Yesterday I was saddened to learn that one of Portland’s strangest artists died of smoke inhalation in a house fire.
Although I hardly knew Cody Reuwsaat, I’m honored to have a spent an afternoon with him a little over a year ago. I went out to his Southwest Portland home where he worked and where he breathed his last on Monday night to interview him for a little story for WW.
I only needed a few quotes, so normally it would have been a quick trip. But Cody was so engaging—and guarded—that I stayed for hours.
He started by giving me a tour of his workshop. He didn’t say much and let me ask the questions. “What’s this?” A mold to make a latex human form. “Are those human hearts?” They’re my best seller. Cody made horror art for haunted houses, movies and television.
We wound up sitting around and talking for a really long time. More than one tape. He told me about Hong Kong and a lot of stuff I knew wouldn’t end up in the piece. I was interested. We were just hanging out.
But the best part was the photo shoot. Cody really opened up when I asked him to scare me. It was spitting rain and we went into the bushes behind his place. I dug up the notes from the interview and this passage seems indicative of Cody’s approach to being scary and, perhaps, to life in general.
“A lot of haunted house actors think it’s really cool to go after kids and make them scream and cry and. ‘Oh! I’m a cool haunted house actor!’ But you don’t have to do that. Kids are gonna be scared just being in there. As an actor, my challenge is to go after the six-foot-four, 225-pound guy. If I can scare him, I know everybody else is already scared.”
From the little I knew of him, Cody seemed kind, clever, gentile, yet as intense as he wanted to be. He was incredibly creative and gifted. I never saw Cody again after that afternoon last February, but I’d hear of his activities through the grapevine form time to time and always expected to hear any minute that he was working on the next major zombie flick or doing costumes for Marilyn Manson.
He was worthy of great success, which makes his untimely death seem all the more absurd. There are quite a few comments on his MySpace page to the effect of, “This can’t be true.”
Cody was also a ZooBomBer and from looking at the zoobomb.net forums, it looks like there’s going to be a memorial ride tonight.
Photos: Cody putting on makeup in the mirror, and Cody in a demon mask he made. By me.