Charles Albert Zdravesky died on Thursday, June 11, 2020 in Albuquerque, NM at the age of 76. Charlie Z, as he was best known, was born in 1944 in Bridgeport, CT and lived his childhood years in Stratford, CT, graduating from Bunnell High School where he proudly served as Vice-President of his senior class. After high school, Charlie enlisted in the US Navy and served as a boat engine mechanic from 1963-1967. He was stationed at the Pawtuxent Naval Air Station in Lexington Park, MD, where he married and then moved back to Connecticut where his daughter Barbara was born. In 1972 Charlie and his daughter moved to Albuquerque, NM.
In Albuquerque, Charlie was a man of many trades. He worked as a cook in a preschool, as a data collector for the US Census Bureau, as a concrete finisher, and as a delivery man for a floral shop. In 1978 he became a volunteer deejay at KUNM radio in Albuquerque, calling himself Mr. Hot Lix and playing doo-wop and R&B oldies on Saturday nights. His show was hugely popular, particularly because of his devotion to playing dedications to and from prisoners at the New Mexico State Penitentiary. In 1981 Charlie created and produced the first “Outta Joint at the Joint” concert. The show was broadcast live from the Penitentiary -- which was a “first,” since nobody had ever broadcast anything live from the Penitentiary. Only inmates could attend the first concert, but after a few years officials allowed families to visit their loved ones in the prison while listening to live bands play music for a day. The concerts were held annually for 15 years.
Charlie loved being Mr. Hot Lix and he enjoyed all of the ways he could use the show for the good of others. He was asked to host numerous charitable fundraisers as well as events like the New Mexico Wine Festival in Bernalillo County, the University of New Mexico Fiesta, and the New Mexico Jazz Workshop‘s “Blues Day” in Madrid. He also worked in the film industry, where his credits include a number of films and the television series Crash. While working on a film featuring Peter Coyote, Charlie narrowly escaped a flash flood in an arroyo while trying to rescue equipment.
Over the years, Charlie won several awards for radio documentary production (including a documentary on the history of doo-wop) and for his investigative journalism. He wrote numerous articles and opinion pieces on social justice issues and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1981 as part of the Inter Media Group’s investigation of the New Mexico State Penitentiary. He was a fervent advocate for prisoners’ rights and in general defended the well-being of many people who were not in a position to help themselves. In 2014, he was quoted in a New York Times article about the US Justice Department’s report into the Albuquerque Police Department’s systemic and unconstitutional use of excessive force.
Twenty years after beginning classes at UNM, Charlie graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in University Studies. He spent his last years working on his book (a history of the New Mexico State Penitentiary), taking care of his house, visiting relatives in Slovakia, and spending time with his daughter in Rhode Island. He was an extraordinary person who created for himself an extraordinary life. He had a gigantic personality, he was entertaining and endearing, and he was kind and generous with his time and abilities. The memories we have of him and the stories we tell about him will give us consolation as we say goodbye to the irreplaceable Charlie Z.
Charlie was predeceased by his parents Stephen Zdravesky and Hermaline Gage Zdravesky; he is survived by his daughter Barbara Zdravesky of Pawtucket, RI, his sister Mary Schneckenburger of Hancock, NH, and several cousins including Roger Graves of British Columbia, Canada. Charlie’s family encourages you to honor and memorialize his life in the way that is most meaningful to you.