To remember him as we met him, twenty years ago, is to know everything that was lost, everything that never happened to a boy who could surprise you with his charm and wit and heart.
At fifteen, he was selling drugs on the corners of Fayette Street, but that doesn’t begin to explain who he was. For the boys of Franklin Square — too many of them at any rate — slinging was little more than an adolescent adventure, an inevitable rite of passage. And whatever sinister vision you might conjure of a street corner drug trafficker, try to remember that a fifteen-year-old slinger is, well, fifteen years old.
He was funny. He could step back from himself and mock his own stances — “hard work,” he would say when I would catch him on a drug corner, “hard work being a black man in America.” And then he would catch my eye and laugh knowingly at his presumption. His imitations of white-authority voices — social workers, police officers, juvenile masters, teachers, reporters — were never less than pinpoint, playful savagery. The price of being a white man on Fayette Street and getting to know DeAndre McCullough was to have your from-the-other-America pontifications pulled and scalpeled apart by a manchild with an uncanny ear for hypocrisy and cant.
He could be generous, and loyal. I remember him rushing out before Christmas to spend his corner money on gifts for his brother, nieces and nephews — knowing that his mother wasn’t going to get it done that year. I remember the moments of quiet affection he demonstrated when his mother was at her lowest ebb, telling her gently that she was better than this, that she could rise again. And, too, I remember his stoic, certain forgiveness of his father, who moved wraith-like around those same corners, lost in an addiction he could never defeat.
“I really feel like he’s at peace now,” DeAndre said after Gary’s funeral, explaining that his father was too gentle for the corners, too delicate a soul to be out there along Fayette Street. His father was never going to be what he was. Not ever again. DeAndre said this with no malice, in a voice that was as loving as any words I ever heard him speak.
At first, he was content with the book we wrote about his world. By the time “The Corner” was published it was something of an epitaph for people who were already casualties. Not just DeAndre’s father, but Boo, Bread, Fat Curt, his cousin Dinky, Miss Ella from the rec center. The book was an argument that these lives were not without meaning, that they, too, were complete human beings in the balance. He liked that someone — anyone — thought the people of Fayette Street mattered.
In time, though, he confessed to hating the last line of the narrative, the one in which he is defined as a street dealer and addict at the moment after taking his first adult charge in a raid on a stash house on South Gilmor Street. There was a burden in that, and he grew tired of its weight.
“That isn’t the end of the story,” he complained to me years later. “You don’t know that the story ends that way.”
I readily conceded that he was correct, that the story was ongoing and that a new ending could and would be fashioned if he provided such. By then, his mother had cleaned herself up, moved the family to the county, doing her damnedest to shepherd his young brother, and all of his nieces and nephews to adulthood, to gainful employment or college admissions. The mother of DeAndre’s son had a master’s degree, in fact, and was thrice-promoted at the downtown hospital where she made a career. Even Blue, whose childhood home was the shooting gallery, had more than a decade clean and was spending what remained of his days counseling others out of addiction.
“If you give me another ending, Dre. I’ll write it. I promise. In a new edition, in a magazine article, anywhere I can. I’ll write that fucking story so hard.”
“Wait on it then. You gonna see.”
He went to work for the television shows, time and again lasting only as long as a paycheck or two. He enjoyed acting, and showed some poise, but the jobs that offered the chance at a real career — the behind-the-camera production work, the path to union wages and benefits — those couldn’t hold him. Several months ago, desperate to get out of Baltimore and to walk away from his ever-more exhausting addictions, he asked for one more chance. He would get clean. He would do what needed doing. And so, we rented him an apartment in New Orleans and a gave him a position with the security crew for Treme. His sobriety lasted until the first payday, and by Thanksgiving, ever more angry at himself and depressed, he asked me for a ticket back to Baltimore. New Orleans wasn’t working; there were corners here, too, and he was lonely. His plan, he said, was to see if he could get his job back at Mountain Manor.
It was there that DeAndre found some time to shine. He worked as a peer counselor for court-ordered juveniles in the Mountain Manor residences. He knew those kids, and he knew the street, and so, he actually had the skill set to bring some truth into the room. He lasted two years — longer than any other gig in his life — before he again faltered.
I saw him on Christmas. We embraced. New Orleans went unmentioned.
On his birthday in May, I got a text: “Hey, Dave. Wassup. I’m 35 today. Never thought I’d make it. How ’bout that?”
I texted him back: “Happy Birthday, Dre.”
By then, I knew he was again struggling, unable to outrun the demons. A couple weeks ago, there was a photograph on the Baltimore Police Department’s webpage: An unidentified young man photographed during the robbery of a Pratt Street pharmacy. He claimed to have a gun, but offered only a note. He wanted not money, but drugs, and he left with pills. The photo was DeAndre. Hollow-eyed, dusty — but, clearly, DeAndre.
Fran was horrified. This crossed a line in a way that was genuinely unlike her oldest son. He had lived his life doing great damage to himself, obliterating the bright-eyed manchild one dose at a time. In truth, I never saw a drug addict so unhappy to be high. When DeAndre was chasing, he was miserable and angry and ashamed, with every better angel of his nature buried beneath an ash-heap of resentment and self-loathing. When he sobered, you knew it immediately; DeAndre emerged, playful and self-aware and once again open to the world and other people. And always, in the past, the damage had been confined to himself and those who loved him.
This was new and ugly. Fran confronted him, telling him he needed to turn himself in to police, that he had gone too far, that he had truly lost himself this time. DeAndre pleaded for the chance to get clean first, to sober up before surrendering and going to City Jail. He did not want to detox in pretrial detention; he couldn’t stomach the thought of being sick in those spartan, unforgiving surroundings. Once sober, he would surrender, and he asked his mother to ask me if I would go with him to court. Ask him yourself, Fran told him. Can’t, he told her. I’m ashamed.
I told her to tell DeAndre that I would, of course, stand with him in court, but only if he surrendered himself. I told myself that even now, the end of the story hasn’t yet been written. Maybe this was a true bottom. Maybe some prison time could pull him from the spiral; nothing else seemed to work, after all.
Fran relented, drove him to Tuerk House, where he cleaned up for the last time and then discharged himself. He did not immediately surrender. Instead, a few days later, he took more pills until he fell over dead in a house in Woodlawn. This morning, when the police came to the county looking for him with a warrant, they learned that they were a day late, that DeAndre McCullough was beyond their powers of arrest.
If I close my eyes, the fifteen year old comes to me. His laughter, his wit, his foolishness and ridiculous rationalization mixed in equal measure with his goodness and honesty. I can forgive the addict who came to dominate that young life. I can let go of all the frustration and exhaustion that came with twenty years of faithlessness and hurt. I see, in the end, a man who was in great, unending pain. And I want him to rest now.
In spite of everything, I will miss him badly. I know because I’ve been here before. With Dinky. And Curt. And Ella. And Gary — especially Gary McCullough, the wounded father who in some awful way was a pathfinder for his wounded son. When you tell yourself you are going to write a story about real people, you say so in the abstract, without any real sense of the beings you haven’t yet met, without any measure of the real cost of addressing actual human realities.
Well then, amid all of the easy labels and stereotypes that will now certainly apply, let me offer only the following: I once had the privilege to know a boy named DeAndre McCullough, who at the age of fifteen had led a life of considerable deprivation, but who nonetheless was the fine and fascinating measure of a human soul. Everything after, even the very book that we wrote about his world, today seems like useless and unimportant commentary.
Be free, Dre.
- Share on Facebook
- Share on Twitter
Mr. Simon, I want to thank you for writing “The Corner” and ” The Wire.” My family had close ties to the McCulloughs. My uncle, Micheal Ellerbe was in the movie. His voice was on the intro calling out red tops. Fran was very good friends with my aunt. I remember back in the day, her visits to my grandmothers home. I’ve watched and read your work only to know how truly blessed I am to have left Maryland. To know something other than the streets. It keeps me humble. Every time I think of moving back, It reminds me of what I left. I was fortunate to have an outlet when my brother went into the navy and was stationed in Florida. I met Dre a couple of times. He was a good guy, like many other guys in Baltimore that I know. It’s not easy to get out. The life is hard because it’s fast, day to day, and no tomorrow in it. The reality is sometimes that’s all a person knows, if they don’t know anything else.
How is Mike doing? Is he still working the ships?
Yeah, I miss Dre. Sad story, that. And he had the heart for a different one.
I was a latecomer to The Corner and The Wire, and now I am latecomer to this post. This really saddens, Mr. Simon. But I was glad to know him, even through the remove of yourself and your writing. If he inspired you like you have inspired me, then his short time on this planet was more significant than one hundred years would be for most folk. My condolences to you, and my appreciation to you both.
[…] David Simon statement after DeAndre’s deathhttp://davidsimon.com/deandre-mccullough-1977-2012/ […]
[…] témoigne le bouleversant hommage qu’il a rendu cet été à DeAndre McCullough, un des principaux personnages de The Corner, mort […]
[…] few weeks ago, I read an incredibly moving eulogy penned by David Simon. The eulogy was in honor of a young man named DeAndre McCullough who was a […]
Thank you for describing so well the heartbreak and frustration of loving and trying to help soneone caught in the jealous grip of addiction. DDeAndre reminds me of my youngest brother, the one I called ‘my baby”, the one I tried to save numerous times. When I was 20 and he was 14, I connected with the late Floyd Patterson, the big hearted former heavy weight boxing champion who took in troubled young men at his property outside New Paltz, NY. Mr. Patterson sent avdriver to my studio apartment and gave us a toyrvof his ‘camo’, after which he iffered to rake my brother in. I remember hiw gentle Nr. Oattersib seemed for a big man and giw hus hand was the size of two of mine when he reached tovshake it. My brother had already started drinking and drugging to dull the pain he sufferied at tbe hands of our sociopathically abusive father and our enabling and passive mother. Ironically, he was introduced to those activities by the bored and troubled darm boys of the little Central NY town that our parents moved to after i left for college early and our middle brother joined the Navy. In time, i figured out that the many times i tried to rescue him were inspired by the profound sense of guilt I ca rried for having left him behind when I was 17. It was guilt, sadness, anger at the waste if his potential that drove me to try to help, try to inspire, over and over again. Time after time he resisted my rescue, even as he begged for it. He was a beautiful, promising boy who grew to be a ruined beauty of a man. Now 44 and still riding the cycle of decline and temporary redemption, he lives on the fringes of Vegas nightlife where his charm and wit come in handy. No one can make me laugh like my brother; no one has made me cry more. I have since learned to love him and pray for him from afar. It doesn’t remedy the worry or pain, but it does keep me and my son out of range of backlash.
Hey David quick question for you that I have never seen any interviewers ask you before. In the Wire none of the characters are ever smoking weed. In every documentary on National Geographic, youtube, etc. that portrays corner culture everyone is buying/smoking weed all the time. Is that culture not around Baltimore corner culture at all?
PS. Great piece. It had me tearing up at work and coming up with contacts acting up excuses in case anyone walked into my cubical.
We coulda done more of that, sure.
First read The Corner years ago. Just read about DeAndre. Heartbroken. Reading The Corner made me a different person. I am so sorry for everyone’s loss.
thanks for this. very kind.
I would like to know more about Rudolph Horton, dod 09/06/12 on Holbrook Street in Baltimore. What happened to him between 1992 and now? You knew him.
This reminds me of my oldest brother. I’ll say a prayer for you and for Dre.
[…] can be seen in The Wire and The Corner (and, to a lesser extent, Treme). In fact Simon recently posted on his blog about the death of DeAndre McCullough, one of the subjects of The Corner. It’s clear how much Simon cared for McCullough, not least […]
I lost my breath on your blog about Dre.. I too have seen so many GOOD people lose the battle of Drug Addiction … Let’s not forget that Drug Dealers in today’s society especially in entertainment industry are made to be super heroes… These are the people that get the girls, cars and this lifestyle if only you sell these drugs.. My husband was one such person who lost the battle and now he sits in a nursing home, blind and confused at forty three years old… However his story will not be told on any upcoming video… Kudos to you David for bringing reality to mainstream America..
Dear Mr. Simon,
Shortly after you first posted this piece, there was an interchange in the comments section between a former cop and yourself that got a bit heated. In your responses to his unwillingness to acknowledge DeAndre’s humanity, you made powerful arguments demanding that respect. While I’ve always agreed with you, I’ve not been able to articulate the ideas as well as you did, particularly not in such specific context.
I’m teaching a course where we are reading Peter Singers article from the 70s called Famine Affluence and Morality. Some of the students in my class at Morgan (most of whom are from the Baltimore and PG area) are having a hard time acknowledge the humanity of people in situations like that of DeAndre. I was hoping to share your interaction with them. Any chance you could repost it, or send me a copy?
I understand why you removed it from this section. It was appropriate. Although I only knew of DeAndre from your book, I felt the pain of his loss and his struggle. I have a brother out west going through somewhat similar situations.
I do, think, however, many of us can learn from the deleted exchange.
My sincere thanks in any case,
Joanna- the older comments (including the ones you are searching for) are not deleted, you just need to hit the “older comments” link at the top left of the comments section.
This is so sad,I can’t help it,i cried for deandre just now.i was checkin the internet if there was any news about snoop pearson.and then i found this old abc news clip on youtube.must have been before the wire,about the corner acctually, in the bottom i saw comments about deandre beeing dead. I could not believe it! must have been a mistake or a misplaced joke,but no unfortunatly it was not. Because i am also an addic, those shows,the people and the city became a part of me.i hold them close to my heart.and i will always remember!!! my heart goes out to Fran,Tyreeka,his boy,David,Ed.all his family and friends.and everybody who knew him.
i will miss him
Whats up! Neacy,Dave,Kevin it’s good to hear from y’all. To Deandre rest in peace and may God comfort the family. Prayers go out to all that survived THECORNER. Jesus i ask you to protect us all and bless every area of our life Amen! This is bringing me to tears as i write… Missing my love ones that died so soon… God knows everything though… Nothing goes unnoticed by God… Thank God for keeping us all those years… Well Dre if you hear me i love you family… I’ll be here making Hell run by faith and obedeince in God is my gun… No more using drugs,drug dealing i’m standing on the same corners our life story was birthed… Now giving hope,saving lives,and souls is my mission for God… The Devil say i am still dealing,but i’m on THECORNERS being used by God lol… After all He saved my life… Jails,mental institutions,stabbings,shootings… It’s obvious God was cheering me on to live and not die… When i first got shot i saw the bullet coming at my eye… I called on God to save me 10 shots close range only 1shot hiting my hand,because maraculously i was able to block the bullet… My head should be splattered i thought holes in my clothes coming out the other side… Dre i looked in the alley after i ran thinking my soul jumped out my body… I thought my body was laying in the alley terrified i looked to see that i’m not dead… What about all those bullets that were aimed at my body and head… How in the hell i’m not dead… This huge blue light covered me when i called on God… At first it seemed odd… No i saved you God said… Still living in hurt Gods full power couldn’t work… One more shooting then a stabbing… I CAN TELL THE DEVIL WAS BRAGGING… I told God i would have mercy on all my enemies if He healed me… In ICU FIGHTING TO LIVE ON LIFE SUPPORT… MY BOWELS WERE DEAD… WHAT!!! I WAS JUST WALKING DOWN THE STREET… DEVASTATED… THIS CANN’T BE… DOCTORS SAY I HAVE PAMENANT NERVE DAMAGE… I’M NOT LIKELY TO WALK FULLY AGAIN… I HATE U STREETS I THOUGHT U WAS MY FRIEND… YOUR GONNA NEED A BAG ON YOUR SIDE TO USE THE BATHROOM DOCTORS TOLD ME… I SAID TO HELL NOOOO… GOD HAS THE LAST SAY SO… ASKING THE NURSE FOR A BIBLE… I SAID A HEALING PRAYER OUT LOUD CLAIMING HEALING IN JESUS NAME AMEN… THE PRESENCE OF GOD FILLED THE ROOM… ASURING ME EVERYTHING WAS OK… TEARS OF JOY AND ANOUGH PEACE TO STOP A WAR… TO SLEEP I WENT MY HEART ALREADY HAD VENT… WAKING UP TO JOY IN THE MORNING ANOTHER DAY GOD HAS MADE I THOUGHT… THESE WORDS PENETRATING MY HEART… LIKE A ARROW FROM CUPID I HAD A BOWEL MOVEMENT… BETTER KNOWN AS GAS… DON’T WORRY EVEN NOW I LAUGH… GOD HEALED ME OVER NIGHT… THE DOCTORS SO BAFFLED TO AMIT THAT GOD HEALED ME… MY BOWELS WERE DEAD LETS REMEMBER OVER NIGHT GODS HEALING WON THAT FIGHT… NOW I’M TAKING BACK EVERYTHING THE DEVIL STOLE MAKING HIM WISH HE HID IN A HOLE… SEEING MIRACLES,SIGNS,WONDERS,DAILY… LIVING A DREAM COME TRUE… MY MY MY HOW I GREW… I NEVER WOULD HAVE MADE WITH OUT GOD… NOW DRE I’LL REWRITE OUR STORY HOW WE CAME FROM NOTHING… NOW WE’RE USED BY GOD TO CHANGE LIVES ACROSS THE WORLD… YEAH!!! THAT SOUNDS GREAT TO ME TOO DRE… I’LL STAND FOR YOU MY BROTHER RUNNING THIS RACE… WHEN I GET TO HEAVEN WE’LL HAVE THECORNER AFTER PARTY LOL… GET READY DRE TELL GOD TO PREPARE MY BED… REST IN PEACE MY BROTHER I’LL DO WHAT I CAN TO COMFORT YOUR MOTHER… YOU ALREADY KNOW HOW MUCH I LOVE HER… LOVE YOU ALWAYS DRE… UNTIL GOD CALLS ME I’LL BE YOUR LIVING WITNESS THAT GOD IS GREAT!!! SORRY!!! WORLD HELL IS NOT MY FATE… SERVING GOD LIKE AT DINNER TIME HERE’S YOUR PLATE… STILL WAITING FOR THAT PERFECT MATE… FOR NOW I JUST DATE… KEEPING MY ZIPPER UP… FOR MARRAIGE I’LL WAIT… CELEBRATING EVERYDAY LIKE MY BIRTHDAY IT’S MY CAKE… GOD DON’T MAKE MISTAKES… FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE LIKE COOLAID TO SUGAR… WHEN TIMES GOT HARD YOU CAN RELATE WE REALLY THANKED GOD THAT WE EVEN ATE… HAD A DREAM ABOUT YOU NEACY MY TEENAGE LOVE… IT FELT SO REAL I THANKED GOD ABOVE… STILL REMEMBERING YOUR UNFAILING LOVE… FROM BOYS TO MEN WE ALL KNOW THAT SONG… I’M WRITTING THIS TO SAY STAY STRONG… WHAT WOULD MAN DO WITH OUT WOMAN… CANN’T FORGET I CAME OUT WO…MAN… THE BIBLE SAYS WHEN MAN FINDS A WIFE HE FINDS A GOOD THING… IF LOVE HAS NOT DRABBED YOU YET NEACY… HERE’S MY FEELINGS FROM MY HEART COMING AT YOU LIKE A JET IN THE SKY… YOU KNOW IN MY DREAMS I CAN FLY… MY POINT IS REAL LOVE NEVER DIES… EXPRESSING MY HEART WITH TEARED UP EYES… EVEN BACK THEN I WAS INLOVE WITH MY BEST FRIEND… I PRAY ALL LIFES HURTS GOD MENDS… STILL INLOVE WITH MY BEST FRIEND… YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE THIS I KNOW… WISHING YOU THE BEST… I’M NOT JEALOUS IN GOD I INVEST… TREATING EVERYDAY AS A TEST… REMEMBER WHEN I WAS CONSIDERED A NERD… THE TWINS LAUGHED LIKE THAT WAS, SO UBSURD… WELL MY FATHER IS BETTER… DON’T WANT TO MISS LOVE ANYMORE,SO I WRTE YOU THIS LETTER… STILL A CHILD AT HEART THAT WAY GOD KEEPS USING ME DOING THINGS NOW THAT’S ,SO AMUSING TO ME… WAS A G… IN THE STREETS NOW I’M A G… FOR GOD… THE DEVIL STILL MAD HE DIDN’T KILLME… SAYING IT’S ,SO HARD… IF YOU HAPPY WITH LIFE LIKE A MESSAGE YOU CAN PUSH DELETE… IF YOUR OPEN TO TEENAGE LOVE AGAIN WE MEET… HERE I AM A MAN AFTER GODS HEART… MAY GOD BLESS YOU FROM YOUR HEAD TO FEET… FOR NOW THESE WORDS IS MY FOOD AND HOW I EAT… GIFTED BY GOD YOU FEEL THAT? IT’S MY HEART BEAT… MOVING WITH RYTHM PULLING ON MY FAITH IN HIM… WHEN YOU GET THIS MESSAGE MAY YOUR HEART PRESS SEND… A KING IS NOTHING WITHOUT HIS QUEEN… LIVING IN REALITY NOW THIS WASN’T JUST A DREAM… BOLD IN FAITH LIKE A LION IN THE JUNGLE… CAN YOU HEAR ME ROAR… RUNNIG FOR THE TOUCHDOWN HOW DOES REAL LOVE SOUND… BEEN PLAYING THIS GAME ALL MY LIFE… IT’S TIME TO WIN… THIS IS A MAN EXPRESSING TRUE FEELINGS SEPERATING THE BOYS FROM MEN… REACHING OUT FOR YOUR HAND HAPPILY EVER AFTER AWWWWWWW… A HEART FILLED WITH LAUGHTER LOVE FOUND ME NOW IT’S YOUR HEART I’M AFTER…
I THOUGHT I’D LET MY LIFE SPEAK FOR IT SELF… I ASKED GOD WHAT WOULD BE MY NAME AS A ARTIST… NOW WRITTING POETRY,RAP,SPOKEN WORD… I NEEDED A STAGE NAME,SO OVERCOMER CAME… BEING AS THOUGH MY LIFE SPEAKS OF OVERCOMING THE IMPOSSIBLE MAN SAYS… WITH THIS NAME I GIVE GOD PRAISE… Y’ALL KNOW ME AS DEON MY SMILE SPOKE LIKE WORDS… STILL SMILING FAMILY LOL… THE DEVIL MAD HE SAYS I’M BEING UBSURD… SO GIFTED BY GOD EVEN MY WORDS SAY WORD!!! I LOVE Y’ALL DAVE,NEACY,KEVIN,TRINA… MY LIFE IS GREAT! LIVE EVERYDAY LIKE THE BALTIMORE AREANA.. AEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!
That was the deep! Rip Andre……
Each beat of my heart i feel like our time is gettin shorter here in the innercity streets of baltimore….shorter in breath towards our goals….and i see the struggle gettin harder and harder no matter how much persistance we give….its not easy here at all and being a product to our environment of course it hibernates our motivation to do better…..these streets can only give you an appitite that will set u in a downward spiral….Deandre had a good heart no doubt….but deandre’s desires was the one that rob him from himself…..A great man that the devil was so selfish to let live to his higher potential……A chosen one that was given so many opportunities with paths that were so inviting awaiting great rewards to success to
make it out this hellpit….A spirit warfare is what were fighting and its yet the hardest…he fought to be better i know….and being a victim of someone u love whos tryin to kick a habit but cant…..hurts them more ….just cause they cant ..thats where that shame stood in at and it only segregate u from the ones you love…..every progress is a process…..of course its hard….this is a war here…..Every min Every sec….In the times of our parents it was a Drug warfare….smh…now our generation has only been claim by a pharmacutical warfare….Its hitting home dangerously and its hurts …to many of our young are abusing medicine…..wheres at least a decent solution….i see none… especially not with this NEW JIM CROW LAW…how easy is it escape something that was program before our time to understanding theres different …This behavior was being manifested within him ….growing without his ability to see better…. my last encounter with him i felt his pain…..i seen the demon manisfesting….but i also seen that boy David spoke on….piercing thru the pupil of his eyes saying i aggresivly need help….i wanted so much for him…the same i wanted and still do for my mother….a break thru….a exocist…..a antidote for the desease that was causing his demise…we spoke on how he was gonna get better and how we were gonna get together and share a project of how (we) the children …that were affected by the drug warfare that kidnapped our parents….it doesnt take long to choose a side to an non ending battle….Even though we knew his path God knew his heart….he knew his journey before hand ….Deandre didnt loose….you see god puts us all here for a reason….He place David Simon just where he needed to be….he chose a man that could deliver just what he wanted us to see by vision bringing fourth The Corner….and yet again how it manifested trickling down to the very children of those addict…The Wire….Deandre was the sign of our time….he represents our generation today….Wake up….Our final hour is close at hand…please please please my people lets not let this demon keep us captive …..we will never debel within the streets of Baltimore…..Drugs are diffently not the answer nor ur friend….its the Enemy…..Rest easy Deandre…..and thanks for being so couragous for so many…..Never forgotten….
Usually I do not learn post on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very compelled me to try and do it! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thank you, quite nice post.
I, too, was deeply saddened to hear of DeAndre’s death. LIke so many others I was moved by your sensitive, compassionate, unflinching portrayal of the McCullough family and the forces that shaped their life paths. It’s so easy–and heartless, and ignorant–to dismiss people when talking about them in a general, stereotypical way — i.e. drug addicts, drug dealers, getting what they deserved. When confronted with the kind of masterful and honest portrait of a real life, and real lives, it’s far more difficult. As a fellow journalist, I’ve been a great admirer of your work, David, from Homicide (an astonishing book) to The Corner, to, of course, The Wire (also love Treme and look forward to its return.) What I’m so grateful for is precisely your empathy and clear-eyed compassion –not to mention the genius of your reporting. But this note is not to blow smoke, but to express my condolences and heartbreak over the death of DeAndre and, belatedly, his father, Gary. As someone who has struggled with addiction myself, it hurts to the core. God bless and keep them and every one on the corners fighting for a different fate.
I feel so lost and sad right now. IT was a time when DeAndre came to Philly to recover from drugs and alcohol and later we where living together. DeAndre became someone special in my life and later in the relationship my heart and soul ached because he continue to use drugs. I loved him so I hung in there with him but it wasn’t easy because I could not change him. He had a way in him that you could not broke, shake or speak on, he was always right. My man was a fighter. As time went on in are relationship I started to see that this man was suffering with depression, sleepless nights and he was a very angry person even when he was high as well, I can agree with you David on that . The relationship got very hard to be in. I didn’t know how to help him so I had to let him go. Yes we keep in touch, the last time I head from him was when he was in Tuerk House. I loved him and hope that he would one day return back to me clean and sober and easy to love. He always told me that he wasn’t scared to die but he never slept. DeAndre now you can sleep in peace, I will always remember the good with the bad, and when you smiled you made me smile because you didn’t like to smile. The battle is over.
Very sad news indeed. I’m from Dublin, Ireland and read the Corner & Homicide a good few years ago, you might be surprised the similarities that exist between Inner City Baltimore and our more impoverished sections of Dublin.
I found the McCullogh story fascinating and terrible in equal measures. I was most happy to hear that they had made moves to get away from the corner.
I felt a deep affinity to Gary, in his struggle and in all that he had lost when he had made such a life in holding his three jobs and playing the market. He seemed a ghost within those pages. They seemed a family that was everyone and yet unlike anyone else.
I think sometimes of the Baltimore of your books and wonder at America. So often we, in Europe, have a rose tinted impression of that soaring country and it is good that the reality can be so well expressed in your books and The Wire and that recent documentary, The Interrupters.
Im glad I read your books, and that I got to know the lives of those people and that family. I think that that is important. Whether I am Irish or American.
Thanks for telling Dre’s story David. Dre, and Gary and Fran are all part of the American story – a part that too often goes overlooked.
[…] “He went to work for the television shows, time and again lasting only as long as a paycheck or two,” Mr. Simon wrote in a tribute online. […]
[…] I just read David Simon’s obituary for DeAndre McCullough (1977-2012). […]
Thank you for this, David. It’s a terrible story to have to report, but you gave us the heart of it, again.
[…] “He went to work for the television shows, time and again lasting only as long as a paycheck or two,” Mr. Simon wrote in a tribute online. […]
[…] Simon’s obituary for DeAndre McCullough, his writing partner who also played Brother Mouzone’s assitant Lamar on The […]
I remember the last time we saw De’Andre it was April 19th, on Fayette Street, he was in the SUV with Fran. We were coming out of the house on Fayette Street. He ran behind us with a big smile on his face. He assured us he would be at our house for a celebration in Delaware next month. We stood on the corner and took pictures. I will always remember him in that happy moment.
Rest in peace with the Angels
David, I dont know if you will ever read or consider this comment, but watching The Wire changed my life. I’m a 27 year old male from a rough city in southcoast Massachusetts and have been caught up in drug/opiate addiction since I was 20.
But watching the Wire, seeing these people, struggle like I struggle, and see the hurt, the same hurt I felt my whole childhood growing up with drug addicted/alcoholic parents. Seeing Bubbles, and Wallace, especially Wallace get high was chilling. I connected to Wallace and felt for him as he stood in his room day after day hiding a secret addiction, even whilst having to take care of SEVEN younger siblings all on his own. My mother is sick and dying and Im the only one there for her. And watching your show made me quit doing heroin so I could better care for my mother (which she coincidentally tried to do for me). I’m on day 9 of recovery and did it all by myself with meds I found on the street. I just layed in my bed and watched The Wire. The Wire has saved a young life, far far away from the corners of Baltimore.
Thank you Mr. Simon. Your work is fascinating and I’m currently enrolled at the community college finally attempting to attain my goals and dreams that were snatched away by drugs. I’m a young artist actually and hope to do work similar to yourself. Art imitates life, yet its art that can also shape or change life. Thank you.
Thanks for sharing that’s a great story.
Don’t ever give up. Sobriety is one day at a time. (I’ll spare you the full 12 step lecture).
Day 24 now.
Thank you Peter. I just wanted to leave one more comment as I felt i did Gary and DeAndre an injustice for not having watched or read The Corner, but now that I have righted that injustice I feel like I can now speak on his situation.
I always thought Lamar was an interesting character on the wire. His demeanor was….interesting. He wasnt really acting, it felt like. But anyway, his and Gary’s story (even Fat Curts, given my mother is suffering from liver disease having used her whole life) are much more upsetting and impactful than any story from the wire. Rest in Peace DeAndre. Hopefully him and Gary are in a better place. And thanks to David Simons work hopefully I will be one of the “1 out of 10’s”.
Watching gary buy vitamins, give his mother money, go for a walk, and watch a movie (shindlers List no less, smart man indeed) all while wearing his clonodine patch with great pride has given me more inspiration to beat whatever problems I might face than anything else I have ever seen. RIP
Well, I had my friends over my house last night…….my childhood friends all who grew up DeAndre just going through all the pictures went took together as kids. We all started laughing and going back down memory lane. I showed them pictures of our grade school pictures from Staurt Hill Elementary, Franklin Square and Harlem Park Middle Schools. We just could not believe how innocent we were. Majority of our family members were on drugs or addicted to alcohol, which we thought was normal. We had to do what was necessary for us to survive in the environment that we all were born into which meant maturing really fast and learning how to provide for yourself at an early age. By all means life was not easy growing up in the inner city Baltimore. We all learned life long lessons at an early age. This type of lifestyle was considered normal……Wow..Looking back I am glad we all hung out together starting from Mount and Fayette Streets. I still remember my first job was at the B and O Railroad musem on Pratt Street. I was proud of myself but my crew made jokes about it. Those were the good days. Now that I am an adult raising a son, I know how to be a role model. I will teach my son how to be a real man and aim for the stars and to obtain a good education because for me that enabled me to move out of the inner city and achieve a valuable college education that no one can ever take away from me.
From your handle, I take it you went to UMBC. That’s great, Kevin. Ed and I knew that you were going a different path even back then. You were one the crew, but kept a careful, considered distance. Come nightfall, you were never out on a corner. That was rare. And it mattered.
So sad to hear this news. Our lives do matter.
[…] DeAndre McCullough, who played Brother Mouzone’s assistant Lamar on The Wire, has died at the age of 35. David Simon posted a lengthy obituary, talking about how he got to know him, etc., and you should read it. -DavidSimon […]
[…] David Simon, the writer/creator of The Wire, knew McCullough from back when Andre was a dealer on Fayette Street and Simon was doing research for a book called The Corner. They had remained friends for the past 20 years. Simon wrote a moving obit to his friend. […]
[…] David Simon: To remember him as we met him, twenty years ago, is to know everything that was lost, everything that never happened to a boy who could surprise you with his charm and wit and heart. This entry was posted in General by ben. Bookmark the permalink. […]
Very moving. … “If virtue sheds her light, even along the crags and cracks of poverty, it will be esteemed by high, noble spirits, and so be favored.” – Cervantes
[…] Simon has penned a touching obit for DeAndre McCullough, who just died of a drug overdose. When McCullough was 15 […]
[…] Of A Soul Posted at 1:30 on August 9, 2012 by Andrew Sullivan by Zoë Pollock David Simon has penned a touching obit for DeAndre McCullough, who just died of a drug overdose. When McCullough was 15 […]
Thanks for the heartfelt reflections at the funeral of Dre. We loved him dearly. It was nice seeing you there and knowning that you really cared for him. He was a great nephew and will be greatly missed by his family. The angels are watching over him now. I spoke to you after the funeral and got your phone numbers and email. I seemed to have lost them in all my despair yesterday. Can you please forward them to my email.
[…] had to share this post that I saw on my Google Plus […]
yes, Tae and Brooks are both home. Tae is about to get married. He has a stable job and is doing really well for himself and family. Brooks still works off and on. He resides with both of his cousins, Manny and Deon.
Kevin, give my regards to both. I remember Brooks as the smallest and in many ways toughest in that crew. I hope he’s on a good roll. Along with DeAndre, Tae, was one of the smarter kids I’ve encountered anywhere. I remember him going everywhere that whole year with that damn math book under his arm, intent on graduating. I’m glad they’re home and here’s to second chances.
I’m really glad to read that those two made it. I will have to read the book again, i seem to have forgotten Brooks but i definitely remember Tae. Everyone in that book was more then characters to me, they were the most amazing people i had ever read about. Because their America was so foreign to me. How could a place in America be so overlooked and disenfranchised.
The book was so monumental in my life for different reasons.
I was a horrible heroin addict at one time in my life, and the corner was always with me. i used it to navigate West Baltimore (a dangerous place for a naive white kid from small town usa). I also spent many hours alone reading it over and over.
Years later, when i was clean, i read it again and this time saw it from a totally different perspective. The guilt i now felt for ever handing those bills to an 10 year old in that God-forsaken “hole” off North Pulaski and Saratoga. And now i related more to Fran…and how she gave me something to hope for because she really, really made it out of one of the worst addictions.
But DeAndre. How i wished for him. I wanted him to become a big Hollywood star or something. I got mad at David Simon for not just making him his personal assistant to make sure he didn’t get in trouble. Ha, i realize now that you can’t babysit an addict and David did many things to help DeAndre and many others from the Corner. But it’s hard to recover. Sometimes (most times) our brains are damaged from the drug use. It takes time for them to repair themselves and sometimes psych meds are needed as well. Good health care is important (and even a good insurance plan will try their damndest to not pay for addiction treatment). Anyway, he was at that vulnerable fresh out of rehab stage when we’re vulnerable to relapse and overdose.
With all that prison hanging over him, he tried to drown out that stress and pain one last time and then he was gone. Dre, you will be missed and i hope your pain is gone.
Fran, stay strong and clean and i’m so sorry for your loss. It’s not fair.
Guess I got used to the more positive stories of real-life people from Baltimore. This hurts.
Heartbreaking eulogy for a kid who needed a better place and time.
We met DeAndre in early 1996, He was a very kindhearted , generous young man. He was a young man that once you knew him he was a forever friend. He spent many days and nights when Shay and I were roommates on Gilmor St. Where we all Shared many happy moments that have turned into treasured memories. It seems so surreal that DeAndre is no longer here with us although we have not seen him in years, We will always remember the days when the guys from the “Corner” that were more then that they were young men with hearts and goals just trying to find their way in a rough world, We had many talks and laughs about what they all wanted to do with their lives. Of course life stepped in and took us all in different directions, We will always hold DeAndre in our hearts as we know God is embracing him now, As for some of the others that we also knew, One was Dinky who left us early and then shortly after Boo then more recent the Loss of R.C. .They are also missed deeply..As for the others Tae is very happy with his new Fiancee , He is looking forward to a bright future leaving the trials of the “Corner” behind. As for Manny , Brooks and Deon they share a home attending church regularly. Manny is a very devoted Father, and Deon returns to the corner to not spread drugs but to deliver Gods Word. These were the guys we were closest too and I am personally grateful to Shay for being the first to meet most of them and to all the guys for bringing Kevin into my life.We have been together non stop since June of 1996 and now married 14 years and share two children and he is one of the young men That I am grateful you took under your wing and helped him become the hardworking family man he is.Even though we do not live near the corners anymore with the passing of DeAndre it has brought back many fond memories of the years past. May DeAndre and all the others lost trying to find their way finally be at peace and We hope they continue to watch over all those that remain here in this trying world ,
With Heartfelt Sympathy,
Love , Trina Thomas and Shay
Thank you for your memories and for checking in.
Are Tae and Brooks both home? That is excellent news, and I hope they are staying away from the corners. Last I heard they were both working off significant sentences. The thought that someone eventually makes it off the Fayette Street corners that we knew is, at this point, almost too much to hope for.
it is sad that my childhood friend pasted away..We all been through so much growing up in that environment, even thou our lives took separate paths, we still remind close friends. I remember the basketball days at Cloverland and going to the neighborhood recreation.center. We were the Gilmor and Pratt boys even thou we all lived on the other side of Baltimore street..Dre u will be truly be missed, from Kevin..Man, this truly gave me a dose of reality..I missed all of my.friends..However, we will always remain.close because we are all one of the same kind..Sincerely Kevin Thomas
P.S..Sorry..you know what I am referring too..Without you and your encouragement. I will not be the man who I am today, so thank you
Following your work since ‘The Corner’ through ‘The Wire’ & ‘Treme’, I had circled back to ‘The Corner’ a couple of months ago. Had been excitedly preparing for season 3 of ‘Treme’ by going back to the first two seasons. Holding a box set of the complete ‘Wire’ & looking to revisit that, I suddenly had a tug to go back to the original, the ‘ur’ place where it kind of began which to me was ‘The Corner’. I hadn’t seen it since it was first shown & all I had was a video tape of it that wouldn’t play right. I went & got hold of a dvd version and started watching an episode at a time on Sunday nights when my kid would come over to hang out. He had wanted to see it so we took our time, replayed scenes etc.
We had gotten through episode five but had missed a few Sundays and finally was able to catch back up with the final last night. Beforehand however, I had seen this link about DeAndre’s death so it was surreal and tragic to watch the finale, especially when the real folks came out at the end to talk to Charles Dutton. Thanks, David for putting that out there, the shit never gets any easier but for me, bearing witness is mandatory…
To Fran & all of Dre’s friends and family,
Thank you for allowing your story to be told. I’m glad you entrusted it to someone as capable as David Simon. In part because of your stories, I went back to school and have since been working in my own city to help those who are growing up in communities like Fayette St. Thank you for putting humanity into the corner and forcing me to no longer turn my head. May God be with you during this difficult time.
Thank you for your reasoned approach to what this war on drugs has done and is doing to our PEOPLE. When I think back to the first days I began to feel this way and how even the mention of it would be squashed as ridiculous, I realize how far we’ve truly come in this fight. Public opinion is wising up, so keep up the good fight. In the meantime, many of us will continue fighting for the humanity we see in the corner.
I have just finished watching ‘the wire’ and ‘the corner’ mini series. Baltimore seems like a place that is corrupted that a deadly ‘game’ that is difficult for people living on the streets to escape. I feel I now have an affiliation with Baltimore or maybe I just an affiliation with well written stories and characters. It’s hard to decide.
It seems D’Andre had many chances and oppurtunities given to him to escape. But the corner and its life style, is all he knew, maybe its all he wanted to know? Either way he’s now just another number, another death of the drug game of America. I hope his family can be strong during this difficult time. I hope Dre and his father Gary can play some basketball in peace again.
Dear David –
Thank you for this heartfelt memorial to DeAndre McCullough. Thank you for putting into words the struggles of so many inner-city kids, most of whom do not have the same choices as many of the rest of us. Due to geography, lack of opportunity, abuse and drug addiction at home, many kids find themselves “on the corner”, in the streets, joining gangs, repeatedly incarcerated — and as the founder of the organization that I work for says these kids have ” a lethal absence of hope.”
I was born, raised and now live in Los Angeles and work for an organization called Homeboy Industries. We serve up to 12,000 former gang members and recently incarcerated men and women who come through our doors seeking our services: tattoo removal, mental health and legal counseling, job development, classes, NA/AA?GA meetings, GED tutoring, and many attend our partner charter high school, Learning Works! We also have six social enterprises where we employ about 180 former gang members and recently incarcerated men and women. Many times our clients are just desperate for work, for a job.
I see daily our client’s struggles to improve their lives, overcome their addictions and deal with their pasts which include for many complex, repeated trauma. Many of Homeboy’s clients actually suffer from PTSD, from childhoods so out of control and beyond my capacity to understand the trauma inflicted on these kids, they have developed few coping skills.
Our clients have lived lives much like Dre. In your writing of him and in sharing part of his story here with this blog post, I was reminded of many of the people I see daily. This population, they run to the streets and their gangs not because the idea of becoming a gang member seems like a good idea, they join because they are running from their lives, from broken homes, and abuse, many times they’ve been abandoned. The gang and the street life becomes their family. They think the gang provides stability and the family they’ve never had.
The Los Angeles I grew up in, is the same as the Los Angeles our clients have grown up in yet because of geography and circumstance, because of opportunity and who my parents were and are, my life and my childhood were so different growing up. It is why I came to work at Homeboy, I want Los Angeles to be a better place for all kids. I want children in the city I call home, to have more balanced opportunities for education, to have hope in their lives and to dream beyond their barrio or neighborhood or corner.
I am in awe of your work, not just as an amazing writer, producer and creator of some of my favorite television shows (Treme is incredible) more so I admire your work as an advocate for issues such as the legalization of drugs, more fair and balanced policing, more support and help for drug addicts — less prison time and sentencing.
If you are ever in Los Angeles and it is convenient for you, please come and visit Homeboy Industries. Come to the Homegirl Cafe and have some tacos, take a tour of our facilities and see the community feeling that we have here at Homeboy (and need a million times over in organizations through out our inner cities.)
One of our clients, now working in Homegirl Cafe, released her CDC (California Department of Corrections) number after 17 years and 9 prison stints. She has been sober six years. On Friday, she told all of us that she gave her number back to the state of California. Her key to this new path in her life is her sobriety and having a job. She is back in contact with her family and her daughter. She is joyful. She is thankful. She is proud. She is where she should be after years and years of struggle. And this morning, I got a hug from her, one of those big ol’ bear hugs. A meaningful exchange. I am proud, I am thankful. I am filled with joy thinking about this moment and being a small part of this woman’s life. As she left my office there were tears in my eyes, for what she has overcome and accomplished is amazing to me. Standing with her in this way is more meaningful than anything I could possibly do in my life.
Thank you for starting this blog. Thank you for your work. Thank you for your dedication to helping people realize that we must stand with the disenfranchised and downtrodden, the easily despised and dismissed, with gang members and the drug addict, with those less fortunate and without opportunity. We cannot continue this marginalization and cycle of repeated incarceration. It leads us nowhere. If we would chose to stand together more often, we could do better. We need to do better. We should do better. We can do better.
– Alison Lass Camacho
Being raised in South Central, thank you for your work and the hope you give back to these individuals. I left in the early ’80’s but know all to well the downfall of the “gang life”. As a teenager I never was influenced to “jump in” but had friends that were in, neighbors that were members of the “bloods”. Some had very good homes and others were drawn in by the “family” aspect for what they didn’t have at home. They all need the chance and services you offer, in time when they are ready I’m glad your there for them, what a God send you are.
Mr. Simon, very touching words! Through you many of us got the chance to meet “Dre”. I knew a many “Dre’s” in my lifetime, hopefully for the other “Dre’s” they find the inner peace to get the help they so need. My heartfelt condolences to his family.
I’m a fan of both productions. I’m sorry to hear that one of the key figures on The Corner has died. I had hopes for him too. That being said, death or jail is the ending for most people caught up in the inner city drug trade. One suggestion I have Mr. Simon is that he use his influence and power to look for answers for these people. There is a group called law enforcement officers against the drug war (LEAP). This group is looking for answers that don’t involve arrests and raids of those low level people who use and deal. Our drug policies have failed and we must stop building prisons to house people who use, deal and steal because of their drug habits.
I find your point of view refreshing. Keep up your examination of issues that most of us ignore.
A fine eulogy indeed. Reading “The Corner” changed my thinking about so many realities of inner-city life, about the plight of DeAndre McCullough and his brethren across the country. Do you know what his son is up to? He would be about 19 or 20 by now.
Thank you for eulogizing De’Andre in this almost- (and unfortunate) subchapter to The Corner. We all wish De’Andre could have made it out of the abyss of addiction, and it’s so sad he didn’t. I met you, De’Andre, Fran, and De’Rodd when I was working in the same building as Pat Moran in 2005, and we were able to visit for a few minutes. Since I first read The Corner in 1997, moved to Baltimore in 2003, and entered into recovery myself in 2008, it has had a huge impact on my life. De’Andre and I shared so many parts of our stories. I’m just blessed to have survived, and now we’ve lost him. I wish I could have known him as a friend and done whatever I could to help him. Thank you also for your nice words at his homecoming service at Bethel A.M.E. this morning. You have enriched and enlightened so many of us by bringing his – and everyone else’s – stories from The Corner to our lives. They they feel like my family too, so I’m glad we could all be there to pay our respects. Your continued work is changing the world so much for the better.
Being from Baltimore, Md I understand the demons that these men fight on a daily basis; it’s not that they don’t want to be drug free/ or get away from the lifestyle.. It’s about turning away from it all. However, it ‘s as if a temptation in the air, a draw back. In addition, it’s hard to get away from the things that you knew for so long and still remain in that environment . I can’t stop reading and looking at DeAndre he remind of my Ex who I believe is facing the same issues and I wish I can save him, Honestly I wish I can save the whole community of Baltimore it’s nothing but a cycle . I pray that the next generation don’t face those demons as the past generations had. Baltimore really need less liquor stores and bars, and idk I love my city I pray we get it together.
Is the funeral today, Tuesday?
It was. At Bethel A.M.E. Church. Donnie, his stepfather, spoke beautifully. And one of DeAndre’s poems, the one that closes the last chapter of The Corner, was read to great emotion. It was a hard day, but it was good to be with people who knew and cared.
Saddened by the lost of a young man, and more sadden by the lost for a parent. However Fran we still need you and the advocacy that you do on a daily basis. Your character and hard work will continue to encourage the lives of others forever.