Here’s something you don’t see every day.
(1997, from a show of Vanity Fair photos earlier this year at London’s National Portrait Gallery.)
The newest issue of Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor is out, and at fine comic book stores everywhere. And guess what? I and my wife Angie are in it.
Harvey and his wife Joyce Brabner have been friends of ours for about twenty years now. A couple of years ago they were in Chicago again, staying with us, and Harvey writes about this trip in a story called “Chicago Visit,” illustrated by Hilary Barta.
Here are a few frames from the story. We entertained Harvey and Joyce at home, took them to some of our favorite haunts (including our friend John’s hair salon Urban Lift, where Harvey got a haircut, and to our favorite deli, The Bagel, so that they could meet our favorite waitress, Brenda), and went with them to the venues in which Harvey was appearing. We really enjoyed the days we spent together, and it was gratifying to read in the story how much they enjoyed it, too.
If you’ve always wanted to know how Frank Sinatra disposed of his assets, now you can. Find out what Frank left to his wives, his children, his restaurateur pal Jilly Rizzo. Find out who got his sheet music. The will of Francis Albert Sinatra is available for viewing right here.
I have encountered Steve Martin three times in my life now, once each in the 70s, 80s and 90s. I wouldn’t blame him for thinking I’m stalking him very very slowly. But I’m not.
1975. Steve’s career is on the way up. He is appearing at a small club in Evanston, IL called Amazing Grace. This club is so hippie-ish that instead of on chairs, the audience splays out on the floor and on bean-bags! He puts out more energy than I have ever seen a human put out. It is superhuman. It is a question mark whether the walls of the room are structurally sound enough to withstand the ergs of hilarity being generated by his force field.
After the show, we go across the street to an ice cream parlor called Doctor Jazz. (No longer there.) Besides featuring good fountain creations, it has old-fashioned nickelodeon pianos and other mechanical music-playing contraptions. Who is sitting in the booth across from us but Steve Martin! Alone, recovering with a sundae. He is now the opposite of what he was. Just fifteen minutes ago he had been an exploding supernova; now he is a black hole sucking all the energy in the room into his vortex. He seems clinically depressed, as in just-kill-me-now, but it occurs to me that this state of near-death is the only way he can restore himself to something approaching equilibrium after that performance. We leave him alone, as does everyone else in the place. It is what he needs, and it is the least we can do for him after what he has done for us.
1984. Upper West Side, Columbus Avenue, New York. A bar called The Museum Café (because of its proximity to the Museum of Natural History.) The cell phone has yet to be invented, so my wife is using the bar’s pay phone. I sit at the bar. Glancing over, I see that Steve Martin is waiting right behind her to use the phone. My wife is unaware of this. I try to be inconspicuous, but I think my wife needs to know this, not because I think she needs to yield the phone to a celebrity, but because if we leave the bar without her ever realizing Steve Martin was standing right behind her, she will never forgive me. I go over and, as surreptitiously as possible given that Steve Martin is standing 14 inches away, whisper in her ear, “Steve Martin is standing right behind you.” She replies, out loud, “I don’t care who’s standing behind me, I’m finishing this conversation.”
1998. The Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. I am in Los Angeles to shoot a commercial with my partner. We meet for breakfast in the hotel’s dining room. I face my partner at a table for two. Just behind my partner is another table for two, and one of the people at it is Steve Martin. As luck would have it, he is sitting so as to face me directly, and I him. The result is that I cannot look at my partner without also looking at Steve Martin, but I know that this is bad form and Steve Martin does not especially want to be looked at, so I do my best not to, but it is impossible. And because of the layout, Steve Martin is no more able to look at his tablemate without looking at me than I am able to avoid looking at him. I sense that Steve Martin recognizes me. He doesn’t know why, but he knows he’s seen me somewhere before. He probably thinks I’m someone he’s met in the movie business. Or else, he’s going to come over and say, “I don’t know who you are, but stop following me!” Or else, with a little more time, he’ll sit there and it will dawn on him, “Hey, there’s that guy who didn’t bother me in the ice cream parlor, and who ten years ago told his wife I was standing behind her at the pay phone!” But it is not to be. Whoopi Goldberg comes into the room and hugs him before going to her table. His concentration is broken.
I am looking forward to meeting Steve Martin again sometime in this decade. The fourth time is going to be the charm. Unless he has me arrested.
On Tuesday, The MacArthur Foundation named this year’s 24 recipients of its so-called “genius grants.” (To its credit, the Foundation doesn’t actually call them “genius grants”; everybody else does.) These are no-strings-attached fellowships of $100,000 a year for five years, to allow the 24 lucky stiffs to pursue their muses unfettered by foul economic necessity.
There are only 363 shopping days left until next year’s grants are announced, so I don’t think it’s too early to let the fine folks at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation know that I am here.
Here are the criteria, as stated on the MacArthur Foundation’s FAQ page: “The selection decisions focus primarily on exceptional creativity, as demonstrated through a track record of significant achievement, and manifest promise for important future advances.”
Creativity? I lovingly hand-create each of these blog posts from scratch, with Old World care. And I have created over 45 of them so far—not counting this one! As for the “promise for important future advances,” who knows what I’ll blog about next? The next post I write could lead the way to a renewable energy source for our children and our children’s children.
The FAQ goes on: “Emphasis is placed on nominees for whom our support would relieve limitations that inhibit them from pursuing their most innovative ideas.”
Since I have created 45 blog posts so far (not counting this one!) absent the slightest promise of financial remuneration, the mind reels (doesn’t it? mine does) at what I could accomplish with half a million dollars’ worth of inspiration.
Well, one thing I figure is that the MacArthur Foundation has someone on the payroll who’s constantly Googling the words “MacArthur Foundation” to see what turns up. With five mentions of “MacArthur Foundation” in this post so far (not counting this one!), I figure I stand a pretty good chance of turning up in the search.
It doesn’t take a genius to play this game. But it helps. (Hint, hint.)
My niece’s boyfriend is involved in the world of internet advertising, and knows all about blogs and getting “hits” on blogs and such, so I picked his brain to find out how to make my blog world-famous. He said, “Have words on your blog that match the search terms people type most.” So now I do.
I’ll do anything to build traffic on my blog–I’m such a whore. Hey, now the word “whore” is on my blog; I’ll snag everyone who’s doing a search on that term, too. This is easy!