Doug Roth: The other side of D Smash
It was Dougie Roth's last show.
And, true to form, it was Dougie's show all the way.
Family members recalled a talent raw and near-genius, a personality at once hilarious and often off-putting and, in the end, a brother, a son, an uncle and brother-in-law who, after being a brother in arms seemingly railing against the world achieved an apotheosis of, if not contentment, then peace with family, friends, and so it seemed, himself.
There were tears, plenty of those, yells of approvals, applause, guitar-strumming sing-alongs, out-loud laughter and, as the 300 attending the funeral service filed out of the Bachman, Kulik & Reinsmith Funeral Home, 17th and Hamilton streets, Allentown, there was the blaring sound of Dougie singing and playing all the parts on a rap-influenced song he wrote, "Tear It Up," with the lyrics:
"They got a Wanted Poster of me at the Pearly Gates."
Douglas C. Roth died March 25, during Passover on the Jewish calendar, after battling a year-long illness. He would have been 51 on April 20.
About one year ago across the street from the funeral home, Dougie was in a medically-induced coma for three months in the Intensive Care Unit of St. Luke's Hospital Allentown. He then spent 10 months in rehab at ManorCare. He went home to Allentown to live with his mother Selma about three months ago.
Party was a verb for Dougie and friends on many a night at an Allentown house dubbed "The Meltdown," immortalized on the eponymous Blissters' EP.
"He became D Smash. He became a little bit too much like D Smash. D Smash didn't want to live to be old," said brother Kyle Roth.
D Smash was Dougie Roth's stage persona as founding member of The Blissters (1976 - present), a Lehigh Valley classic rock-punk rock band that included during its existence guitarist-lead singer Scott Fehnel, bass players Tony Mancino and Dennis "Dego" DeLong, drummers Duane Martis and Gary "The Animal" Pavlick and keyboardist Louie Kovecses.
"In all those years, the one constant was Dougie," said Mancino, who attended the funeral. "He was my partner, my brother and my friend and they'll never be another one like him. The Blissters was like a freight train and he was a true showman."
"Douglas was the Peter Pan Complex in a nutshell. He never wanted to grow up. Douglas was a kid at heart through and through," said brother Adam Roth, The Blissters' first drummer.
The Blissters was the "house band" for post-game parties for the Allentown Blues rugby team.
"Douglas was the first I knew to buy a Blue Oyster Cult album at Phantasmagoria. The Blissters opened for Blue Oyster Cult at Airport Music Hall also Steppenwolf," Adam said.
During the funeral service, nephew Alex Roth brought Dougie's beat-up acoustic guitar to the podium. "He was a rock star to me. The Blissters to me were like the Grateful Dead to my parents."
Alex played "Punk Rocker" by Iggy Pop: "Oh I'm a punk rocker, yes I am," as some began clapping and singing along.
Sister-in-law Penny Roth said a part of John Cleese's eulogy for fellow Monty Python Graham Chapman could apply to Dougie: '"He had enough fun for all of us.'"
"When he played his guitar, he was expressing his soul kind, but troubled. He was a craftsman, whether it was music or carpentry," said Cantor Kevin Wartell of Temple Beth El.
Dougie was a member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, Local 600.
"He looked at the world and said, 'There has to be something better.' And there is. And now he found it," Cantor Wartell said.
"He did grow up. He did come to terms with his other demons," Cantor Wartell said.
"He was a giver. He made an emotional difference in our lives. He will be remembered," said Cantor Wartell.
With that, the song "Tear It Up" began to play.
"But tear it up with kindness, compassion and love," Cantor Wartell said.
Contributions may be made to The Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley, care of Gerald Roth Memorial Fund, 702. N. 22nd St., Allentown, Pa. 18104.