After Supper

By James H. Burns: I found myself with my eyes growing moist a few times at the new Star Wars.

No spoilers here!

Now, as my old friends know, I’m easily moved.

And although I was among the very first to ever see the very first Star Wars, and — to my absolute shock, according to official Star Wars historian Stephen J. Sansweet, one of the first to ever write about the 1977 film! — well, as I much as I absolutely adored the original upon a first viewing….

(All of which is soon to be noted, in an almost-finished File 770 piece!)

I was never much a fan of the series.

But there’s a surprising great pleasure in seeing old film friends, or simply characters from our past. suddenly alive again, along the digital frames

We’re the first generation that, through the vagaries of mass communications, and better aging among our pop stars, has been able to do this.

And also, maybe not unusual for the holiday season, the passing of friends and other loved ones has been on my mind of late.

We could fill pages here, with the number of friends in fandom who have died over the last several years. In New York, beginning in the late 1970s, there were just too many who died way too young.

Too many of the Creation convention dealers passed away too soon, particularly Brian Malitz, and book dealer Craig Goden, a sweetheart, whose passing occurred within months of his wife…  Folks are still surprised to learn of the death of Jeff Maynard, a few years ago, one of the pioneering Star Trek dealers…  And I was surprised to learn recently that Lunarian, and book-store owner Alan Zimmerman, who worked for me for a while, died a few years back.

Sometimes, no one tells anyone anything.

An entire wing of the 1980s New York comic book convention dealers seemed also to have had an early demise.  And there was a terrible week in the late 1990s when pioneering dealer Mark Macaluso (notable for his work in non-sports cards, with his Fantasy Trading Card Company, and boxes and bags and other supplies for collectors), fan Bob Miller (one of the brightest guys to visit conventions, and a noted Edgar Rice Burroughs fan), and Chris Pepo, a longtime artist who never quite made it big, but did some lovely art and writing, and co-produced Heroic Fantasy magazine; all died from heart related ailments, Out of Nowhere….

A couple of weeks ago, on the subway, I saw the spitting image of my old pal Susan Palermo, another longtime science fiction fan who passed too young, three years ago. This gal looked just the way Susan shone back in her twenties.

And I was reminded of an old fancy of mine: Wouldn’t it be amazing if our loved ones among the dead–or at least our pets! — could visit us, one day, once a year.

If there was any justice to the fates…

I had an actual friend featured in a movie, once.

Around 1980. I became pals with actor/director Tom Baker. No,not the Doctor Who gentleman, but the fella who had starred in films from both Andy Warhol and Norman Mailer, and had been one of the last of the Universal Studios contract players.  We met when I was working on an article, hit it off… And later would go drinking together, occasionally.

Tom passed from some bad heroin, a couple of years later.

And then, Michael Madsen was playing him in Oliver Stone’s Doors movie. Because, it turned out, Tom had also been one of Jim Morrison’s best friends.

I was spooked about seeing the movie. I didn’t want to learn something creepy about my old amigo.

I finally saw it on video, and was delighted. Because my old friend was alive again on the screen.  And I suddenly wished it would be great to see all of my friends who had passed, on film.

It’s a trap, of course, to think too much of what has gone, instead of what can still be.

I was particularly moved by closeups in the new Star Wars movie, of Carrie Fisher, knowing of how much she’s gone through, over the years, and seeing how wonderful it can be, to simply survive.

Jesus, some say, said that heaven is like a wedding.

I’m betting, or hoping anyway, that it’s also like a dinner party.

Or one of those great old convention parties, where the hotel room door is always open.

4 thoughts on “After Supper

  1. Nice piece, James. And very much agreed: this movie was nice — dare I say, human — in a way that Hollywood rarely is these days.

    And such a great point about Fisher … I was just saying to someone the other day that she always felt like the core of the originals. She was the real one. And Abrams has done well to find someone like Ridley who can be that kind of center again. Moreover, it’s nice to see that this time she’ll share center stage.

    Very thoughtful stuff. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Made me tear up a bit, the idea of having a yearly dinner party with our departed. I don’t think that would be too much looking back, plus think about the great dinner parties you get to come back for after your own departure!! 😀

  3. This continues to occupy my thoughts (and I’d love to hear more people’s memories of this kind).

    As someone whose sole experience of conventions was seeing Gene Roddenberry at the old Cleveland Coliseum in 1977 or so (I would have been six or seven), most of the “fans” I’ve known were in my own family.

    When I started thinking about people now gone as relates to sci-fi, the first person who came to mind was my mother, who when growing up wanted to be the first female astronaut and who was the first science fiction fan I knew (we went to see things like Starman and Brother from Another Planet in theaters, for instance).

    Anyhow, she took my younger brother and I and our grandmother, a survivor herself who might have cared less about science fiction than just about anyone else in the world, to see E.T. in 1982. I realize E.T. probably doesn’t have a devoted fandom, but it’s still sci-fi, right? Anyway, we saw it, and afterwards, the family was moved. Even my grandmother was crying (I don’t remember her ever crying at any other movie). We went outside and got in the car and started to drive home, pondering the wonderful thing we’d just seen. The car was quiet and pensive. An occasional sniffle was heard. After a couple of miles, my 7-year-old brother quietly asked, “Where’s Grandma?” We’d left without her.

    So my dinner party would definitely include my grandmother and my mother, who took me to see the original Star Wars in the theater and the first couple of sequels as birthday parties and who concluded as she was dying that “the Force” was what she really believed in. Watching the Force Awakens, I know I was reminded to keep reaching for the light.

    Thanks again, James, for the reminder of what these stories and these activities are really all about. This was a dose of what I needed this week. Happy Holidays!

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