Boogie Man dances for joy at Rupp Arena

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistMarch 1, 2009 

FRANKFORT — Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson are not the only ones who have sent energy coursing through Rupp Arena this basketball season.

Rupp has developed its own Boogie Man.

He appears in Section 19 during the first or second TV timeout of the second half. He is summoned to action by the introduction to the old Tommy James hit, Mony Mony.

When he hears that, Darren Moscoe, 43, becomes a hip-gyrating, elbow-flailing, dancing dervish.

"I just love it; I love to dance," Moscoe says.

Now, any appearance that the Boogie Man makes on the arena's giant video screens is greeted by a Rupp roar.

That's a fairly amazing phenomenon in an arena where the crowds have long been known for being buttoned-down.

"That guy is the single most effective crowd-interactive device we have," says Dave Stawicki, technical director of Rupp Arena's video screens. "And none of us even know who he is."

Few people who get a smile from watching the Boogie Man dance in Rupp know how difficult a path he has traveled to get there.

Of everyone who has ever performed in any capacity in Rupp Arena, perhaps no one has overcome more obstacles than Darren Moscoe.

Seizures, brain tumor

When he was attending school in Frankfort, some of Moscoe's classmates had nicknames for him.

Some called him "Fits." Others went with "retard."

The youngest of Jean and Kenny Moscoe's five kids, Darren was about 10 when the seizures began.

His older brother, Raymond, first noticed it when the brothers were playing dodge ball.

"Any other time, Darren always tried to catch the ball," Raymond says. "But this time, it was like he was in some kind of daze. I went to my mom and told her, 'Darren must be having some kind of hot flash.' But at first, we just sort of overlooked it."

In youth baseball, Darren was a pitcher.

One day, while playing in a Frankfort youth league, Darren, for no apparent reason, stopped throwing the ball overhand and would only toss it underhand.

"For me, that was when I first really realized something pretty serious was wrong," Raymond Moscoe says.

Eventually, the doctors said Darren had the neurological disease known as epilepsy.

They put him on medicine designed to prevent the seizures (which generally are caused by a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain).

Yet Darren's seizures intensified. At times, he would be in a trance-like condition in which he was subject to wandering off without warning.

Other times, the seizures could leave him flat on his back, with his body jerking uncontrollably.

"We'd have to hold his tongue so he wouldn't swallow it," Raymond Moscoe says.

It was those seizures that led his classmates to call Darren "Fits."

"People can be so cruel," Jean Moscoe says.

Darren hated the teasing. He hated being different. Especially, he hated not being able to control his body.

He got angry.

In medical circles, tying fits of anger to epileptic seizures has long been controversial. Advocates for those with epilepsy fret that such linkage stigmatizes those who have the disease.

Still, whether it was caused by medical reasons; whether it was a reaction to the taunting he took; or whether it was just rage at drawing such an unfair lot in life, Darren went through a very angry phase.

He got tossed out of public school.

After his parents divorced, Jean, a petite woman, was unable to control Darren, so he could no longer stay at home.

At least twice, Darren's rages ended with the police being called.

Ultimately, he spent time in a state psychiatric hospital and, later, in a special home dedicated to caring for those who could not care for themselves.

His brother, Raymond, kept coming to his rescue.

Once, Darren had a seizure and fell off a second-floor balcony at a facility. Another time, Raymond went to visit him in a hospital, "and they had him restrained and so sedated, he barely knew who I was."

After each instance, Raymond, a former college baseball player at what is now Bellarmine University, took his brother out of care and brought him to live with him.

"It was tough," Raymond says. "Basically, we couldn't leave him alone."

Once, Raymond says, he got a call from a stranger telling him that his brother had been found lying in a ditch near Transylvania University.

"Because he would wander off, he wore a name tag, so I guess they knew to call us," Raymond said.

Soon after that, Raymond says, doctors told the family that Darren's lot in life had gotten even worse.

He was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor.

"They told us it had to come out," Raymond says. "And they told us there was about a 40 percent chance of him living through the surgery."

For a family that had been through so much with Darren, that prospect was the epitome of bittersweet.

"You obviously don't want your brother to die," Raymond says. "But there was some relief. By this time, he was having two, three seizures a day. In a sense, we just wanted him to be relieved of his misery."

What happened next Darren Moscoe now regards as "a miracle given to me by God."

The seizures stop

Doctors at Lexington's Good Samaritan Hospital removed the brain tumor in 1994.

Darren survived the surgery and made it through the chemotherapy treatments. Eventually, he would hear the news that there was no sign of cancer in his body.

Sometime in 1995, he had another seizure. But then they just stopped. He has not had one since, although he continues to take anti-seizure medicine.

Raymond Moscoe theorizes that the tumor was pressing on something in Darren's brain, and once it was removed, that stopped the seizures. "But I don't remember whether the doctors told us that or it's just something I surmised," he says.

Once the seizures ceased, Darren's life was all but transformed.

His anger abated. At various times, Darren has held down jobs (although he's looking for one at the moment).

His mom, Jean, now 78, was able to take him back in. The two have become running buddies, having a good time doing things together.

Darren even got a driver's license.

Freed of the daily trauma of seizures, he was able to pursue two of the great passions of his life:

The Kentucky Wildcats and dancing.

An all-UK room

In a state where houses from Paducah to Pikeville boast impressive "Kentucky Wildcat rooms," you won't see many better than Darren Moscoe's bedroom.

Autographed pictures of former UK football stars Andre Woodson and Rafael Little hang above his bed.

Along one wall are Kentucky basketball NCAA championship banners. His closet is a complete shrine to the Big Blue, because Darren wears UK clothing every day.

"Easiest guy in the world to buy birthday or Christmas gifts for," Raymond says. "You just have to get him something UK."

Most impressive of all is Darren's collection of pictures of himself with Kentucky sports luminaries.

Everywhere he goes, Darren takes a camera. "He's not shy about asking people for an autograph or a picture," Raymond says.

From Fabulous Five hero Wah Wah Jones to current UK star Jodie Meeks — and pretty much any Kentucky sports figure in between — Darren has pictures of them posing with him.

Reversal of fortune

Darren does not have UK basketball season tickets.

Once he got his driver's license and developed independence, he started coming to Kentucky games with some regularity.

Most of the time, he just buys tickets the night of the game.

Someone who never really had a chance to "fit in" when growing up has found acceptance in Rupp Arena.

While attending Cats games, Darren met and befriended Courtney Allen, a well-known Lexington musician who often plays in area piano bars.

Allen and his wife, Alberta, have UK season tickets in Section 18, a lower-arena corner of Rupp (on the end of the opponents' bench and on the opposite side of the floor).

Regardless of where Darren's ticket is, he tries to end up sitting near the Allens.

"We've been knowing him four, five years now," Allen says. "He's just been a joy to know. And that boy, he loves to dance."

Darren says he's been dancing in Rupp for several years. "But it was just when they started putting me on the video screen this year that people really started noticing," he says.

At Rupp, Mony Mony is always introduced with the same soundtrack:

What's your favorite color, baby?

Blue and White!

"When I hear that, man, I get up and I go," Darren says.

Stawicki, who decides what gets onto Rupp's giant video screens, says, "We keep one camera on him all the time. Now, as people react to what he does, we're able to cut to others dancing, too. He's inspired others to cut loose and dance, too. It's just been great."

Darren's full impact in Rupp was apparent during Kentucky's recent victory against Tennessee.

Because he was playing with the Special Olympics basketball team of which he is a member, Darren did not attend the game.

When Mony Mony came on, you could see heads all around Rupp Arena looking for the Boogie Man.

Still, Jean Moscoe says some members of her family are not wildly enthusiastic about Darren's dancing in Rupp.

"But I think it's great," she says. "I guess it is possible some people are laughing at Darren, but I think most are laughing with him and getting enjoyment from what he does."

The evidence supports that. The guy who has long asked UK sports stars to pose for photos now finds himself on the other side of such requests.

"Even some pretty girls have asked me," Darren says.

For the man who used to be called Fits, all this positive attention "is quite the reversal," says his brother, Raymond. "After all he's been through, it's hard to describe what it means to us to see him enjoying his life."

And after everything he's been through, it's easy to understand why Darren Moscoe — Rupp Arena's Boogie Man — feels like dancing.

Reach Mark Story at 231-3230 or (800) 950-6397, Ext. 3230, or at mstory@herald-leader.com. Your e-mail could appear on the blog Read Mark Story's E-mail at Kentucky.com.

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