To those who believe graffiti is a blight, a symbol of gang territorialism, societal erosion or even Satanism, Fred Radtke was a civic hero. But his devotion to eradicating street painting of all sorts cast him as a villain among those who see graffiti as a vehicle of personal expression and unfettered artistry.
Radtke, whose use of concrete-colored paint in his fight against tagging earned him his comic book-style nickname, The Gray Ghost, died in August of natural causes. He was 76.
On Thursday (Oct. 27), Radtke’s family invites the public to attend a tribute to the graffiti eradicator, with visitation at 5 pm and Mass at 6 pm, followed by a jazz funeral-style brass band send-off as people leave the church . Radtke’s ashes will be present.
The tribute will take place at St. Pius X Catholic Church, 6666 Spanish Fort Blvd. in the Lake Vista neighborhood.
Radtke was as important to Crescent City graffiti culture as any aerosol writer. Ironically, his zealousness lent the early 21st-century street art scene more drama and publicity than it might otherwise have had.
Radtke’s notoriety was such that in 2008, Banksy, the British street artist who may be the world’s most famous painter, depicted The Gray Ghost in some of his New Orleans paintings.