UPDATE: DNAinfo reports that family and a friend have been assured that Tidwell is safe.
Dane Tidwell is missing. He disappeared on August 13, the same day he was evicted from his Chicago apartment. According to DNAinfo, it was also the day he turned 40.
Tidwell launched and ran the gay media site Opus Chicago, which until a name change this past spring called itself Chicago Phoenix. There was talk of a print magazine down the line. Gerald Farinas, who was Tidwell’s friend and editor, told DNAinfo that—in the words of DNAinfo—”Tidwell left his Uptown apartment” and went over to Farinas’s apartment house in Edgewater. He called upstairs from the front-desk phone, told Farinas he was leaving his cell phone there, and by the time Farinas rushed downstairs had disappeared.
He also left behind his wallet and IDs, Farinas said.
Farinas told DNAinfo that Tidwell in recent days had “faced an intensifying sense of hopelessness.” Farinas said friends “believe that Dane is a threat to himself and needs help. We are fearful for his life.” Police were notified.
Tidwell didn’t lightly leave his apartment. Sheriff’s deputies had just showed up there and sealed it. Witnessing the eviction was his landlord, Holger Schlageter, a Frankfurt, Germany, psychologist who studied at Loyola University in the 1990s and later bought the Magnolia Street apartment as an investment. Schlageter tells me neither Tidwell nor his roommate, Adam Henderson, was around when the the deputies did their work, but Tidwell soon showed up and Schlageter confronted him. Tidwell didn’t say a word. Then Henderson approached. Says Schlageter: “Dane turned to me and said, ‘You have to tell Adam. I can’t.’ I refused to do that. Adam reached us and said, ‘So, what’s going on?” I said, ‘Dane has something to tell you.’ I heard them from about ten feet away. Adam was trying to soothe Dane. He said, ‘Calm down, and don’t lie to me.’ And Dane didn’t say a word. After two minutes Dane turned and said, ‘I can’t do this,’ and walked away. And was never seen again.”
Schlageter says Henderson showed up the next day with three friends during a two-hour legal window he’d been given and cleared out his stuff.
The eviction ended a legal process that Schlageter had launched last November and that dragged on, according to Schlageter, because Tidwell “was really good at dragging it out. He knew every loophole.” By court order, Tidwell and Henderson owe him $14,400, but Schlageter says that when additional unpaid rent and legal costs are added in, he’s out more than $20,000.
Getting tossed out wasn’t a new experience for Tidwell. In July of last year he and Henderson had been evicted from an apartment at Irving Park and Pine Grove, ending what landlady Courtney Bednyak called “the worst eight months of my life.” She said Tidwell, who handled the finances, paid the first two months’ rent to her and her husband, Daniel Bednyak, but then started putting them off, often not answering the phone and once claiming he was on his way out of town to be with a sick grandmother. She said she was “shocked” that when Tidwell disappeared people actually showed an interest in her troubles with him. “When we were going through it,” she said, “I cried and cried and cried and it didn’t seem anybody cared.” She said the eviction cost her and her husband more than $5,000 plus legal fees.
My introduction to Tidwell came four years ago, when I reported the bleak end of the once thriving bar rag Gay Chicago. Craig Gernhardt, son of the late Ralph Paul Gernhardt, the founder, had run into financial trouble when he tried to take Gay Chicago upscale and brought in Tidwell as an equal partner to right the ship. Tidwell, I wrote, “came to Chicago from Texas in December 2008 and was dabbling in local politics—trying to organize the Stonewall Democrats of Illinois, styling the website of gay attorney Jacob Meister during Meister’s brief 2010 run for the U.S. Senate, thinking out loud about running himself for alderman this year. None of these initiatives went anywhere.”
Neither did Gay Chicago. Tidwell and Gernhardt couldn’t agree on how to run the magazine, which soon folded, and although Tidwell kept a website going a few weeks longer, it also disappeared. At the end of their doomed relationship, Tidwell told me, “We couldn’t be in the same room together.”
Circuit Court records show that earlier eviction proceedings against Tidwell were launched in 2010, 2011 (twice), and 2013. (“I was his fifth eviction,” Courtney Bednyak told me.) Tidwell was represented in at least some of these actions, including the Bednyaks’, by Jacob Meister. Schlageter tells me that a few days before the eviction he tracked down Tidwell in Meister’s office. “I said, ‘Can we work something out?'” They didn’t.