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Benefit for Casey: Honoring a brother and taking up a cause

by Jordan Green

Sean Bokhoven and his younger brother Casey moved up to Winston-Salem from Southern Pines. Their free time was consumed with rock shows, and one of their favorite places to see bands was Ace’s Basement, a subterranean hotel bar below the Coliseum Inn in Greensboro once run as a music club by promoter Joe Ferguson.

Their mutual love of music went back to the early ’90s when Sean was working out some songs on a guitar. Casey, then about 14, started beating on a stack of books. He was so good Sean persuaded their mother to buy Casey a drum kit. But they were more fans than musicians. Sean ended up going to work as a private banker for BB&T. Casey learned to cook and worked in the kitchen at Forsyth Country Club. He planned to attend culinary school in New York.

“We’re all a bunch of sarcastic assholes,” says Jay King, who got a job in the kitchen with Casey’s help. “It’s nice to work with people you look forward to seeing every day. I still at work expect to see him come around the corner…. We’re not allowed to have a radio so we’re always whistling and singing, everything from Hall & Oates to Danzig. Skid Row is always a favorite.”

Casey’s plans to further his culinary education were cut short when his fate tragically collided with that of Tolly Carr, a young television news anchor considered a rising star in his profession.

Standing on the sidewalk outside the Greene Street club in Greensboro, his brown hair mussed in stylish daggers and wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with Casey’s name, revealing his tattoo sleeves, Sean recalls the morning of March 11, a Sunday, when his wife roused him and told him there were two cops downstairs wanting to see him.

“I thought to myself, ‘Did I back into someone last night?'” he says, his expression set in a mixture of glumness and warmth. “They told me, ‘Your brother, Casey, was in an accident. He didn’t make it.’ I said, ‘That can’t be right; he was on a date last night.’ As if that would make any difference. Then they handed me his cell phone and I knew it was true.”

For several months Casey had a song by the Forecast, a ferocious pop-punk band from Peoria, set as his ring tone. That band is playing tonight at Greene Street, headlining a show to honor Casey and raise awareness about the dangers of drunken driving. So is Josh Moore, who once fronted Beloved, one of Casey and Sean’s favorite bands.

The Forecast, Greene Street, June 15, 2007

Casey’s death has galvanized Sean to campaign against drunken driving – a widely accepted practice that affects nearly every strata of society. He’s talked to Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines. He’s talked to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. He’s methodically working through the bar owners on Burke and Trade streets.

“There are so many barriers coming in,” Sean says. “They card you to make sure you’re twenty-one. They check your membership. Then you get drunk, and they high-five you on the way out. There are barriers coming in, but no barriers going out.”

Sean’s raising money to buy breathalyzers. He’s already purchased one for his home that he has tucked under the informational table at Greene Street, in case anyone wants to see how it works. He’d like to give breathalyzers to all the major bars, letting them keep the quarters fed by patrons as an incentive to make sure they’re maintained and prominently displayed. Maybe the idea will spread and become commonplace enough to put a dent in the stubborn toll of alcohol-related deaths across the country.

He also would like to see bar patrons’ attitudes change. If you’re going to drop $40 on a bar tab, Sean suggests, what’s another $10 for a cab if it means someone gets to keep their life?

No one’s going to accuse Casey’s friends of excessive sobriety. Rocking out and throwing hands in the air, they pass bottles to each other and clink toasts. But Sean’s message of responsibility clearly strikes a chord.

Downstairs in a barren room Moore and two members of the band the Verdict practice some songs and chat. Drunken driving is topmost in their minds.

“The way I grew up,” Moore says, “my dad’s dad crashed after he’d been drinking and I believe he killed someone. He definitely was killed himself. My dad always drilled it into me: If you’re going to drink, don’t drive.”

Moore and Verdict singer Chandler Martin live in Chapel Hill, where most places they want to go are in walking distance. Mike Garzon, guitar player for the Verdict, and most of his friends use bicycle transportation in Charlotte. Still, drunken driving hits home for them: Martin’s sister was

hit by a drunken driver. So was the bass player from his and Garzon’s band.

The Charter North, Greene Street, June 15, 2007

Before the Forecast starts its set, Sean takes the microphone.

“The Forecast was one of the four bands in his CD player when Casey died,” he says. “I think it’s fuckin’ cool that he woke up to your ring tone for four months.

Then turning to the crowd, he adds: “If my brother were here he’d be embarrassed that y’all are wearing his shirt.”

Casey’s friends respond with a spirited cheer. Clad in black T-shirts the crowd is in a celebratory mood, heightened all the more by the realization as of how quickly life can be snatched away.

“Casey’s dead because a guy was too cheap to spend ten dollars on a cab,” Sean continues. “If you don’t think drunk driving affects you, here’s eighty people it’s affected. Please don’t drink and drive because that shit affects everybody in the community.”

He steps off the stage and receives a shower of back pats. A young man in the crowd hands him a clear plastic cup.

“Thank you, sir,” Sean says.

To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at jordan@yesweekly.com.

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