RJ Chaffin

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Roger James Chaffin
11 Apr 1952 - 17 Jun 2011
Chi-Town Squares Memorial Panel 3UR

Obituary

One of Chicago's most visible gay businesspersons for more than 30 years and a reliable volunteer for LGBT community organizations and charities, Roger "RJ" Chaffin (4/11/1952-6/17/2011) produced numerous large charitable and special events. He raised thousands of dollars for local organizations, gave of his own money co-produced films, and was an active member of business associations. An Ohio native, Chaffin moved to Chicago in 1974 and was soon working as a delivery person for the weekly newspaper GayLife. He quickly moved into paste-up and other production tasks and served in the creative role of producing souvenir programs for events such as Circus Vargas Big Top fundraisers, where he also stared as one of the Flying Rotundas on a dare and fund raising activity. His creative endeavors also helped to create the annual yearbook souvenir for International Mr. Leather Weekend. At Gay life until 1982, he served as writer, entertainment editor, reviewer, and business manager, acquiring an informed perspective on Chicago's LGBT community. In 1977, Chaffin and his then-partner Jose were profiled in a three-part Chicago Sun-Times feature on same-sex relationships, which included photo coverage of their ceremony at Chicago's Good Shepherd Parish Metropolitan Community Church. We now know that RJ was a trendsetter of what we now enjoy as Civil Unions in IL. He was always a trailblazer. In 1983, he opened R.J.'s Video in the 400 block of North Clark Street when that neighborhood was still an anchor of the city's gay entertainment community. It became the city's first video store to offer a wide selection of general-interest gay and lesbian features, besides providing a comfortable venue in which to rent adult-oriented films. He briefly operated a second video store in Andersonville and then consolidated activities into a single, expanded location (in partnership with Chuck Cox) on North Halsted Street. As a businessman, he has sponsored Metropolitan Sports Association teams and the Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corps (ROTC). RJ honors were many and included two Gay Chicago Magazine citations for business achievement in 1986 and in 1998 in partnership with Gary Chichester . He was also honored as the Pantheon of Leather Business Person of the Year award in 1992 and received a Chicago House award. There were many other achievements and accolades given to RJ but his highest honor came with his induction into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1997 Other business ventures for RJ included Gay Mart (1993-95), again with Chuck Cox and Shelly Rosenbaum, and Holidaze (1995-97), with Steve Hyde. The latter store became Ragin' Rae Jean's through 2008. Alone and with partners, Chaffin raised thousands of dollars for Chicago House, Howard Brown Health Center, Horizons Community Services (Center on Halsted), Open Hand Chicago (Vital Bridges), and numerous other charitable organizations. Chaffin also found his niche in special event planning. In 1985, he and Mr. Chichester formed Back Door Promotions a production and event company. Besides many paid work major events, Back Door coordinated numerous AIDS and other charitable activities. In addition, Chaffin produced Chicago House’s 1988 Labor of Love Weekend and played Santa Claus at all four of the organization's Holiday Fares. He co-produced Crimes of Hate, a 1989 film on gay-bashing and if that wasn't enough, he volunteered for NAMES Project/Chicago and national Quilt displays. He was an active participant in all three national LGBT marches in Washington, and in many Pride Parades in Chicago. For 18 years he has directed International Mr. Leather Weekend's Leather Marketplace, which grew into the world's largest vendor fair of its kind. He served on boards of Strike Against AIDS, the Chicago AIDS Benefit Committee, and the Northalsted Area Merchants Association (NAMA) where he served as President from 1998-2004. RJ will be missed by so many and is survived by his loving father John of Marion, OH; brother David (Margaret) Shelby, OH; devoted sister MaryKay (Ted) Lyons, Prospect, OH, and life long best chosen brother Gary Chichester; and many loved nieces and nephews and his many loving friends and colleagues. He was predeceased by his mother Mary. In lieu of flowers the family has requested that memorial donations be sent to John Chaffin 1057 Olive Ave. Marion, Ohio 43302. Memorial arrangements are being planned in Chicago for mid-September. Please check back to this website for information as it becomes available, or call Cremation Society of Illinois, 773-281-5058.