On April 19th, I drove alone to spend some time with the most unique person I’ve ever met: Harlan Ellison.
When a hotel says, "Under renovation" believe them. The exterior of the Beverly Pavilion Hotel was completely covered by scaffolding, but the appointments of my room were quite nice. I spent a total of six hours (four sleeping) in the room, so I hardly had a chance to enjoy the Dell plasma TV, the hardwood floors, or the clock/radio with the iPod dock. I had just enough time to check-in and head to the meet-up at Pink’s.
Getting from the Pavilion to Pink's Hot Dogs (Prince Myshkin, and Hold the Relish) was no problem. Finding parking, (if you aren't driving a 1947 Packard) is nearly impossible. Meters on La Brea are limited to one hour. Meters on
Harlan & Susan Ellison, Rick (HarlanEllison.Com) Wyatt, Tim (Fingerprints on the Sky), Andrea, and Alexia Richmond emerged from the smoking Grey Ghost as Steve Barber placed orange safety cones front and rear. The party could begin.
The reason friends and fans of Ellison were meeting at Pink’s, located at 709 North La Brea Avenue, were twofold: The documentary, Dreams with Sharp Teeth: A Film about Harlan Ellison, was being shown at the not-too-far-off Writer’s Guild of America Theater and Pink’s Hot Dogs was the setting of Ellison’s short story, Prince Mishkin, and Hold the Relish (Angry Candy). The witty Ellison told quips, made observations, and exchanged repartee with the assembled individuals. One of the stories he told concerned a contestant on the TV game show, The Weakest Link. Harlan and Susan looked on as the host asked the following, “Who acted in the film, Lawrence of Arabia and wrote a syndicated newspaper bridge column for the Chicago Tribune?” The contestant thought about it for a minute and replied, “Naomi Campbell.” The answer was so bizarre, skewed, and off-the-wall it became the source of much humor around the Ellison household as the answer to all questions: “Who was the 37th president? Naomi Campbell! Who discovered the islets of Langerhans? Naomi Campbell! Who is buried in Grant’s tomb? Naomi Campbell!”
We’ve all experienced time compression when we’re enjoying ourselves, but have you ever had that sinking feeling when you suddenly realize the parking meter has raised the red flag, you're heading back to feed the meter, you see the meter man from across La Brea, you inform said meter man that you are returning with funds for said meter, you weigh the value of your life against the flash of traffic and opt for the crosswalk, to run up and start pumping coins into the meter as (you’d swear) the meter man informs you that he's already ticketed you? I've had that feeling and that experience. I've also had the feeling of relief as the meter man is walking back to his car and says, "I didn't ticket you.” I finished pumping nickels, stood there for a second processing what I'd just heard, turned and thanked the meter man profusely.
If the evening with Harlan was to be unruly, the afternoon should be classified as chaotic: A select few pushed the ’47 Packard (aka, The Grey Ghost)
Gloria Pink, daughter-in-law of the original owners, exchanged pleasantries with Harlan and Susan and greeted the rest of us warmly. She had four foot long dogs made stating, “Pink’s Loves Harlan Ellison” spelled out in mustard. After photographer, Steven Barber snapped a shot, the dogs were rearranged to state, “Harlan Ellison Loves Pink’s” and another photo was taken. The group found out later that Gloria Pink had been kind enough to host the event. When you hang with Harlan, you get the singular pleasure of meeting mensches. Gloria Pink is a mensch!
photographer, M. Christine Valada and her husband, Len Wein (Swamp Thing) arrived, ordered food, and joined the group. Wein and Ellison traded quips between bites of hot dogs that have a certain snap to them. The jocularity continued until It was time to head for the Writers Guild of America Theater. Just how unruly could the evening get?
The event, after the event, Rick Wyatt and the Richmond's entrust me with their lives, the deer that got out of the road, Sunny California, HA!, the breakfast that didn't happen, the road ahead, the most I’ve spent for gas (to date), etc.