Kevin Cacy – San Antonio filmmaker, restauranteur, artist, pinball enthusiast, Marfa Film Festival programmer, and debonair man-about-town – died in West Texas on April 1. He was 40. It was sudden, and the cause is unknown at press time.
Cacy was important to the San Antonio film scene, its food scene, and its art scene. For Luminaria 2014, he donated the use of his vintage pinball machine collection for free play to all comers. This one-night project necessitated the restoration, transportation, set up, storage, electrification, and installation of 22 persnickety machines in a dusty underused storage building owned by the Southwest School of Art, all over the course of three days. It was a massive pain in the ass, required hours of dirty, hot, underpaid labor, and he made it happen. It was a bewildering arcade/art installation, and being inside that overheated, lit up, clanging, relentlessly festive atmosphere that night was like taking up residence for a short time in Cacy's psyche.
Kevin Cacy was the entrepreneur and head cook behind the short-lived, highly-regarded, 50's-futuristic themed Bunsen Burgers, where you could order a Soylent Green or Bikini Atoll with a side of "sci-fries," and listen to him free-associate about bulgogi Navajo fry bread fusion tacos.
Cacy's family was in the restaurant business; he worked alongside his parents Thomas and Young at Ilsong Garden, and before that at Go Hyang Jib Korean BBQ House. Kevin and his mom engaged in ongoing competitions about whose Yukgaejang was better.
Cacy's friend Tony Chbeir also comes from a food family; he's a second-generation coffee roaster and co-owner of What's Brewing, whose great grandfather was a coffee trader in Beirut. Once he invited Cacy over for burgers at his place. Cacy invited an additional eight people. When Chbeir protested that he had only bought 2 pounds of meat and was planning to make four half-pound patties, Cacy asked, "how many buns do you have?"
"He somehow managed to feed everyone who showed up," Chbeir says. "He was not only a great and really gifted cook, he knew how to stretch a dollar. He had a practical side, and he was just... inclusive. Profoundly inclusive. Kevin Cacy's motto was 'why not,' and his mantra was 'yes.'"
Cacy wrote, produced, edited, and directed short films "Pedernales Pass" and "Adios Lobo," with plans to make more. He appeared as the Assistant District Attorney in Idiocracy (2006), and played a paramedic on Grindhouse (2007). He became friends with Guillermo del Toro. He was working on a screenplay about a PTSD – hunted confederate war veteran and his friendship with an oddball widow with a failing ranch. His dream casting for the rancher was Shelley Duvall.
"Really, Kevin's goal in life was to make as many friends as possible," says his brother Jonathan, a local science teacher two years his senior, and his filmmaking partner. Kevin made this his life's mission after moving from San Angelo to San Antonio as a high schooler, a terrible and miraculous age to start a social life from scratch. But he did it. Kevin was quick and bright and outgoing and friendly. He made friends at MacArthur High School, and at the Subway where he worked and, according to legend, he once trashed.
"He had a dark side," Jonathan says. "There was 'celebrity Kevin,' and then there was the guy who loved blood and violence. Growing up, I was Masters of the Universe, he was Skeletor. I was the Autobot, he was the Decepticon."
Jonathan studied Systems Engineering at the United States Military Academy, whereas "Kevin took another path." He took a job at Bjorn's, the venerable audiovisual store where he developed an obsession with laserdiscs.
"They were the first format with Dolby digital sound, large format, and directors commentary," Jonathan says. "he took huge pride in his employee selection of the month." Kevin's Bjorn's phase wasn't unlike Tarantino's self-education; Kevin worked his way through grindhouse and cult films, the classics canon and obscure foreign titles. And, of course, Westerns.
His favorite movie ever was Once Upon a Time in the West, Jonathan says, adding "it's a movie about revenge, of course. He loved revenge films." The Cacy Brothers made their own bloody revenge Western, "Pedernales Pass." In it, German immigrant desperado brothers on horseback are confronted by an enemy's son. There's blood, and potty humor, and it is entirely in German and Spanish. One major plot point involves a 19 century photograph of a man, and is of Jonathan's wife Stephanie's great grandfather, to whom the film is dedicated.
"So that's pretty Kevin - it's a violent revenge Western, but he was sentimental about people's great grandfathers. He always wanted to be helpful. He wanted people to know they were important to him."
Jonathan says of the things Kevin was proudest of was performing as Santa Claus every year with Elf Louise
, the children's charity that distributes Christmas gifts to underserved children in San Antonio. He had a suit and everything. "I'm not sure he ever had it cleaned. I'm pretty sure his dogs slept on it."
"He loved to introduce people to a new flavor, a new sight, a new sound," Tony says. "He brought people together, stirred the pot, and even tricked people for their own good." Once, he convinced a group of people to go look through Tony's telescope "up on Fredericksburg," and then drove them to Fredericksburg, Texas rather than Fredericksburg Road.
Both Tony Chbeir and Jonathan Cacy described Kevin as "the glue who held people together."
"If you didn't know him," Tony says, "you have five friends who did. Kevin was the catalyst for so many friendships, hundreds, maybe thousands."
His death on April 1 prompted an immediate outpouring of grief on social media. If you knew him, look him up on Facebook. There's also a Facebook group, The Summer of Kevin, which has hundreds of remembrances and wonderful videos, stories, and playlists his friends have made in his honor.
Kevin Cacy's memorial service is tonight, April 17, at 6 PM at the All Nations Church on 1250 Holbrook Rd.
In lieu of flowers, Jonathan Cacy suggests a donation to Elf Louise