MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – His closest friends became eerily suspicious when the long-time radio announcer didn’t make his regular KFAN broadcast slot Friday afternoon. It was the one day of the week that Dark Star so looked forward to. Not only because he could lend his voice to the sports topics of the day, but it also meant it was another weekend of horse racing at Canterbury Park.
When he didn’t show up for the afternoon show, colleagues became alarmed and tried desperately to reach him by phone. When those calls went unanswered, they drove to his Minnetonka apartment.
Their worst suspicions had come true – lying face down in his apartment, George Hutton Chapple was dead. He was 66 years old.
Paul Allen, a colleague and long-time friend, described the feeling as “absolute devastation.”
Allen was in Chapple’s inner circle and went to the apartment when he first learned the news.
Allen credits Chapple for giving him the breaks that got him established in the Twin Cities broadcasting market, where he calls Vikings football and horse races at Canterbury Park.
“Before KFAN or the Vikings, he took me under his wings and was instrumental in so many things in my life,” Allen said. “I love him and so wish he was here.”
Chappel got his broadcast name from a 1953 Kentucky Derby winner. Listeners knew him as Dark Star when he began overnight radio on WCCO-AM 25 years ago. He was so popular he was soon moved to the 9 p.m. to midnight slot, where he had a sports talk show.
But it was at Canterbury Park, beginning in 1986, where Chapple felt most comfortable. He began working at the track in its early days doing a show called “The Canterbury Report” to help newcomers to the sport understand the ins and outs of horse racing and betting.
Moments before Friday night’s opening race, Canterbury fans gave Chapple a moment of silence.
Jon Mikkelson, a Canterbury media specialist, worked with Star from the beginning and loved his sense of humor and large personality.
“He was a huge fan of basketball, baseball, basically all sports,” Mikkelson said. “But if you asked him he’d say horse racing was on top.”
Up in the Canterbury press box, Dark Star’s seat sits empty – much like the feeling inside so many close friends. Canterbury owner Randy Sampson says Chapple was like a member of his family.
“We always talked about that being his living room there,” Sampson said. “He’d talk about having to get his mail delivered there because he was at the press box more than he was at home!”
“I just can’t believe when I go there tonight he’s not going to be there sitting in that chair,” Allen said.
Friends say that in recent days Chapple had complained to them of feeling discomfort, but wasn’t likely to go see a doctor. An autopsy will be done by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office to determine the cause of death.
Chapple grew up in Ohio and Long Island, NY. He was a Vietnam veteran, and originally came to the Twin Cities with his parents in the 1970s.
Remembering Dark Star