Laid-off "Get Out" theater critic commits suicide

By Ray Stern

Chris Page, a theater reviewer laid off by the East Valley Tribune three weeks ago, was found dead Monday of an apparent suicide in his Mesa townhome.

Mesa police spokesman Chris Arvayo confirmed the death, saying friends of Page's had notified authorities over the weekend after they couldn't get ahold of him and noticed ominous messages on his private MySpace account.

A report states that police who went to the townhouse at 1942 South Emerson noticed a noxious smell of chemicals and saw a handwritten note warning that "dangerous chemicals and poisons" were inside. As a precaution, police evacuated several of the surrounding townhomes and called in a hazardous-materials team to remove the chemicals. Residents were allowed back in several hours later.

Police later determined that Page, 29, had possibly inhaled a fatal mixture of potassium cyanide and nomadic acid, which he had purchased recently. [UPDATE 5-28-08: Police now say the second substance was muriatic acid, also known as pool acid.]

Page's family has been notified, and the county Medical Examiner's office is scheduled to conduct an autopsy, Arvayo said.

Page had worked for "Get Out," the Tribune's entertainment weekly, for more than five years and had been among a reported 11 people laid off about three weeks ago. The Tribune layoff followed an earlier one a couple of months ago in which four people were dismissed, including the editor of the features department, Cheryl Kushner. The Tribune, like many daily newspapers across the country, has been struggling to adjust to a sharp decline in circulation.

Page's friends tell New Times that the writer hadn't seemed especially concerned about being fired and was seeking a new job as he lived off his severance pay. However, Page also had other problems: He was facing consequences of two DUIs he received recently. Court records show a bench warrant was issued for him on May 14 after he skipped a court hearing.

A cheeky description of Page on the Tribune's Web site stated, before being taken down Tuesday afternoon, that the critic was a "one-time punk rocker from Southern California" who enjoyed "smoking a pipe, listening to old jazz, wearing jackets with elbow patches and cultivating a true bon vivant's taste for fine scotches and stinky cheeses."

Friends say a memorial service is being planned.

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