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But the spotlight isn't something Rogan shuns. He wore a studded white pimp suit and worked the crowd, a crowd so eager to donate to the cause and celebrate Dan's life that "all the House of Blues bartenders paid their rent that day," Rogan says. Six of his devoted family members trekked in from New Jersey to take part in the festivities as well.
His friends and colleagues continually try to pinpoint what's so magnetic and lovable about him.
"He has an amazing sense of humor," says Susan Smola, Rogan's longtime pal who worked with him Fire."He has the ability to make light of anything—even cancer—and can make anyone feel good. Had the not-sick Dan thrown the party, just as many people would've shown up."
Fire owner Doug Katz agrees. He says he's never met anyone quite like Rogan.
"He has the warmest heart. Everybody loves him," Katz wrote in an email. "I talk to a lot of people every day and many of my conversations end up being about Dan. People came to fire just to see him."
Kathy Blackman says that's true, and it's not just one or two people.
"It was a lot," she says over the phone on her way to the Grog shop. "When Dan cut back to just Saturdays at Fire, that's when everyone would go. He's just the sort of person you want to go to the bar and see, so engaging and funny. He's like the old-school bartender who makes you feel at home and cared for and special. Now, it's all about how crafty and fancy can your drinks be. But for Dan, it's more about personality."
Rogan is fond of saying, in fact, that bartending is 80 percent personality, 20 percent knowledge. And Scene's dining editor, Doug Trattner, agrees. He says that bartenders like Rogan make his job easier.
"People don't go to bars just to get drunk," Trattner writes in a note about Rogan. "We go to socialize—with friends, strangers and especially the bartender. I drink where Dan is working not only because he mixes a great drink, but because he's a fucking riot behind the rail."
And a generous soul, to boot.
"I bet he's clothed half the city," says Blackman. "You ask any female server that he knows, and they'll tell you he bought her a dress or a pair of shoes or a handbag. He's always given so much, and the fundraiser was just one small way we could give back."
"There's something magical about Dan," says Susan Smola, who said she's gone shopping with Dan a ton during the past few months. But it wasn't magic that fought his cancer and won.
"That was his attitude," Smola says. "When anyone is given that diagnosis, it's devastating. How do you wrap your head around it? A lot of people maybe turn to family or turn into themselves or feel sorry. Dan became Dan-tenfold.
And never more so than at the House of Blue meet-and-greet. With the generosity of downtown restaurants, festive friends, and mail-in checks from customers near and far, Rogan raised close to $25,000 to help defray the costs of his medical bills.
"People went above and beyond," says Kathy Blackman.
This was supposed to be an obituary.
Rogan says he was able to shop and dine and drink and socialize so much because all of a sudden, he had more time. That's one of many ironies that attends terminal illness. We're supposed to have less time, right?
He's bothered by the idea that his approach to death—which in many respects became his salvation—might offend others with serious diseases, the idea that he's been too cavalier or too imprudent with his health.
It's just that Rogan was hip to another irony or suspect logic that comes as part of the package with cancer: that we ought to change or reevaluate our lives' priorities in the final months, that we ought to become someone new to prepare for death. That didn't make sense to Rogan, whose life was already pretty good. He didn't want to change his life. He just wanted more.
And Rogan didn't go down without a fight. That is, without a drink.
"I'm getting fat again," says Rogan, after his third vodka lemonade. (They're going down smoother now.) "I guess that means I should get back to work."
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