How Genetic Disorder was linked to a corpse 1,500 miles away from San Diego

When my little brother called to inform me that the Houston coroner had left a message at my parents' house looking for information regarding an unidentified corpse, I immediately called every Texan I knew to check and see if they were alive.

I was relieved to learn they were all fine.

After about a week of missed connections, I was finally able to get the coroner Rick Perry on the phone and discovered why the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office wanted to speak with me.

The reason they had tracked me down was the dead man was wearing one of my "mutant boy" T-shirts, which had the Genetic Disorder PO box number printed at the bottom of the image.

He told me a young man's body had been found under a freeway overpass, dead from a cocaine overdose. Perry described a number of identifying tattoos, but I was no help ID'ing him.

Since I couldn't help, Perry also placed a call to the Union-Tribune, and about a week later, a newsbrief appeared in the paper, appealing to the public for any help identifying the dead man in a Genetic Disorder T-shirt.

What was strange, for the next two months, people were calling me to make sure I wasn't the dead person, or approaching me to ask if were in any kind of trouble.

More than once, I was asked, "Uh, I read something in the newspaper about a dead guy connected to you. You didn't do anything stupid out in Texas, did you?"

The Reader eventually picked up on the story and put together a cover feature on San Diego fanzines, leading off with corpse-in-Texas angle.

(It was at the same time that nearly every major publication in the US, from Newsweek to the LA Times, was running those "quirky, homemade publication" stories about fanzines -- mostly focusing around Darby from Ben is Dead fanzine.)

It just so happened, the week the story came out, my friend Ed was in town from Phoenix for a wedding. He took a quick look at the Reader story and looked at me -- "I think I know who this is."

Because of the tattoos, he thought it was one of his friends nicknamed "Lips."

Lips's real name was Jamie. I met him several times when visiting Ed in Phoenix. The last time I saw him, he was spun out of his mind on meth, bugging me for a GD T-shirt. I tossed him a shirt from my bag and he was on his way.

Ed filled me on what happened to Lips after that night. Apparently he was adopted as a child and somehow was reunited with his birth parents. They lived in Houston and ran a record label whose roster included Willie Nelson. They offered Lips a job at the label and he left Phoenix for Houston, and quickly signed Phoenix pop-punk band Horace Pinker to the label.

But it really wasn't the press that led to the identity of the John Doe. There was a bit of information that didn't make it into the Union-Tribune newsbrief or the Reader cover story.

While Ed was reading the corner's description of tattoos -- an ankh, a naked woman and a bird -- I was repeating the conversation I had with the coroner months before.

"The coroner was reading his report, describing the hair color, height, weight then he paused for a second," I told Ed.

"I could hear him flipping the pages in the report before the coroner started to continue. He's flipping the pages back and forth, telling me, 'Let's see here, he's got a prosthetic...' and then there was more page flipping."

At the time, I was thinking, "Do I know anyone missing a limb? An arm? Leg? I don't think so."

I tell Ed, "I don't think I know this guy," before continuing with the story. "Then the coroner continues in his Texas drawl, 'Hmmm, let's see here...He's got a prosthetic testicle."

Ed stopped reading. "It's him. Didn't you ever see his party trick? He'd pull his balls out at parties and hit them with a stick. It didn't hurt because he had a plastic nut. Damn. I'll call his dad and give him the bad news...."

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