Monday, November 23, 2009

Film Production - In Praise of Harlan Ellison

In Praise of Harlan Ellison

In junior high in Seattle, I remember tuning in the brand-new "Star Trek" show, completely by accident. Had no idea what it was. First episode I saw was "City On The Edge Of Forever." I loved it, and watched the show ever after. I did notice the quality of subsequent episodes wasn't as good.

In high school, my friend Merlin did something for which I am still grateful, slipping me a copy of Harlan Ellison's "A Boy And His Dog," saying, "This is the dirtiest story I have ever read." It certainly was. I HAD to read it, and enjoyed it tremendously.

Then I went away to Hollywood to make movies. I worked on a whole bunch of visual effects movies, most Oscar-worthy, with large budgets. Eventually, I grew tired of that and set out to create my own art.

For a dozen years, I owned an improv comedy theatre in North Hollywood. When I was painting the theatre seats, a nice lady volunteer helped me, and we got to talking. She listened as I went on and on about what books and shows I liked.

I mentioned Harlan Ellison's work, and why he was one of my absolute favorite writers, and she listened more intently. Then she told me some details I'd never heard. A little more conversation revealed her to be Harlan Ellison's ex-wife. Now THAT was an interesting surprise.

Then one morning, I went to put garbage into my dumpster behind the theatre. I couldn't, because it was full of Harlan Ellison's office garbage. Notes, envelopes, papers, all with his name. I wrote him a note, saying I had a dumpsterful of his garbage, and I wanted to put it on display at my theatre, with his name on the sign out front. My collection lacked the personal touch, and did he have any personal garbage? Fruit rinds, coffee grounds, that sort of thing?

I left my phone numbers, and he called me on most of them the next day, and we had some of the most fun phone conversations I've ever had. He's not just a good writer, he's a dazzling conversationalist, too. A very funny man. Why was his garbage in my dumpster? That's not important, but if you send me $2, I will make up something.

I've enjoyed Harlan Ellison's work for years and years, I have crossed paths with him several times, and he is brilliantly smart and creative, and that puts him at odds with lots of mediocre people. Long live Harlan Ellison!

Sam Longoria



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