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Dan Rogan Was Supposed to Die



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He was vomiting and shitting everywhere. He lost 75 pounds in two weeks. He was hopped up on Morphine and couldn't see straight, walk straight, or put together a straight sentence. He recalls sliding down walls into fetal slumps on pretty much a daily basis.

"That whole two months is like a blur," Rogan says.

What was far worse than the physical ravages, though, was the new treatment he received at the hands of colleagues and friends. Here was a man who had devoted his life to customer satisfaction, a lifetime bartender who'd accrued a Godfather status in the service industry's most refined tiers. He was a man who had a posse, a man who did more than bring life to the party; he brought the party to life.

For Rogan, here's why his own was ending:

"People were bringing me chicken noodle soup and shit," Rogan says. "They'd been reading too much early American literature, I think. I mean they were actually bringing me blankets."

After he got a Snuggie, Rogan had a freak-out session with Kathy.

"I was on Facebook, looking up and down my feed and realizing how out of the loop I was. All these people who I knew and loved were going on with their lives, and it was like I was never there."

He'd had enough.

That's when Rogan started his cancer meet-and-greets. That's when he changed his attitude. That's when he dispensed with the pills and the soup and adopted a new regimen: Other than the chemo, his antidotes would be booze and company.

And Cleveland was ready to entertain.


Dan Rogan was supposed to be a John Carroll diving phenom.

Back in '84, Rogan was one of New Jersey's top five diving prospects. He grew up in Somerset, in a North Jersey region roughly equidistant from Rutgers and Princeton. And he would've been a JCU legend, if not for the horror that befell him the summer before his freshman year:

"We were doing this exhibition thing for all these kids who had joined the 'Y' to learn how to dive," Rogan says. Basically, he and the rest of New Jersey's aquatic studs were there to show off.  

In an attempt to outdo his nemesis Buzzy Striker—whose name was, in fact, Buzzy Striker—Rogan leaped to the ceiling in a trampolinic burst and plummeted down much too close for comfort. He skinned his belly and legs on the board in a gruesome, bloody fall.—"I just swam under water all the way to the other side of the pool and went straight into the locker room. But I was bleeding, just, everywhere. I had to cut my bathing suit off."

Rogan chuckles.

"It's pretty funny looking back. All those kids—we're talking nine and 10 years old, went running screaming from the building. I think they all dropped out."  

Though he was done with diving, he came to John Carroll anyway—"the ugliest girls you ever saw in your life, but I'm sure that's changed"—and graduated in '88 after studying communications, sociology and English.  

Lee Road was a step down from Manhattan, where he'd partied in his teenage years, and he could only buy 3-2 beer for a while—"tastes as bad as actual beer but you can't get drunk on it."  But something about Cleveland compelled him to stay.

It doesn't take long for him to identify what it was.

"The people," Rogan says. "Definitely the people."

Rogan worked at Piccolo Mondo with Michael Symon in the early '90s. He did a long tour of duty at Doug Katz's Fire on Shaker Square, and has been at Lola since it opened on East 4th.  

"Michael Symon is the greatest guy in the world," says Rogan of his close friend. "I knew him back when he was a nobody, and he's still exactly the same as was then, silly as hell. All he does is laugh." Symon came to visit Rogan twice at Kathy's house and has been endlessly accommodating with schedules and insurance costs.

Both Lola and Fire made generous contributions of hors d'oeuvres when Kathy and some of Rogan's inner circle set up an "Ultimate Meet and Greet" at House of Blues last month.

Here's how many of Dan's personal friends attended: 600.  


The meet-and-greet was supposed to be a goodbye party.

"At that point, they all thought I was dying," says Rogan. "Imagine being in a room with 600 people who all want to talk to you, and who all think it might be the last time."

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