Baltimore really came together last night in memory of Tom Malenski.
“He’s going out like a fucking rockstar, man,” Hayley Dopkowski, an Ottobar colleague and a very close friend of Tom’s, said of the all-day fundraising event, which featured two shows, DJs, raffles, and silent auctions. “I’ve never seen kind of outpouring of support for someone before. And no one deserved it more than Tom.”
Tom had been working two jobs in order to help support his mother and grandmother. All of the proceeds from the event go to his family.
“What’s most important to me is that [his mom and his grandmother] were here and they were so happy to see all the people that were so close to him here. They know it was like his extended family,” Dopkowski said.
“It was overwhelming how the city as a whole came together,” said Tony Donoghue, a friend and coworker who helped organize the event. “Everyone who could give something gave something. We couldn’t keep up with the donations. It was more stuff than we ever thought we’d get. A lot of those gift baskets [that were raffled off] were worth more than a thousand dollars.”
Dozens of Baltimore restaurants and businesses contributed something to the event, but “some of the most heartwarming stuff was what people gave not just from their businesses but from their own houses, their personal things,” Donoghue said.
Because it’s a loud music venue, the Ottobar has had a bit of a rocky relationship with the neighborhood over the years—but “we’ve had people in the neighborhood who we kind of thought hate us come over and be supportive, so that was really cool,” said Cole, who also works at the Ottobar.
A majority of the Ottobar staff got a commemorative tattoo for Tom with a picture of a tooth. The story behind that is kind of long, but here’s a short version: Tom battled addiction for a long time—though he had been sober for more than a decade when he died—and he didn’t take care of himself. (It was something he was trying to work on in the past couple years.) Because of his lifestyle, he pretty much destroyed his teeth. He was in the process of getting new ones put in, and he was super excited about it. “We used to just kind of fuck with him about his teeth,” Cole said. “It was just kind of an inside joke that was meant with nothing but love.”
Under the tooth, Cole’s tattoo says P.A.M. instead of P.M.A., because “Tom used to make a lot of silly mistakes, he just did funny stuff like that by accident,” Cole said.
“Tom was a positive dude, even though he had been through a lot. And he was always trying to stay above the shit that was trying to drag him down. And that just made him really strong in a way that most people aren’t.”