I have mentioned before about meeting Harlan Ellison. As today is his birthday I thought it would be appropriate to cobble together my memories of that evening. So here it is:
IT WAS TWENTY YEARS AGO TODAY...
...that Harlan Ellison came to Vancouver to speak. It was in late May and close to Mister Ellison's birthday. My friend Leonard Wong was organizing the event and we came up with the idea to throw a bit of a birthday celebration for Harlan.
I was the host of a weekly sf radio show called The Ether Patrol and we were publicizing the event. We booked a local Thai Restaurant and invited many of the local authors to come by. Unfortunately few were able to show up. Most of the guests were staffers of the show. Comic artist George Metzger and his son were in attendance as well as Harlan's former secretary and her husband Wes who had moved to the Pacific Northwest.
Harlan and Susan arrived and Harlan, in one of the classiest moves I have ever seen, took what could have been an awkward situation (a birthday party thrown by people that you don't even know) and turned it completely around. He made a point of meeting all the guests and hosts, putting everybody at complete ease.
The dinner went really well other than an incident where the co-host of the show, Kyle Kirkwood, tried to take Harlan's picture.
After the dinner we walked to the Vancouver Art Gallery where the talk was to take place and I took the opportunity to chat with Harlan. I can't remember what we talked about but I do remember it being a very pleasant conversation. As we approached the Art Gallery Harlan didn't see any people. He kept shaking his head and saying "You're gonna lose money on this," to Leonard. He didn't have to worry. The audience was already inside and waiting to get into the specific room in which he was going to speak.
I had the privilege of introducing Harlan to the audience. I was nervous but it went well other than getting a few facts wrong, which Harlan corrected by shouting them up at me. That done Harlan took the stage and enthralled us for the better part of two hours followed by an exhaustive autograph session.
After it was all over I walked partway to the hotel with Harlan and Susan. He pointed to me and said "You're weird". I wasn't quite sure how he meant it but I decided to take it as a complement. Just before we parted he saw a penny on the ground. "You know what my wife says? If you pick up a penny and put it in your pocket, then all day long you will have a penny in your pocket," Harlan was too wiped out to pick up the penny (he was suffering from chronic fatigue) so I picked up the penny.
"Here, Harlan," I handed it to him. "Have a penny in your pocket."
People have said that Harlan Ellison is acerbic at best, outright rude at worst, but that evening (and the week before when I spoke to him on the phone for about an hour) I found him to be charming, engaging and every inch the gentleman.
He is a class act and it is an evening that I remember with a great deal of fondness.
(By the way: these are NOT my pictures. The pictures from that evening are not in my possession. But this is basically how he looked back then.)
I've been here and there. I've drawn a lot of pictures. I've written a bit, too. I'm not good at this self-promotion thing. Look, you want to know about me? just visit these websites. Okay?