PORTLAND – Ed King is in trouble, and the West End is rallying for him.
King, who published the eccentric and beloved West End News for 11 years, retired just a month ago and moved to Russia, where his wife, Liz McMahon, found a job teaching English.
On Thursday, King, 62, returned home to Portland. An ambulance took him from the Portland International Jetport to the emergency room at Maine Medical Center.
He has colon cancer in the upper intestine, and his condition is “very serious,” said his son, William King, 23.
King and McMahon, former director of Lucid Stage, sold or gave away all of their possessions before moving to Russia on Nov. 5. Since returning to Portland, they have been living in a hotel room.
McMahon is now without a job. King has health insurance that is valid only in Russia. However, his doctors in Russia urged him to go back home, where he could get better treatment and not have a language barrier, William King said.
John Eder, a former state legislator from Portland, said he’s asking people to donate items for an online auction to raise money for King.
He said he’s having no trouble getting donations. “You only have to say those two words — Ed King. Everyone knows and loves him,” Eder said.
Acorn Productions, a nonprofit arts group in Westbrook, is sponsoring the auction, which will be held in February.
Musicians and dancers are lining up to perform at a fundraiser at 8 p.m. on Dec. 22 at Empire Dine and Dance.
So many performers volunteered that organizers set up another show on Jan. 19 at the Mayo Street Art Center.
A Facebook group page has been set up: “Liz and Ed, We Love Them!”
As of 3:30 p.m. Friday, 140 people had donated money to the Ed King Emergency Fund online at www.gofundme.com/help-ed-and-liz. People can also call 370-0228.
“It’s overwhelming, the way people are stepping forward,” said Rachel Flehinger, 37, a local performer who is coordinating fundraising.
“You could only wish that if something terrible happened to you, the love and support that is coming out for them would happen to you.”
The West End News, a biweekly that King started in 2001, was largely a one-man operation that focused on news of the neighborhood.
King, who laid out the pages, sold ads and distributed the paper, was a familiar figure at community events and meetings.
He published agendas, minutes and inexpensive advertising inserts for the West End Neighborhood Association.
“The West End News held the whole neighborhood together,” said Rosanne Graef, president of the association, which is now raising money for King from its members.
The paper’s most popular feature was the Dumpster, which King filled with bits of gossip and odd news that he couldn’t fit anywhere else in the newspaper.
“You knew you were part of the West End when your name was in the Dumpster,” Graef said.
King is known for his laid-back style and quirky sense of humor. When he announced on Sept. 7 that he was moving to Russia, he wrote on Facebook:
“Ever since I was a long-haired, left-wing, pot-smoking hippie forty years ago, people have been saying to me ‘If you hate this country so much, why don’t you move to Russia?!’ So, now Liz has taken a job as an English teacher in Volgograd, (formerly Stalingrad) Russia. We’re hoping to be on the plane in mid-October. Seems like it was almost inevitable.”
William King said the illness has not blunted his father’s wit.
King tried to sell the West End News before moving, but found no buyers.
He continued updating the West End News website while living in Russia.
King never made much money from the newspaper, but the city benefited enormously from it, said Portland Mayor Michael Brennan.
“He made this huge contribution to the community,” Brennan said, “and people feel compelled to support him at this point.”
Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: