FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – These are pieces of the man.
Sprawled along tables of two old classrooms by the LaOtto Fire Department are the gold and platinum records of bands ranging from Godsmack to KISS to Bruce Springsteen. Placed neatly side-by-side are the photos and autographs of everyone from Mick Jagger to Alice Cooper to Lita Ford to even professional wrestler “Macho Man” Randy Savage.
Stuffed into the corners in make-shift shelves are the vintage T-shirts, hats and sweatshirts emblazoned with the long gone “WXKE ROCK 104” logo – the one with the AC/DC-esque lightning bolt coming off the “K” that was so well known before the channel switched to another frequency.
There’s even a signed Van Halen “Balance” album, released in the mid-1990s, which he especially loves since it has Eddie Van Halen’s scrawl – the signature of a saint.
All of it tells the story of more than 40 years in rock ‘n roll radio.
And Saturday, the man is auctioning it all off.
All the posters from the shows he attended, all the gold and platinum records from artists he admires and everything that came to him due to his line of work, everything that has taken up two storage units and cost him $150 a month for years is going on the block during an event held by Bartkus Auctioneers in LaOtto.
In the end, it’s just “stuff,” says Doc West.
“I spent a lot of time in isolation during the pandemic, more than most people,” said West, who has been a mainstay in local radio and is currently heard on 96.3 XKE. “I got to think about life a lot and what really matters.”
“It became obvious that experiences and shared passion was more important than stuff,” he added.
If you’ve grown up here and fell in love with rock ‘n roll, you’ve heard West’s voice. Even if you never liked rock ‘n roll but were relegated to the radio before options like internet and streaming services became the norm – you’ve heard the man’s voice.
It’s that unmistakable.
West, who spent his youth between Florida and Ohio, came to Fort Wayne in 1979 for what he thought would be a somewhat short stay. He’s been here ever since – despite his “racier” on-air persona upon starting out that was thoroughly rejected by the public – playing classic rock over the airwaves for generations of listeners.
“When I got into radio, I thought I could make radio better,” West said. “What I learned when I got here, is it’s not about the deejay. It’s about the listeners. The people embraced me, so I was very fortunate.”
He considers himself a “concert freak” and has been hooked on rock from a very early age. He took a bus from Columbus, Ohio to Cleveland and waited outside an arena for hours on end to see The Doors when he was 16 years old back in 1968. Today, he is looking forward to seeing former Pink Floyd front-man Roger Waters’ upcoming show.
Along with his obsession with rock ‘n roll, he developed a penchant for collecting.
“My father told me that I was the collecting-est person he knew in 1960, when I was 9 years old,” West said. “I guess I always lived up to that statement. I can safely say there will never be another auction quite like this one.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, West found himself broadcasting from home. Gone were the concerts, and gone were regular trips to Jamaica and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He watched as bands found ways to play live from their homes over the internet, but it was not like seeing them live at the Embassy Theatre or The Clyde or the Coliseum, he said.
“I missed the interactions with my co-workers and the staff,” West said.
That’s when he really began to realize the possessions he had stored in tubs for eons were just that – possessions.
Steve Bartkus, owner of Bartkus Auctioneers, remembers listening to West during his childhood, at a time when you could call the radio station over the phone and hear the broadcast. He even called West all the time as a listener, trying to request songs or win concert tickets.
When Bartkus wanted to make an advertisement for a recent car auction he was running, he knew exactly who he wanted for a voice-over.
West told him about his desire to sell his collection, and a partnership was born.
“We’ve been working on this for three months,” said Bartkus, who helped West load plastic tubs of collectibles from a storage facility by the Ardmore Quarry. “You wouldn’t believe the dust that covered these tubs.”
Some of the items are already open for bidding at www.bartkusauctioneers.com. Among them, an old WXKE “QUIET PLEAE ON AIR” sign had shot up to a high bid of $375 as of Thursday and a child-sized Nirvana T-shirt was going for $150.
And when West says he’s selling everything, he means everything. Even a trash can covered in bumper stickers from various bands, a collection of CDs he used as a wedding deejay and giant stuffed cheetah he refers to as “Mick Jaguar” is up for grabs.
Plus, West is auctioning off several guitars used at concerts, many of which are signed by various bands. A few of the guitars are from a friend of his, who is requiring a reserve. But as far as West’s collection, there is no reserve on anything.
“When he said to me, ‘I have some cool stuff,’ he really meant he had some cool stuff,” Bartkus said.
The doors to Bartkus Auctioneers, located at 11595 E. State Road 205 in LaOtto, open at 9 a.m. for Saturday’s live auction. The live auction begins at 10 a.m. There will be food and West will be milling about to meet his legion of fans who’ve grown up with his voice on the radio.
“I’ve done a zillion events in nightclubs and concert halls,” West said. “This will be one of a kind. All these rockers I share my passion with, these rockers will be getting off. I get a little teary eyed thinking about it, they will take this to the grave with them and whenever they think about it, they will smile.”
It’s just like the smile the man has given to generations of listeners.
For more than 40 years, he’s given them his voice.
Now, he’s offering up pieces of himself, pieces that make up a legendary radio career.
One by one.