It is great to be a grownup. Really. I wouldn't want to be fourteen again unless I could have a good look at what my future would be, because fourteen was just the worst year ever. But it got better. And sometimes I do wish I could let that geeky fourteen year old know just how much better it would get to be. A while ago, I either tweeted or posted to Facebook that if my fifteen-year-old self could know what my present day life was like, she'd say "way cool" (and, probably, "worth the wait.") The first person who expressed agreement with what I was saying, because he felt the same way about his own life, was my friend Neil Gaiman.
I first met and photographed Neil before he was the super-star author he has become. It was at the 1990 World Fantasy Convention in Chicago. I was in law school, but I was still actively adding photographs to the growing exhibit of professionals in the field of science fiction, fantasy and horror that's traveled farther than I have. So I took the weekend to fly to Chicago to have some time with Len Wein and to add to the photographic collection.
Len introduced me to Neil, who was building a nice career with the Sandman comic books he was writing for DC Comics. Len had been midwife to the influx of British writers at DC, starting with bringing Alan Moore in to write Swamp Thing and following that as Alan's editor on Watchmen. Neil came along a few years after, a fan of Len's from reading his run on Phantom Stranger, and one of the first stars of DC's Vertigo imprint.
In the first portrait of I made of Neil (below, in 1990), he reminded me of a young John Lennon.
Maybe it was just the accent. Love that accent.
The following year, Neil won the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story with the Sandman story "A Midsummer's Night Dream." The rules for the Awards were immediately changed so that a comic book could never win again.
Over the years, we'd meet up at various conventions or signings, and keep in touch by e-mail or social media. Neil morphed into a rock god, requiring body guards and the use of aliases to stay at hotels. Around 1999, I got him to agree to be my master of ceremonies at the 2001 Nebula Awards I produced in Los Angeles, which, by coincidence, was the first one at which he was nominated for a Nebula Award. A year or two later, he won the Nebula Award for best novel for American Gods.
Which brings me to Tuesday night. Neil was in town for an appearance on the 10th Anniversary Tour for American Gods. I ordered four tickets as soon as I heard about it, which got us second row seats. I invited one of the girls from the barn, who had recently gushed about Neil's episode of Dr. Who, "The Doctor's Wife," and who had asked me to pass on to Neil how much she liked it ("best episode of Dr. Who ever!") I figured it would give me the same kind of kick I got from introducing my girlfriend's granddaughter to Stan Lee last year at Comic-con to introduce Jenni to Neil. (It did.)
For reasons unknown, the local organizers of the appearance chose to make all tickets will-call (though, thankfully, they did assign seats so it wasn't festival seating.) This is not the best arrangement when there are some 1800 seats in the theatre, and, as you can see from the photo below, most of them were filled. Ticket distribution started at 5:30, there were people buying tickets at the door, and the show started an hour late.
And we waited. And waited. Susan, who bought her ticket separately from ours, was way in the back of the orchestra. Eventually, Len went back and brought her up to our row where there were a number of empty seats.
We got home in time to tape the segment--too late for us to actually watch that night--but here it is for you to enjoy. Ferguson is quick and amazingly well versed in things literary. He must be one of us because he knew what Cthulu was and who wrote it. The awkward pause at the end of the set is priceless.
Lunch with the Barefoot Contessa
2 months ago