AVONDALE — Chicago’s queer nightlife community, friends and loved ones are rallying around the family of Donovan Taylor, a popular musician and DJ known as Don Crescendo who was fatally stabbed last week in Avondale under mysterious circumstances.
Around 10:50 p.m. Sept. 12, officers responded to calls of a stabbing in the 3000 block of North Elston Avenue and found two men with multiple stab wounds in a second floor apartment, police said.
One man — identified by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office at 55-year-old James Traven — was taken to Illinois Masonic Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Taylor, 28, whose full legal name is Rodney Donovan Taylor, was also taken to Illinois Masonic, where he initially listed in critical condition. He died from his injuries days later, according to the medical examiner and longtime friends.
Both deaths were ruled homicides, but police have said they do not know what led up to the fatal stabbing.
Traven and Taylor were neighbors who lived in the apartment building where they were found, Taylor’s friends said, but police did not answer questions about whether they knew each other, if one attacked the other or if there was a third attacker, or in whose apartment the attack occurred.
The case was still under investigation as of Monday evening, police said.
Attempts to reach Traven’s family and friends were unsuccessful.
Taylor’s death sent shockwaves through Chicago’s queer nightlife community and his network of family and friends. An online fundraiser to support Taylor’s family had raised more than $50,000 as of Tuesday.
Known by many as Don Crescendo, his musical alias, Taylor was a fixture of Chicago’s queer nightlife scene who frequently spun and hung out at bars and clubs around town, from The Whistler to Smartbar, always making new friends along the way.
Taylor had friends and loved ones all over the country, his longtime friends Alana Harris and Meredith Wohl said in the fundraiser. He grew up in South Carolina and moved to Chicago a few years ago.
“Known to some as his musical alias Don Crescendo, to others as a unforgettably brilliant friend, to his family as a caring oldest son, and to everyone as a loving, generous, and laughter-inspiring person, Donovan left an indelible impression on everyone he met,” Harris and Wohl wrote.
About 50 friends who described themselves as his “chosen Chicago family” gathered around a bonfire at Hollywood Beach on Monday evening to remember Taylor.
As dance music blared, they embraced, cried and shared stories about Taylor before setting up a small memorial of candles and flowers. They chose the Edgewater spot because it’s their friend group’s regular gathering place, and Taylor loved spending time there, they said.
Ali AlFarhan, who met Taylor through a mutual friend, said Taylor was the kind of person who could make any experience fun.
AlFarhan recalled going to a Beyonce concert with Taylor, who kept the energy high despite their “dead” nosebleed seats, “showing me the best concert experience I could imagine,” AlFarhan said.
“I think they want to be remembered as the person who always celebrated love,” AlFarhan said. “Don celebrates love in such a special way, making sure that everyone feels that love. That’s something I remind myself in my day-to-day.”
Taylor used he/him and they/them pronouns.
Another friend, producer and burlesque dancer, Lynzo The Heartthrob, said they learned to DJ from Taylor and the two got tattoos together. But Lynzo’s fondest memory of Taylor is a day they spent together last year.
They went to the Logan Square Farmers Market, where Taylor bought a leather vest and pushed Lynzo on the swing. Then they ate farmers market snacks in the park while listening to a nearby Puerto Rican family’s playlist.
“Don is a huge inspiration and a huge motivation, and I will take everything he taught me beyond DJing — the things about friendship, the trials of authenticity … I will take those characteristics with me for the rest of my life,” Lynzo said.
This week’s QUEEN! dance party at Smartbar wasn’t the same without Taylor, his friend Miko Laforteza said.
“He saw people, he listened to people. That man is magic,” Laforteza said.
A larger “celebration of life” in Chicago is planned for sometime in October, Harris and Wohl said.
The money raised in the fundraiser will cover funeral services and bringing Taylor’s belongings to South Carolina, among other family expenses.
“In this time of shock and grief, we want to do everything we can to support his family through this unimaginable pain,” Harris and Wohl wrote.
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