By Scott Beveridge
PITTSBURGH – It would be easy to explain why someone would grab a brick or a chunk of concrete to take home and remember a football stadium while it is being demolished.
It's not the case for Denny DeLuca, a chef on Pittsburgh's North Side. He grabbed a toilet seat from the last stall on the right in the rest room at the section frequented by him and his children during Steelers games at Three Rivers Stadium - before the team's home park disappeared in a 2001 implosion.
"Don't worry about it, it's been disinfected," DeLuca explains in a video at an art gallery in Pittsburgh where his off-the-wall Steelers man cave has been installed at Carnegie Mellon University.
Most Yinzers, though, will understand why DeLuca placed a sign across the seat stating it's the only sign of life in Cleveland, the Steelers' biggest rival, before he hung the black plastic toilet cover on the wall of his Carnegie game room. The pile of fake plastic poop glued to the side of the seat is another story.
His shrine is wall-to-wall Steelers, and it rises to the level of primitive art. A dummy of Troy Polamalu hangs from the ceiling as if the team's strong safety is flying after a loose football. A sliver of an steel I-beam where DeLuca scribbled memories of great plays at Three Rivers Stadium sits below his flat screen TV. There is a string of game day tickets across one wall next to his large collection of miniature plastic Steelers players. Two tiny dead Ravens - birds representing the hated team from Baltimore - hang from a string beside the TV.
The display gets weirder and wonderful, and you have just one week left to see it for yourself. The show has been extended because the Steelers are playing the Green Bay Packers Feb. 6 in Super Bowl XLV.
DeLuca's basement room is "crammed floor to ceiling with hundreds of handmade and altered objects, each with its own story that describes both the biography of the team and Denny's autobiography," the curators explain in a pamphlet about the show titled, "Whatever it Takes: Steelers Fan Collections, Rituals, and Obsessions."
Astria Suparak, the gallery curator, and Jon Rubin, an assistant CMU professor of art, are newbies in Pittsburgh, and they were inspired to create the exhibit after being struck by the singular nature of Pittsburgh's immersion in all things black-and-gold, an article in the Observer-Reporter explains.
The show also celebrates how one fan sets aside 62 minutes before each game to afford enough time to kiss every Steelers item in the house prior to kickoff.
Meanwhile, it also pays tribute to a string of fans who have adorned their bodies with Steelers tattoos. One of them actually thought he would look good with a tattoo inked across his chest of a hand with its middle finger wearing a Steelers ring and flipping the bird. Another favored a tattoo up and down his arm of team founder Art Rooney Sr. smoking a cigar - as if either are sexy.
The show organizers attempt to explain the odd fan obsession with the Steelers through a generation spawned by great teams of the 1970s, the collapse of the steel industry and the city's working man mentality.
"The team mirrored the values and desires of its working class fans: they were owned by a self-made local family, named after the local industry, and had a relentlessly hard-nosed playing style," the brochure states.
It's a good try by outsiders to explain us, but I tend to think we have crazy fans here because we also have a great football team that plays exciting, nail-biting games even when it loses.
The gallery can be found in the Purnell Center for the Arts, 5000 Forbes Ave. Hours: noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. A Super Bowl party and closing remarks are set for 6 p.m. Feb. 6. Complimentary snacks and BEVERAGES, sponsored by Iron City Brewing Co. Admission is free.
The black and gold calf, left, and Steelers SuperFan by Lem Apperson.