Monday, January 30, 2012

HE Himself

I first photographed Harlan Ellison about 10 years before we were actually introduced. It was at the World Science Fiction Convention in Boston in 1980. I had started shooting for the Washington Post only a few months earlier and I ran into the illustrious Michael Dirda who was planning an article for the Sunday book supplement. We hooked up and the WP ran several of my photographs, including one I got of Harlan talking to a small group of people after his full-house performance.

I've seen Harlan in action many times since then, usually from a much better vantage point because we've been close friends ever since I photographed him in 1989 and the photograph rather knocked his socks off.  You can find it--illegally and in poor resolution--on the Internet when you do a Google Pictures search under his name. It is usually among the first that come up. He's sitting on the back of a chair in strong directional lighting. Somebody scanned it from the back of the Harlan Ellison Hornbook. I had a dispute with the LA Times when they illegally used it one day, proving the value of an actual copyright registration when you want a quick resolution to copyright infringement.
Harlan hasn't been doing too many appearances lately, but he recently did two evenings at the Cinefamily/Silent Movie Theatre in Los Angeles for an SRO crowd. One was in November, the other was last week. Screenwriter Josh Olson (see, Josh, I spelled it right this time) "interviewed" him, which means Josh occasionally got to say something so Harlan could go off on a tangent. In theory, both nights were about Harlan's work as a television writer, and a very fast research in the projection booth managed to get things up on the screen to illuminate the "discussion." Another theme of the more recent evening was the publication of a spectacular reprint of "The Glass Teat" and "The Other Glass Teat," two collections of television (and, frankly, political) commentary articles Harlan wrote for the Free Press many years ago. Read it. The issues haven't changed.

A bit more than halfway through the evening, there was a commotion as this guy came up to the stage muttering and using his cell phone to record things. For a moment I thought it was a fan with a lack of manners, and then I realized it was Patton Oswalt doing a great turn as a fan with no manners. Patton took over "interviewing" duties from Josh for a bit, and for whatever reason, I can't seem to upload the four minutes I caught on video. Trust me, it was hysterical.

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