death, one obsessed fan traveled to his home on Long Island. There, he claims to have had a conversation with Joe about his brother. He said he was aware that Francis was “some sort of celebrity” and that he was constantly being contacted by his fans looking to find him. He also knew that recordings of Dec’s rants had gone “worldwide”. (Note: These recordings were mostly done by radio dj Doc Britton from Mr. Dec’s writings.) The fan also mentions that he wanted to acquire artifacts or papers Francis may have left behind. Joe claimed to have burned them all after his brother’s death.
It is believed that Francis was a paranoid schizophrenic. While “fans” find his rants to be hilarious, delusional and mostly ridiculous, it’s clear that this was a man in crisis who must have caused great duress for his family. In fact, no one was off limits when it came to Francis’ fury, not even Joe who he called a “deadly felon-murderer and secret-assassin spy-agent against [me] for the Gangster Government.”
Joe reportedly told the “fan” that he visited his brother practically every day as he lay dying in a VA hospital in 1996. It’s a testament to the man’s character and to his compassion that he remained dedicated to Francis despite the name calling and wild accusations. Remember both men were of a generation that was only beginning to understand this illness.
In light of that, it’s no wonder then that Joe’s friends have rallied this month to help him find peace.
But do the “fans” who have elevated Francis to some strange demigod status understand the reality of how difficult life must have been for Joe and his family?
On the message boards of the Official Francis E. Dec fanclub one user who read the posts about Joe on BHB commented, “Amazing. If Joseph was somewhat cordial enough to go out with his little dog and socialize it casts new light on his true nature vis a vis the rants.”