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LUKE SOFFER

Photos

Jamie Albert
François Vigneault

This ultra rare picture of Francious and Jamie  is very telling of the patch that held el rancho and the many orphans as a family together.. Jamie is wearing his classic "Sleazy" (as Kiki (RIP) always called it) homemade leopard skin lapel,. homemade rawhide leather studded and spiked bracelet,, torn hoodie beneath, and double colored tomahawk hair that naturally grew as such (just add bleach, shave sides, and let grow... kind of like a fucked up chia pet, - you never found an ounce of gel or hairspray in his hair, or, for that matter, in Francious's. "fro'ed' hair either.... who he is pictured with here). The two of them are toasting in the photo,, Francious' is pictured with his fro and wearing his classic seemingly finely tailored shirt and loose tie. Its almost like a Gap for punks advertisement. If only Gap recruited models in slums.
Jamie was recruited by Korean Alex when they worked together at Illinois/Chicago Peace Action (social justice organization known for their presence at lots of rallies/marches, raising hell and going to jail) and became known for trashing the house, including his own room, and getting extremely drunk, and upon joining ERO, a recovering heroin addict, so other Orphans would respectively try to hide it from him when they dabbled in it - but junkies can smell dope from miles away.. Jamie was an activist, filmmaker, writer and musician, like most orphans were; or at least one of the three., and was always traveling on little to no money, as did most of the other orphans. Addiction of course complicated this but counterfeited bus passes simplified it. He is now a moderately successful writer and still a social activist, with plans on returning to the El Rancho documentary with fellow orphan and filmmaker Meg (see below bio). as well as a plethora of other projects. He made several films, mainly "She," while living at El Rancho and the Red House (el rancho II) and got his BA eventually from Columbia. He now runs his own non-profit.

 

Francious was not as sensitive as he looked. He certainly loved reading and listening to his vinyl  collection in his "manager's office" at El Rancho and later his tent in the living room at The Red House (see History), he could also roll just as hard as the rest of us... In fact, most people HATED El Rancho, or, rather, they feared us.  We were, as Matt put it, a group of Junkies, Fags and women. It may have had something to do with the fact that we stole whatever we wanted, wherever we went.,

Kiki Martinelli  & Meg McCarville (Lil' Princess)

Kiki, pictured on the left, and Meg, on the right, are sitting on the only belonging Jamie brought to El Rancho upon moving in, which was to be his bed, until he inherited one of the better rooms when Zach left to move back to Detroit, along with his bed and shelves. "Fuck you," was all he had to say when the question of who would be taking Zach's room and he walked in and closed the hollow door, half naked with only a leopard skin blanket to cover him. And that brings us to Kiki, who called him a fucking sleeze. Kiki and Meg were perhaps two of the rudest Orphans.  Kiki was in the underground band Skullface and could play multiple instruments. She was a professional dominatrix when they lived at the Red House (El Rancho II - see History). Before El Rancho she was a model. This is all depicted in the seedy film "SHE" which was a biography of her.. Another chapter was to be made, directed by Jamie who shot and produced the original,. Sadly, Kiki, one of the truest Orphans, passed away (R.I.P.) The film may still be upgraded someday with interviews and older stock footage.  

 

Meg, a filmmaker herself (as well as published writer, actress, and carny) who received success with her and Andy Hyde's "Tick" a hybrid non-fiction/narrative. Meg continues to be a filmmaker, published writer, and activist and, like most of the orphans, is nomadic, and currently lives in New Orleans after living in the shithole Miami and before that the west coast. She also recorded a solo album under Lil' Princess and another LP with Adny,, known as President Snack Cakes le' Beef, formerly of the Beautiful Mutants (of San Diego/Chula Vista) - his bio below.

John / a.k.a. simon magus

Here we see a young John either in deep thought, possibly with a book in his other hand, or; a deep nod; captured on a Polaroid camera. As you can see, his classic black rimmed glasses are taped on the right side to hold them up.
John spent quite a bit of his time reading.... (see on the soon to come images page for a shot of john taking advantage of the daylight to read during a period that our electric was off)  If he wasn't socializing or indulging in excess, you'd often find him reading whatever he got his hands on; all the classics of literature, and modern lit, but especially authors like Bukowski, and Miller (e.g. Tropic of Cancer/Tropic of Capricorn). John was one of the orphans that hailed from San Diego/Chula Vista, and now lives in Portland Oregon.

The Orphans

Justin Champlain aka Justin 1 aka 
Justin Nilpmahc & Korean Alex

Here we have another rare photo of two orphans, Justin 1, and Korean Alex. I'm not sure as to why he began to be referred to as Korean Alex, we could of just as easily said Alex, as there was no other orphan by the name of Alex - however, there was another Alex, who went by little Alex - not an Orphan but a friend of ours, who was a young tramp (he rode the rails of the freight trains).  Korean Alex was from Detroit, and left to live in New York when El Rancho Orphans moved to the Red House (El Rancho 2). He is a writer and an activist. As far as we know, he is still in New York. 

Justin 1 was an excellent radio DJ for WNUR, and now tours with his own creation, NoBunny, sometimes solo, sometimes with a band,  out of the west, and has lived in many places. He comes through Chicago on occasion. Justin 1 was one of the first orphans, and probably one of the most talented and successful. All of us miss seeing him.

Matt Chistensen & Robyn Genc 
(w/Justin C.)

This is a great photo of Matt (far left) and Robyn (far right) pictured with Justin 1 (see above for bio). Matt is an organizer, and one of the few that has often returned to Chicago after the Red House (El Rancho II -see history) but currently lives in San Francisco. He had a temporary platonic marriage with Kiki in order to increase their school funding. Matt was and is as genuine el Rancho Orphan as they come.

 Robyn can also be found in Chicago, and , like most orphans, has gone on to do work to attempt to breath some life into this seemingly doomed world, as she has been a youth art teacher, worked at a cultural center, and a position as a Montessori school teacher. She studied Art Education after El Rancho I at University of Illinois Chicago and holds a Masters degree.

Marianne Sadler

Pictured on the left you see El Rancho Orphan Marianne Sadler.  Of course El Rancho had pets, one of which was Marianne's, an affectionate dog named Mindy, which somewhere we have a photo of to show you...
Marianne lost touch with the orphans shortly after ERO (she did not live in the red house, also known as ERO II). We regained touch through social media, but she proves to be as enigmatic as her dark hair and pale face. This doesn't make her any less of an orphan... Marianne brought even more diversity to ERO.

 

Sara Lou (pictured with Justin 1)

Pictured here is Sara Lou (next to Justin 1), El Rancho's most dedicated vegitarian - using only our microwave and sink, she would make homemade vegan brownies and other concoctions. Sara added an element of affection and comfort (often via comfort food, that which without her we would have been not had) to a bunch of burnt out assholes. The rest of our nutrition mostly came in the form of bread - however, it was the bread that the downtown tourist Corner Bakery made that day and didn't sell, thrown out separate from the other garbage. About a 20 minute skateboard ride each way fed the house for a few days on gourmet bread.

 

Michelle Hyde: Black Michelle

During El Rancho's reign, several of the Orphans married in order to receive better government financial benefits for college. Hence, Michelle took on Andy Hyde"s last name (his bio coming).

Here we see a clip of her outside City Hall after the marriage (full photo coming in history)

Although El Rancho was diverse (white, black, Asian, etc.), she was also known as Black Michelle... why? I suppose because she was black. And ERO cared nothing for political correctness.  She was rude and you knew it just being within 20 feet of her.

 

El Rancho once organized a baseball game with its rival punk house. Despite the fact that, as Matt described us, we were a bunch of junkies, fags, and women, we lost by only one run. The game was good natured until the teams began to part
ways and Michelle heard someone from the rival house make somewhat of a slanderous mark - she quickly responded by turning back, facing him, kicking him in the chin and spitting in his face.

 

Zach Whedon

Zach originally hailed from Detroit, MI, as did Alex. The two of them also worked at Chicago Peace Action, which is where they met and recruited Jamie to ERO. Zach moved back to Detroit not long after.

"Less is more, stay pure, stay poor," was what Zach wrote on his door. Shortly after Zach left and Jamie claimed his room he covered it up with a simple "FUCK YOU"
After moving from Chicago to Detroit to who knows where,
it was rumored that Zach was in the Dirt Bombs as well as another band with Elijah (Frodo) Wood. Neither of these have been fully confirmed.

Ossian Winningham

Perhaps one of the most unique and bona fide orphans, Ossian truly made El Rancho and the Red House (el Rancho II) his true home and the other orphans he lived with during that time his true comrades. He is an excellent saw and bass player and went on to teach elementary school later on. He remains in close touch with the el Rancho group.

Andy Hyde

Andrew Mqueen Hyde VIII / President Snack Cakes le Beef / Andy Turtle / Andy Mutant

Andy, a man of many monikers, as you can see above, pictured on the right here to the right of John, also hailed from San Diego / Chula Vista, and was the front man for The Beautiful Mutants, He had a platonic marriage with Black Michelle to collect more money for college during el Rancho., as mentioned above.

If anyone was/is an orphan, Andy is. 

Vanessa Harris

As all of us do, Vanessa has her own storied El Rancho past, and went on to play guitar for the infamous Chicago punk band, The Coughs. 
She currently continues to live in Chicago.

Jennie Winkelhake 

Jennie somehow simultaneously is hardcore Orphan and has the biggest heart you'll ever see.  She was always ready for any unlawful activity masterminded by whomever, but was and continues to be there for anyone that needs her - she may be a long road from the rest of the orphans right now, but is still always willing to do whatever she can for whoever needs it. She has always been a traveler, like most of us.

Janice Lim

Janice is a talented artist in film, photography, restorations and installations, and other mediums, and one of the first Orphans. She attended The Chicago Art Institute, Istituto Lorenzo de Medici, and, Columbia College and worked for them as well. She is still located in Chicago.

Justin 2 / J2K / Justin Andre

Justin 2, a.k.a. J2K, lived at the Red House, or El Rancho II, but was friends with the orphans long before that.  Chicagoland remains his home.

Nick Buxton

Nick has a truly "orphan" rap-sheet - we lived as free as we could, and although that may have unintentionally impeded on others freedom sometimes, we demanded respect. Nick ran from drug dealers, and as many of us, traveled on "less than perfect" travel tickets, and did what he had to do to be a bona-fide fucking orphan.

OTHER ORPHANS

Andy

Andy, pictured here wrestling with Jamie, was a screenwriter who briefly lived at El Rancho

Danny a.k.a. "Crazy Danny"

Unfortunately there is still an active search for a photo of Danny, but he was a true orphan who has his own story of triumph over adversity, as he went from having a severe dependence on psychotropic meds to be an activist in 3rd world impoverished countries. Although he is possibly one of the greatest success stories of ERO, at this time there is little info and no pics of Danny.

Mindy, Bones, & Sebastian

The Orphans had many pets, but the three that lived at ERO and the Red House were Mindy (dog) Bones (female cat) and Sebastian (male cat). Photos coming.

Without counting pets, there were 22 orphans, and 25 if you count the orphaned pets. There were other honorary Orphans, like Kevin, Micah, and Brock from the Beautiful Mutants, Joy, and many other friends and comrades that stayed there.

external links:

http://punkdatabase.com/wiki/El_Rancho_Orphanage

Chicago Punk Wiki 70s-90s  ERO venue article

 
COMING SOON: ERO Photos, History, updated bios, more

ORPHANS

 

We are all orphans

Brought into this world trembling

To seek,

Be blinded

Decide what love will be

Make it through, if that be

9, 27, 38, 62, 85 or 107

A planet of orphans

With no one to claim us

There I go

Generalizing – if you choose to call it

Force feeding

Coping

With lies and monsters and sometimes

Just sometimes

A little bits, of trueness

Like joshue said

“I am is my only, but more importantly, lonely, absolute”

Wasted nervousness and clothing

Takes its maddening place, of acting upon our mortality after we become that age

Acting upon

OUR ORPHANHOOD

Is the only thing

As orphans

We must do our entire lives

 

-jamie Michael albert e.r.o.

misc historical articles

"There was more to being an orphan than living there, and if you didn't have "it" you simply didn't live there. Not that there was some kind of test to see how hard, how soft, how stupid or how smart or what breed of human you were. I suppose it was kind of like Free Masons, as much as I hate to liken us to free masons, but you were invited to live there by an existing orphan. We all belonged with considerable alacrity, It didn't take much for orphans to spot someone that would be one of two things - someone who would become an orphan, or someone that just needed a place to stay for a night or two (which we did open our doors to all the time). There were people that came and went all the time - friends of orphans, homeless people we didn't know from Adam, Cheddar Heads (hence the riots - see coming history) and people of all walks of life."            -unknown orphan

History page preview

 

This site is dedicated to the memory of El Rancho Orphanage or ERO, and its "orphans."

The original El Rancho Orphanage was located at 2137 N. Milwuakee Avenue (the SE corner of N. Rockwell & N. Milwuakee Ave., adjoining the NW side of the then defunct Congress theatre (which seems to now be closed again).

Shortly before the adjoining Congress Theatre reopened and began hosting small punk shows, the infamous Chicago punk house collective, The El Rancho Orphanage, or ERO, as it became known as, formed in 2000 and occupied the storefront described above. The space was the former home of El Rancho Supermercado, a Mexican supermarket.

The El Rancho Orphanage got its name from the local working class Hispanic residents, who called the people living there Huérfanos, or ‘Orphans’ in English - likely because at the time Logan Square remained largely un-gentrified, and they suddenly observed a large group of diverse young poor people with tattered clothes living in a large space. The original market’s sign remained at the time (and for quite some time afterward), thus the residents became forever known as the El Rancho Orphans and the “house” became The El Rancho Orphanage.

Despite rumors, ERO was not a squat (although for a brief time its tenants (the orphans) did squat the space after being evicted) but rather it was run by a slumlord who managed it and the adjoining properties, who allowed the Orphans (which varied in numbers over 20) to use the space on a month to month basis for a very small fee and no official lease.

The space went largely without heat or hot water for the most of its existence, including most of the very cold winter of 2000, and was home to many health code violations such as sewage in the basement (where the collective had originally hosted punk and experimental rock shows, hosting small local bands to touring bands with national notoriety and everything in between, The house band was The Beautiful Mutants, which originated in San Diego, although only one of the Mutants was an Orphan while the rest often came to visit or play a show, particularly on Halloween).
Thanks to a kind city worker - who did not want to report the health violations as this would have inevitably resulted in displacing and leaving 15 or more young occupants homeless - instead  threatened the  slum-lord, and heat and hot water was restored and the sewage problem was somewhat addressed.

The space had a phone line for a brief time, a bathroom with only a sink and an often stopped up toliet, and a cold and hot water valve in the basement that some orphans used as a shower after hot water was restored, using a kiddy pool as a shower floor.
Without counting pets, there were 22 orphans, and 25 if you count the orphaned pets. There were other honorary Orphans, like Kevin, Micah, and Brock from the Beautiful Mutants, Joy, and many other friends and comrades that stayed there.


HISTORY TO BE CONTINUED...............

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