To meet O'Brien often meant meeting her partner Hopp (who worked as art director at City Pages in the early '90s). The two bicycled everywhere. A sighting of them on their bikes was as natural a part of the fabric of Minneapolis as sighting a pair of geese swimming side by side at Lake of the Isles. Hopp and O'Brien also took their bikes to some rougher terrain: San Francisco, New Zealand, Australia.
Last fall friends began to notice that O'Brien "wasn't herself,"as Dols puts it. Says Lori Barbero, a member of Babes in Toyland and a close friend of O'Brien's for 20 years: "She must have been in tremendous pain. People get cancer, they get chemo. But depression is a chemical imbalance, a fatal disease."
Lipstick traces: Singer and scenester Katie O'Brien
In the few weeks before O'Brien's death, Legge says, things appeared to be looking up. "Katie had done some hopeful things," Legge recounts. "She acknowledged that she needed medication, started bartending at the Walker, had taken a job--at Dixie's at the Calhoun Beach Club--with a woman who had wanted Katie to work for her for years."
Says Dols: "She was hiding her illness so well, putting on the smile." He and other friends seem able to force themselves to smile here and there as they tell stories about O'Brien. But at other points, conversation falters. Thoughts turn then to the motorbike with three-dollar parts that won't be fired up this spring, half-used tubes of Moist Berry in a jacket pocket, a closetful of cotton dresses.