Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'Zombie Boy' Remembered as Someone Who Never Forgot His Montreal Roots

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'Zombie Boy' Remembered as Someone Who Never Forgot His Montreal Roots

Article excerpt

'Zombie Boy' remembered by Montreal friends

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MONTREAL - While his unique head-to-toe body art propelled him to international fame on fashion runways and in a Lady Gaga video, the artist and model known as "Zombie Boy" never forgot his humble beginnings as a Montreal street kid, friends said Friday.

The artist, whose real name was Rick Genest, died at the age of 32, his talent agency confirmed Thursday.

Circus artist Jennifer Bobette, who knew him for 18 years, said the soft-spoken friend she called "Zombie" lived "two different lives."

She said he never brought up his fame when he was home in Montreal, where he was part of a community of punks and artists living in a building known as the Fattal lofts near railroad tracks in the St-Henri neighbourhood.

"He had a famous life, where he was going and doing video clips with Lady Gaga, but when he was home at Fattal he was never talking about that, he became the Zombie we always knew," said Bobette, who preferred to give only her stage name.

"He was putting on his... pants with 10 holes in them, and buying us beer and wine in the parking lot."

She said the two met as teenagers at Dans La Rue, which ran a drop-in centre for homeless and at-risk youth.

At the time, she said her friend didn't have a single tattoo and dreamed of becoming a circus performer -- a dream he would realize some years later when he and some friends formed a travelling freak show.

Genest got his first tattoo at 16 and went on to eventually cover more than 90 per cent of his body in ink, including the image of a skull over his face.

According to his website, he holds the Guinness World Book of Records for the most insects tattooed on a human body (178), as well as the most bones inked on a human body, at 138.

But while his outward appearance may have been intimidating, he was unfailingly mild-mannered and polite, according to the CEO of the Welcome Hall Mission, a homeless shelter Genest visited as a teen and continued to support as an adult. …

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