Photo: David Newkirk
On May 27, Salt Lake City lost one of its favorite sons. Jeff Vice was somebody that everyone in town knew—he couldn’t walk into any bar or coffee shop without seeing a friend or being recognized by a fan with whom he would instantly interact, as if they were already friends. He gave everyone his attention and was always ready to talk movies, music and comics expertly and passionately.
As a graduate from Utah State University, Jeff started at SLUG Magazine during its early years and moved on to work many years at Deseret News, where he eventually rose to the position of movie critic. He also reviewed movies on X96’s Radio From Hell, and along with Kerry Jackson and his “hetero lifemate” Shannon Barnson, was a founding member of the Geekshow podcast. It was Geekshow where Vice met fellow panelist, SLUG’s own Jimmy Martin and they started their local cable movie review show: The appropriately titled Big Movie Mouth-Off.
Jeff was, at his core, a lover of art and pop culture. When he saw any opportunity to share that love, he’d quickly jump on it. Many of his friends have been snuck into early press screenings or have been loaned copies of movies and comic books, because he saw so much beauty and substance in these materials that he wanted to share it. He was always delighted to program a film series for the Salt Lake Film Society, or to figure out what was going to please the geeks on Geekshow’s movie night—so much of that was Jeff working behind the scenes to make sure we were all entertained.
Whether you were discussing some artsy independent Sundance film or a Saturday morning cartoon, Vice would speak with fervor and passion about both. His knowledge of pop culture and movies, especially, was legendary—he could recall cast and crew on just about any film you threw at him with unreal accuracy.
On a personal note, when I first met Jeff Vice, I assumed that he was an unsocial nerd, like myself, and that’s why we were easily good friends. I eventually realized that I couldn’t be more wrong—Jeff had, literally, hundreds of friends. I can only guess what his mutant power was—he made room for all of us in his head and heart. So, while he left behind a mountain of podcasts, writings and other works for us to enjoy, I will miss seeing him pull up on his adult tricycle, blasting his boom box at some summer event, always running into him at Brewvies, going to a show with him at Burt’s Tiki Lounge, or knowing that if you spent enough time at Dr. Volts on a Wednesday, he’d eventually show up—and these are just a few of the things I’ll miss about my friend.
Jeff was easily one of the most giving people I’ve ever met—whether it was his time or his comic book and movie collections, he always seemed to be on the giving side of every exchange he was a part of. Even in the end, when he made the decision to be an organ donor, he was still giving like he always had.
Without Jeff, Salt Lake seems like a greyer, less special place than it was when he was here. I’m honored to have known him and to have called him my friend. –James Orme
Jeff Vice was my friend, colleague and brother. He knew more about movies off the top of his head than IMDb. His smile was infectious, and his hugs were the best. Jeff made you feel like a best friend even if he met you only five minutes ago. Jeff was an amazing writer and critic. The world lost a really good one too soon. –Jimmy Martin
“With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.” These were the words that our friend Jeff told us, on more than one occasion, had impacted him the most. I’ve been thinking about these words a lot these last few days, as one does when faced with losing a friend like Jeff. Mr. Vice was my teacher, my brother, my confidant, my rescuer and, mostly, my friend.
Jeff had an amazing power, one that he shared with almost everyone he met. He had a ton of love, and he radiated it. Jeff somehow managed to make you feel like one of the most important people in the world when he talked to you, even if it was only for a few minutes. Jeff knew everyone in the room, no matter which room you were in. Punk rock venue? Jeff knew everyone. Alternative Art Show? “HEY, JEFF!” Oh, hey! Look! A brand new bar … “JEEEEEFFFFFF!” shouts everyone in the bar, in unison (really, it sounds like that—they are pretty drunk).
My heart is sore right now, and it’s a selfish sort of soreness. I’m sad to lose my friend. I’m sad for all the people that lost him, too. I am sad for the kind mother that has lost yet another son too early in life. I am sad for the brilliant woman whom he fell in love with before he passed, and the future they had cut far too short. There are so many people that Jeff loved, so many people feeling that loss. It’s sobering.
“With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.” It’s a rallying cry. His great power, his overwhelming, shadow-shattering love for people, his joy in company and companionship, his easy hug and kind smile, it’s all a rallying cry. And it’s become our great responsibility. That light can’t go out, it cannot leave just because Jeff found another gig. Jeff had a lot of love to give, and we have to keep it going. –Leigh George Kade
Jeff was one of the kindest people I ever met. We worked together for more than 20 years —side by side for more than 15—and he brightened every day. He was a great journalist, a great friend and a great guy. I already miss him terribly. –Scott D. Pierce
I’ve only been with the podcast for a short while, but in that time, I’ve been fortunate to become a part of this nerdy band of brothers, the geek version of the Wu-Tang Clan. I’m a geek, but Jeff was a super geek. Jeff was our GZA aka the Genius. His brilliant mind was truly a marvel upon first meeting him. He was incredibly knowledgeable about anything and everything. I always felt intimidated by his vast wisdom, and I was afraid I would say something stupid. When we recorded the show, I’d always sit to his left with Jimmy to his right. When those microphones were turned on and Kerry counted us in, he made us bring our “A” game, every episode. Jeff and I would always cover out mics and do little inside jokes as the episode progressed. I’ve learned so much from him, and I appreciate his guidance and mentorship as I dove deeper and deeper into the geek world, but most of all, I appreciate his friendship. Jeff had a large number of friends, but made each and every one of us feel like his bestie.
What I loved most about Jeff was how comfortable he was in his own skin. He let his geek flag fly high … REALLY high. He could care less. He inspired us all to be proud of who you are, no matter what people think. That’s what I loved about him. Jeff Michael Vice, you will be missed. You lived a kick-ass life and I hope to God I can leave a legacy like you did when it’s my time. His organs will be donated, and I’m truly excited for the wonderful person that will get his sensational, compassionate heart.
Geekshow says “Jeff!” –Jay Whittaker
My heart is broken and I am doing everything I can to keep it together. I have never loved someone the way I love Jeff Michael Vice. I said goodbye to the best friend I will ever have, a man that I can truly I love. I don’t know how to function in this world without him. I will miss Jeff until the day I die. –Shannon Barnson
We are all in shock. His generous spirit continues, for he was an organ donor. Find some solace in the fact that a part of him will be on this planet for a long time. After reading, for days, everyone’s wonderful tributes and outpouring of love and respect for our own Jeff Michael Vice, I am awed. I also feel that my own words pale. So I’ll borrow someone else’s.
“Of my friend, I can only say this: Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most … human.”
I will then raise my glass and say to the sky, “Beware, Crom! For a Geekshow panelist is on his way!” –Kerry Jackson
Jeff Vice. I struggle to think of anyone that had a kinder heart than he. Jeff was the first Geekshow panelist I felt comfortable being around. He had that effect on people. When you were talking with Jeff he made you feel important. He made you feel good about yourself. He always wanted everyone around him to feel included. Those are qualities that are hard to find and Jeff embodied them. To quote Kerry Jackson: “He truly was the best of us.” I will miss him. –By Tony Eccles