Tyler in May of 1994, the weekend of Scott and Emily Norris’s wedding, having just cut off his ponytail.
D. R. Tyler Magill is one of the most original people I’ve ever known. Tyler has a true genius for frightening and offending people, but also has a true knack for the original thought. Whether it was singing in the Glee Club, working on the Yellow Journal (one of his long term ongoing projects), writing extremely whacked-out poetry, listening to equally whacked-out music (who else but Tyler could have introduced me to Gastr Del Sol?), or being one of the funniest people alive, Tyler’s influence was always clear.
I had the honor of spending my four years at UVA with Tyler in a number of capacities—we were jointly responsible for the Consortium of University Publications (COUP) at one point—but I always think of Tyler as the man who could reduce me to hysterics with a deconstruction of whatever evil piece we happened to be singing at the time.
Tyler’s base of operations for a number of years was 502 Valley Road, known variously over the years as Acme Acres, the Club House Annex (a nickname Tyler hated, despite its aptness (the house was across the street from the Glee Club House), because he really wanted the house to have its own identity; he needn’t have worried), and the Valley Research Center. Tyler made many discoveries in that house, including the horror that was the Reverend Jack Van Impe (“The Antichrist is coming from Spain!”).
Tyler’s greatest talent was probably the element of surprise. He was as comfortable in drag as anyone I’ve ever known, once getting crowned “Miss Drag Liberty” at a local Charlottesville party (he was the only one that had gone the whole nine yards—he had shaved his legs!). But Tyler’s spiritual side and his sense of doing things the right way always shone through. I remember the intermission of one Virginia Glee Club concert in New Orleans, during which Tyler addressed the group, turning completely serious and saying, “We sang a pretty good first half—I think the Dove is around somewhere–but we’ve got to keep focused if we want the Dove* to stay.”
There are many more Tyler stories to be told; mail me if you’ve got more to be posted. One that needs to be told is the invention of the Font Game, with which Tyler and I would sit in a bar somewhere; one of us would say a word or phrase and the other would specify the font in which it should be set…. I also want to add some of Tyler’s writings to the site, in addition to his masterful contribution to “The Poetry of George Welsh.”
*The Dove was a favorite image of late great American choral conductor Robert Shaw, who likened the performance of a really amazing choral work to experiencing the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of the Dove. Shaw went on to say, “If you want the Dove to descend, you’ve got to clean out the birdcage.”