We end this excursion through fandoms near
and remote back where we started, in New York State, for a visit with Julius Schwartz.
Julie should really need no introduction, as he has been active in the science fiction
field since the early 1930s, when he and Mort Weisinger published the first "true"
science fiction fan magazine, The Time Traveler. We're happy to report that he
has been talked into writing his autobiography, which will be published under the title
of Memoirs of a Time Traveler. The following was transcribed from an audiotape
kindly provided by Toni Weisskopf, which was recorded during a dinner engagement several
months ago. The first article we've gleaned from that tape is, appropriately enough,
about other friendly dinner engagements...
It's tough for me to do a Robert Bloch story because for a recent World Fantasy Convention, I wrote two pages of reminiscences about Robert Bloch that was printed in the program book. So how about a Robert Bloch story in conjunction with Harlan Ellison...
On one of my trips to California, I didn't have enough time to have dinner separately, one night with Harlan and another with Bloch. Instead, I suggested we all eat together, and we agreed on the Brown Derby.
When I arrived, there was Harlan Ellison and his wife Susan, Robert Bloch and his wife Elly; I was with Lisa Feerick, who was advertising coordinator for Davis Publications. As we were having dinner, this very attractive young lady came in, and as she passed our table, she screamed, "Oh, my god! It's Harlan Ellison and Robert Bloch! And Julie Schwartz, all having dinner together! I'm a reporter from USA Today. I'd like to take your picture and do an article about you!"
As she took our picture, Harlan started snickering, then began laughing louder and louder.
"Harlan, what the hell are you laughing about?" I asked.
He said, "I can't keep it in any longer! That's my secretary; I put her up to it!"
All during that dinner Harlan and Robert Bloch were cracking jokes fast and furiously back and forth at each other. Everytime Bloch told a gag, Harlan did a rim shot, like in vaudeville, on the table. Ba-da-bing. Each time Bob finished, he leaned back and looked up at the ceiling. When I asked him why, he said, "That's how I think up a new gag."
"C'mon," I said, "that's not the reason. You have all your jokes written up there!"
Speaking of dining, Harlan is a self-styled, self-proclaimed gourmet. On one occasion, after the World Science Fiction Convention in Anaheim in 1984, he invited me and about a dozen others to have dinner with him at the Pacific Diner, an expensive restaurant where the diner may select the steak of his choice.
When we got there, Harlan said, "Julie, I'm very knowledgeable about steaks. I'll pick out a well-marbled porterhouse for you."
"No, no," I protested. "I'll pick out my own steak. How about this one?"
"Oh, very good," he approved. "Nice marbling."
So we all sat down at the table, while Harlan kept telling us what a steak perfectionist he is. Then, the waiter came over: "Mr. Ellison, how would you like to have your steak tonight? The usual way?"
And Harlan said, "But of course. Very... well... done."
At that, I jumped to my feet, pointed a finger at him and said, "Mr. Gourmet Ellison, I refuse to have dinner at the same table if you eat your steaks very well done!"
After a while I calmed down and resumed my seat. But as the waiter was about to leave, Harlan pointed a finger at him and said, "Waiter, don't forget the bottle of ketchup." Ba-da-bing.
(P.S.-- Harlan did the inviting, but DC Comics picked up the bill!)
Title illustration by Charlie Williams