Au revoir to Mike & Parry Donze

June 17 party at Irish Rose to bid farewell to long-time Saturn Studio owners, Wristers band members

Two members of the Rockford community are leaving for warmer climates and sunnier days, which happens all the time, but not with as much ceremony perhaps. Mike and Parry Donze of Saturn Studio are pulling up their roots and replanting themselves in the acidic soils of Brooksville, Fla., just an hour outside of Tampa, to open Saturn Studio South. Robin and Mike Leifheit of the Irish Rose are throwing an open-to-the-public going-away party for the two brothers to display their affection and deepest regards.

The Donzes have lived in Rockford “pretty much all our lives,” according to Parry, and have affected everyone they’ve come in contact with so deeply that it was hard to find a person who didn’t wax emotional on me when I collected stories this past weekend. Robin Leifheit began almost tearing up as she delved into her memory bank of all the good times with the Donzes.

One of her first recollections was 23 years ago when she saw Mike and Parry’s band PeeWee and the Wristers play in the Faust basement. Mike Leifheit had been considering hosting live music at the Rose when Robin approached him and begged him to let the Donzes play. They were one of the first bands to ever play the Rose, and since then, the Wristers have performed pretty much everywhere. Robin noted that they were around almost as long as Cheap Trick.

Both Mike and Parry have also been involved with two other bands: The Hillworms and The Blues Police. The two took a break from the Wristers for quite a while, and Saturday night will be their last local performance. Yes, they’re playing at their own going-away party. When I questioned Parry about the logistics behind this, he laughed amiably and said; “It’s pretty cool actually. If someone else was playing, I’d be standing around getting itchy.”

Mike and Parry have owned Saturn Studio since 1982 after the original owner Denny Holmberg, passed away. His family sold the studio to the Donzes for a good price, and they expanded the business from a one-room hobby-oriented store to a full-service graphic design facility, with the most well-respected name in their field of expertise. (The Rock River Times T-shirts and storefront sign was made by Saturn Studios).

No doubt the place will be packed at the Rose Saturday night, with all the affectionate stories friends of the Donzes have shared. “Parry could make me laugh when nobody else could; in a time in my life when I needed it the most,” Robin commented the other night (per the bar napkin I jotted notes on). She reminisced about the time Parry kept her company when she was accidentally locked in the Rose one night by an absent-minded Mike until he showed up with the keys the next morning, and chuckled as she remembered the time his dog Monster ate out an integral part of trousers when she babysat him.

My boss, Editor and Publisher of TRRT Frank Schier, said of Mike: “Mike Donze has been the business brains of Saturn Studios ever since its inception. He deals with people in a way that would make customer service gurus envious. He has excellent aesthetic taste and really knows how to run a business. As to his aesthetic ability, he’s one of the best songwriters Rockford has as shown by the success of The Hillworms’ CD My Town. Mike’s songwriting ability coupled with Parry’s talent produced Rockford’s only national chart maker—besides Cheap Trick….they have done tremendous things for the River District, leading by example in restoring their storefront and creating one of the best lofts in Rockford.”

Mike and Parry’s going-away party will be held June 17, kicking off at 9 p.m., with cocktails and appetizers at the Irish Rose. Come see the Wristers for the last time, give respect where respect is due, and wish them well on their new endeavor in life. “We’re really going to miss a lot of wonderful people here, but you know, life’s an adventure,” said Parry.

Schier also added, “I’m going to miss Mike and Parry, not only for their business and musical talent, but for their social activism as well…but thankfully, I have my own canoe now, and don’t have to borrow theirs anymore…I used to borrow it a lot!”

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