‘RIP to a true weirdo’: Charlotte mourns the loss of Matt Hoffman, one of the city’s most beloved misfits

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Photo courtesy of Jennifer Witzen

The first time Patrick Carroll met Matt Hoffman, they didn’t say a word to each other.

Carroll had recently opened ARMADA Skate Shop when Hoffman walked in, sat down at a table in the corner and proceeded to sketch a silhouette of a ketchup bottle. When he was done, he stood up, showed off the drawing to Carroll and his business partner, then stormed out of the shop without a word.

It was in that moment a friendship was born, and it would last until the day Hoffman died.

Last Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, Hoffman was cycling on Morehead Street when he was stuck by a car beside Uptown Cabaret.

Hoffman was in a coma until he died a few days later, leaving many in his circle of friends lamenting the loss of a man who was highly intelligent, always entertaining and often misunderstood.

YouTube / Jesse Avangarden

Hoffman, 40, was a fixture around Charlotte.

He could be spotted walking around with unique clothing choices — thigh-high shorts and mismatched knee-high socks or strange T-shirts.

Friends recalled him riding his bike in the center of the road while giving drivers the middle finger, dancing in public (also giving the middle finger) or pacing around Uptown having a one-sided conversation on a disconnected desk phone. Last month, he was seen walking the wrong way through the finish line chute at Charlotte Marathon.

He would show up at real estate open houses just for the free food. He stole a $10,000 bike once at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show — not because of its worth, but because it looked like pencils. “It did look like pencils,” said Mills Davis, who knew him through the cycling community. “He was just so aloof — classic Matt.”

Being around him was never boring, his friends said. Cycling was both his only form of transportation and a way of life for him. He also loved running, dancing and music, said his sister, Melissa Hoffman.

Courtesy of Melissa Hoffman

Hoffman was extremely smart — he got a near-perfect score on his SATs in 7th grade and was offered a full ride to UNC Chapel Hill. Yet, he struggled with mental illness and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder (at the time, called ‘manic depression’) as a teenager. In the years after, he was in and out of hospitals and psych wards as he struggled with his mental health. In recent times, Urban Ministries was helping him, having set him up with a social worker and a small apartment of his own, Melissa Hoffman said.

It was this part of him that led others to feel that being different was OK. “All my life, people would call me weird. As weird as I am, when I came in contact with Matt Hoffman, I’m the new norm,” ARMADA’s Carroll said. “I don’t care how weird you are. Matt wasn’t in the box. He was the color outside the box. He just let you know that there were different people out there.”

“You could see his battle with not fitting in and not being understood — it almost liberated him,” Carroll said.

Davis recalled meeting Hoffman in 2006 during a show off of Eastway Drive. Hoffman appeared from the woods dressed in business casual but with fairy wings and green glasses, Davis said. “He was perpetually just as endearing as problematic,” he said. “It was just so strange watching his decline and the way he pissed people off just enough to scare away any hope he had of being cared for properly.”

Seeing Hoffman struggle with mental illness was eye-opening, Carroll said. “We all go through depression from time to time, we all have our down times. He had a true condition, and he did the very best he could with it. He never used drugs, he was a wealth of knowledge.”

A few months ago, ARMADA began featuring Hoffman on their Instagram stories. “He would come up every day just to do a bit, just to say something,” Carroll said. Between the ARMADA stories and Hoffman’s YouTube page, he gained a following. His most recent YouTube rant vented both about yoga pants being unfashionable and his desire to be respected as a cyclist on the road.

Carroll and Hoffman had made plans to create ‘Make Hoffman Great Again’ T-shirts. “A lot of kids that don’t really know him are broken up by this,” Carroll said. “They’re saying, ‘I let this guy get into my heart somehow.’ It’s not just me that’s going through it.”

Photo by Jon Evans

Bill Cleveland knew Hoffman through cycling. “RIP to a true weirdo,” he posted as his Facebook status on Sunday. “The best way to put it is that he was a deeply troubled guy, but cycling was a way of life for him, and that he was killed by a motorist while riding should only remind people to be aware of their surroundings and to drive safely,” he said about the loss of his friend.

Melissa Hoffman had not seen her brother in several years, and she said Hoffman’s battle with mental illness put some distance between him and the rest of the family. However, as soon as she’d heard about the accident, she rushed to his side at CMC Main. Their mother flew in from Victoria, Texas, and the two of them spent the next few days at his bedside, where he remained in a coma until he died on Sunday evening.

It was there that the community support started pouring in, with people visiting to tell Hoffman and his family what a difference he had made in their lives. Friends drove from New York, Boston and flew in from Los Angeles to see him and say goodbye, Melissa Hoffman said. “I wasn’t prepared for the outpouring of love,” she said. “He was difficult to be around. I’m sure he made a lot of people smile, but I’m sure he pissed off a lot of people, too. Yet, the community really embraced him.”

In one of his last YouTube videos, Hoffman said he wanted better for everyone. “Were out here creating monsters with all this meanness, and thats not cool. I aint about creating monsters. Im about creating a beautiful life, a beautiful landscape, a beautiful everything for everyone so everyone can flourish and be beautiful — and thats it.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for this article, Melissa. It’s uplifting to see positivity when it seems like so many others are OK to remain apathetic or just instantly move on. It’s really touching ♡

    • Thanks HST – I lived in South End for years and this man was a pretty consistent presence that made me fearful as a single female living alone. I assumed he was mentally ill but that didn’t make me any less scared of his erratic antics. Mental illness is a sad thing but it sounds like this man made many others uncomfortable over the years, and to now know that he was violent and committed other crimes as well makes me wonder why there is an article honoring him just because he was “weird.”

      • Exactly. I was just looking up his name to see if he’d been riding in the center of the street when he was hit, because C5 didn’t bother to let us know the circumstances of his accident, even though C5 pointed out that he used to ride in the center of the street and flip the bird at people just because, you know, he was “weird” like that. Riding in the center of the street and flipping people off is dangerous, but never mind that.

        I figured maybe there was some news on his accident. But the only piece of news I found on him was a charge for assault on a female.

        And you’re right: mental illness is a sad thing. I just wonder whether there should have been a tribute in this case.

        • I agree. He was notorious for causing trouble around town. This article praising him and making him out to be a harmless weirdo bothers me.

  2. You guys are literally reporting stories based on the accounts of a handful of people who were “friends” with this guy? I remember when Chilly Willy was a popular character around here and twenty-somethings out at night in Plaza or by Elizabeth/7th St. would think it was so cool to take pictures with him. Meanwhile, the man was arrested for a litany of crimes and would accost girls on the street all the time….but rags like Creative Loafing would lionize him because he was “one of them”. I think the C5 is better than this kind of lazy reporting…at least it used to be.

    • Brian, I was great “friends” with this guy. I met him in ’95, and we stayed very close for several years and had many successful, “normal”, highly lauded, even, friends in common. I’ve moved around quite a bit, but we have stayed in touch most of that time. Matt was incredibly kind and sensitive. He also became very sick. It hurt him at a really deep level when he saw the injustices and nonacceptance of differences in our society. I honestly don’t know at all what happened with the assault charge, but I know that if Hoff hurt anyone, it’s because he was hurt himself. He loved you, and me, and he wanted everyone to feel that too.

  3. I think that it is irresponsible of the journalist to mention that he frequented open houses for the free food without noting that he also went to assault females.

  4. There was a Charlotte Observer report on the fatal bicycle accident. It claimed he was “drunk and riding without a helmet” on a Lime bike at 1230 am and that caused the accident. It states he did swing out into the path of the motor vehicle causing the fatal impact. All that said, there are several claims in the article that defy the immutable laws of physics. I doubt the motorist was drunk but I am willing to allege it is likely he was speeding, distracted and not providing the 4 feet clearance mandated by NC Law.

    More important to accident avoidance than not wearing a helmet was whether the cyclist could be seen. The Lime bikes do not have rear lights, just reflectors. However, there is ample street lighting. A motor vehicle traveling the posted speed limit should have been able to see the cyclist easily.

    I, too, am a runner and cyclist without a car. I pass by that place often and examined it after the accident. There was no evidence that the motor vehicle made any attempt to stop in a hurry nor hit the building as the article / police report states. I would allege the motor vehicle hit him causing him / bicycle to hit the building and the motor vehicle stopped after the fatal collision.

    I did not witness the accident and the above is only my opinion based on personal experience and examining the accident site.

  5. Thank you for this article. All of you who are criticizing Matt obviously didn’t know him and are judging him based on what you read. No individual is wholly and fairly represented by the media. Criticize the article, but don’t criticize Matt! He’s not here to show you that he loves you anyway!

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