By Steve Vertlieb: It was at approximately 3:30 in the morning, on February 1, 2012, that my bedroom telephone rang. It was the nursing home, The Abramson Center For Jewish Life, calling to tell me that my beloved mom Carol Vertlieb has passed away. She was one hundred years old. Had she lived just another four months, she would have turned one hundred and one. That morning’s early telephone call had not been unexpected. They had told me hours earlier that she wasn’t expect to last the night. Still, when the telephone rang, I began crying and gasping for breath … wanting to hold on just a moment longer … before receiving the inevitable news.
I’d spent the afternoon and evening with her, sitting by her bedside and holding her hand. She’d drifted in and out of a coma, and I continually told her that I loved her. She was a fighter. She so wanted to reach one hundred years. On June 2, 2011, my little brother Erwin, and an assortment of remaining nieces and nephews, joined us at The Springhouse Tavern to celebrate her milestone. She was the queen of the ball, alive … alert … enthusiastic, and heartily entertaining her coterie of well wishers and admirers.
She’d fought depression and grief when my father, Charles Vertlieb, died of a sudden heart attack in July 1987, whilst she was away handling their finances at the bank. She returned home only to find a vacant apartment. They told her that “Charley was gone.” She didn’t understand what they were telling her, and then the realization hit her. He had done everything for her, and now he was gone. After half a century with her cherished husband and life mate, she was alone.
With courage and the will to go on, she picked herself up by her boot straps and began to learn everything financially related that she need to know in order to continue living and surviving as a strong single woman. She moved into an assisted living facility, and remained fiercely independent. My mom was shy and deeply sensitive. She always sensed when any of the other widows had attitudes of superiority, and acted like they were somehow better than her. I comforted her during numerous such moments when she lowered her gaze and began to sob, believing that somehow she wasn’t good enough.
I told her “Mommy, you’re better than they are. Look at what you’ve accomplished on your own.” She had a deeply seeded inferiority complex, inherited from her own immigrant mother, never feeling that she was good enough … and yet, she had more heart and soul than I any woman that I’ve ever known. Her father was a Cantor, traveling throughout the United States and Canada to earn a living wherever he could. Times were difficult, and her family struggled to keep their heads above water.
It was during one such sojourn in Canada that she was born.
She loved to laugh, and was telling jokes right up until the end. She felt eternally youthful, and always wanted to be around younger people. They adored her, and marveled at her strength and enthusiasm. While in the nursing home, she’d complain to me that her neighbors seemed lethargic and old. I said “Mom, you’re nearly one hundred years of age. You’re older than many of your friends here.” “Yes,” she said, “but I want to live.” And live, she did.
Slipping in and out of consciousness on her final day of life, I sat by her bedside and faithfully held onto her hand. She awoke briefly, and turned her sweet head toward me. Her eyes brightened, and she smiled at me one last time. She said “I love you, Son.” I said “I love you too, Mommy.” Those were the last words we ever spoke to one another. She left us several hours later. As I remember her this morning, I think of her with deep love, respect, and everlasting admiration. She’s cooking for my dad now in Heaven and, on Fridays, she’s likely lighting the Sabbath candles.
[Editor’s Note: A week ago I met Steve and his brother Erwin for lunch. Instead of heading home the next morning, it turns out Steve collapsed at a farewell dinner that night. Fortunately, Steve is back to writing and able to tell all of us what happened.]
By Steve Vertlieb: Sooooooooo, I’ve been back from my vacation in Los Angeles for about a week, but have posted very little since my return … and there is a reason for my silence. My trip was decidedly a mixed bag of disappointments and delights … the latter category encompassing delicious encounters with Nick Meyer, Lee and Elisa Holdridge, Mark McKenzie, Pat and Shirley Russ, Les and Ania Zador, Gregg Nestor, Mike Glyer, and Paul Day Clemens.
I was feeling frail and somewhat fragile in the blazing 105 degree California sun, but still feeling relatively fine by the last day of the trip on Wednesday, September 8th. We were planning on getting together with some friends in the early evening for a farewell dinner celebration.
By three in the afternoon I began experiencing a crushing, near totally debilitating sense of deep, hopeless despair and depression. I was perspiring profusely, and suffering both hot and cold sweats. Our dinner wasn’t until six in the evening, and return flight home not until six o’clock the following morning, and so I continued with my plans for that evening.
By the time that we arrived at Micelli’s Italian Restaurant in Studio City, I had rallied somewhat and was feeling better. The air conditioning at the restaurant had broken down, and so the sweltering heat from outside began permeating the dining area within the restaurant. I began feeling light headed, and had difficulty focusing on the conversation of our friends. It soon became difficult to speak, and I merely stared at my dinner, unable to lift my fork. My companions were speaking to me, but I found myself unable to concentrate on the conversation or respond to it. One of my friends became alarmed and said that “there’s something wrong with Steve.”
Before I realized it, tables and chairs were being moved and I felt the hands of paramedics lifting me to the floor of the restaurant. Les was attempting to perform CPR on me, and I was drifting off into unconciousness. I awoke to find myself in an ambulance with assorted paramedics pounding my chest, while attempting to verbally communicate with me. I was aware of their presence, but found myself unable to speak.
I was wheeled into a section of the hospital emergency room and given a bed. For the next four or five hours, I was probed, prodded, given injections, and a Cat Scan. By this time I had become aware of my surroundings and was conversing with my brother Erwin who was the only visitor permitted to stay with me. I must have begun recuperating because I starting assaulting Erwin with a persistent barrage of bad jokes and dreadful one liners.
While no definitive diagnosis was offered by my doctors, the assumption was that my collapse was caused by a variety of possible precipitating causes. These may have included severe heat stroke, anxiety over my lack of rest and impending early morning departure from California, as well as a potentially severe seizure.
I was forced to delay my return home to Philadelphia by twenty four hours and, at the insistence of my adoring brother Erwin, Shelly and I were accompanied home by cherished sibling. Erwin stayed with me here at my apartment for nearly a week in order to make certain that I had indeed returned to normal. His caring and concern for me remains deeply moving. He returned home to Los Angeles, and to his own life, early this morning.
In the week since my attack, I have felt significantly weakened and more than a little fragile. I have had little energy either to check my e-mail or post here on Facebook. I must schedule a follow up appointment with my neurologist shortly. I’m feeling better now and more myself physically. However, I continue to feel the threat of yet another deep, debilitating depression lurking ever menacingly in the deeper recesses, and proverbial shadows of my mind. It’s as though I were Henry Jekyll, fearing a final and total consumption of reason by Edward Hyde. I’m fighting this sense of encroaching hopelessness and poverty of joy as best I can … but I cannot help feeling that, should this despair grasp my heart once more, I’ll become lost to an emotionally vegetative existence. I feel like I’m walking a tightrope.
As a result of the emotional toll of my five weeks of hospitalization this year, I’ve begun bi-weekly telephone consultations with a psychologist. This week’s session was particularly meaningful.
(1) FILER SUMMIT MEETING. I got to meet Steve Vertlieb and his brother Erwin for the first time today! Steve was visiting from the East Coast. His earliest contributions to File 770 date to 2009. I’m glad we finally got together.
(2) GILLER PRIZE. The 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist was released September 6. The Prize is a celebration of Canadian literary talent. There are two works of genre interest:
Kim Fu’s story collection Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century
(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Nicholas Kaufmann and Naseem Jamnia in-person at the KGB Bar on Wednesday, September 14 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
Nicholas Kaufmann is a Bram Stoker Award-nominated, Thriller Award-nominated, Shirley Jackson Award-nominated, and Dragon Award-nominated author. He’s written numerous works of horror and fantasy, including the bestsellers 100 Fathoms Below(written with Steven L. Kent) and The Hungry Earth. His short fiction has appeared in Cemetery Dance, Black Static, Nightmare Magazine, Interzone, and others. In addition to his own original work, he has written for such properties as Zombies vs. Robots, The Rocketeer, and Warhammer. He and his wife Alexa live in Brooklyn, NY.
Naseem Jamnia is the author of The Bruising of Qilwa (Tachyon Publications), which introduces their queernormative, Persian-inspired world. Their work has appeared in The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, The Writer’s Chronicle, The Rumpus, and other venues. They’ve also received fellowships from Lambda Literary, Bitch Media, and Otherwise, and were named the inaugural Samuel R. Delany fellow. A Persian-Chicagoan, Naseem now lives in Reno with their husband, dog, and two cats.
At the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs) on September 14 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
(4) 3DOA. Austin McConnell looks at the 2004 Indian film Aabra Ka Daabra, a Harry Potter imitation that featured 3D gimmicks, dancing, and some incredibly intrusive product placements and bombed spectacularly.“Why Bollywood’s Harry Potter Was A Box Office Bomb”.
(5) STRAUB’S DAUGHTER PAYS TRIBUTE. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Emma Straub wrote about her father on Twitter. Includes never-before-seen by us photos. Thread starts here.
Emma Straub will be one of the many writers at the Brooklyn Book Festival 2022 to be held from September 25 through October 3. She and A. M. Holmes will be on the “Alternative Histories” panel on October 2.
(6) PHILLIP MANN (1942-2022). New Zealand sff author Phillip Mann died September 1. His first science fiction novel, The Eye of the Queen appeared in 1982. His novel The Disestablishment of Paradise was a 2014 finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award and John W. Campbell Memorial Award.
Her wrote four novels in the A Land Fit for Heroes series, and two in the Gardener series.
He celebrated his 80th birthday last month at the launch of his most recent novel Chevalier & Gawayn: The Ballad of the Dreamer with family, friends, colleagues and former students.
He won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for services to science fiction, fantasy and horror in 2010. In 2017, he was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to theatre and literature.
The Star Wars video universe is vast and full of series that likely you didn’t know existed. Such is the case with the animated Star Wars Ewoks series that lasted but two years thirty-seven years ago. Panned by many critics at the time as excessively cute, and well it was, it was a children’s show after all.
The press kit at the time described it thusly: “A stand-alone collection of stories, Star Wars Ewoks focuses on the fur-balls from Return of the Jedi and their many misadventures into the unknown, the magical and downright absurd. So is the life of an Ewok.”
It was released the same time as Star Wars Droids which I think was better series but – alas — lasted but a single season.
It featured the characters introduced in Return of the Jedi (yes, I won’t used the revisionist titles later introduced) and further known through Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure and its sequel Ewoks: The Battle for Endor.
I was surprised to discover Paul Dini along with Bob Carrau were involved in this project and Star Wars Droids was his only work in this universe. It had an extensive voice cast with Cree Summer who I recognize from Batman: The Animated Series work being the only one knew.
Critics either were hostile or just didn’t like it. Syfy thought it was a market scheme to sell toys, toys and more toys. Well if it was meant to do that it failed as the ratings were poor and it was cancelled after two seasons. Oh, and ironically it was later broadcast in reruns on Sci-Fi Channel’s Cartoon Quest where it was used to sell product.
Was it any good? Really? You’re asking me? I’m not the right person to ask that but yes, I’ll say that they did a reasonable job with storytelling here.
It lasted two seasons and twenty-six episodes. It is now on Disney + as is all is all such material.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born September 7, 1795 — John William Polidori. His most remembered work was “The Vampyre”, the first modern vampire story published in 1819. Although originally and erroneously accredited to Lord Byron, both Byron and Polidori affirmed that the story was his. Because of this work, he is credited by several as the creator of the vampire genre of fantasy fiction. (Died 1821.)
Born September 7, 1937 — John Phillip Law. He’s probably best remembered as the blind angel Pygar in the cult film Barbarella which featured Jane Fonda in that bikini. He shows up in Tarzan, the Ape Man as Harry Holt, and he’s in a South African SF film, Space Mutiny, as Flight Commander Elijah Kalgan, that’s set on a generation ship. Look actual SF! (Died 2008.)
Born September 7, 1955 — Mira Furlan. Another one who died far, far too young. She’s best known for her role as the Minbari Ambassador Delenn on the entire run of Babylon 5, and also as Danielle Rousseau on Lost. She’s reunited with Bill Mumy and Bruce Boxleitner at least briefly in Marc Zicree’s Space Command. She had a recurring role as The Traveller in Just Add Magic YA series. (Died 2021.)
Born September 7, 1960 — Christopher Villiers, 62. He was Professor Moorhouse in “Mummy on the Orient Express”, a Twelfth Doctor story. It’s one of the better tales of the very uneven Capaldi run. He’s also Sir Kay in First Knight and is an unnamed officer in From Time to Time which based on Lucy M. Boston’s The Chimneys of Green Knowe.
Born September 7, 1966 — Toby Jones, 56. He appeared in “Amy’s Choice”, an Eleventh Doctor story, as the Dream Lord. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, he voiced Dobby the house elf. And in Finding Neverland, Mr. Smee, Captain Hook’s bo’sun. Guess what work that film was based on. Finally, I’ll note that he was — using motion capture — Aristides Silk in The Adventures of Tintin.
Born September 7, 1973 — Alex Kurtzman, 49. Ok, a number of sites claim he destroyed Trek. Why the hatred for him? Mind you I’m more interested that he and Roberto Orci created the superb Fringe series, and that alone redeems them for me. Fringe is streaming now on Amazon Prime and HBO Max.
Born September 7, 1974 — Noah Huntley, 48. He has appeared in films such as 28 Days Later, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (excellent film), Snow White and the Huntsman (a truly great film), Event Horizon (surely you’ve something else to do) and Dracula Untold (woo, not so great). He’s Gawain in The Mists of Avalon series (ok, so he’s got a truly mixed track record) and shows up as Donovan Osborn in the CW series Pandora which, I’m not kidding, got a Rotten Tomatoes zero percent approval rating, a phenomenal thing to do. Ouch.
Born September 7, 1993 — Taylor Gray, 29. He’s best known for voicing Ezra Bridger on the animated Star Wars Rebels which I highly recommend if you’re into Star Wars at all as it’s most excellent. He also played Friz Freleng in Walt Before Mickey.
Text: I still think it’s a good idea that we insisted that climate projects shouldn’t decrease the level of jobs and welfare.
(10) FANTASTIC FOUR. This month, Ross returns to the Marvel comics universe with Fantastic Four: Full Circle, a long-awaited passion project. Publishers Weekly interviewed him about it: “Alex Ross Comes Full Circle”.
Why was it important for you to be the artist as well as the writer for this work?
For one main reason: Jack Kirby. Jack plotted his comics and did not work from full scripts for the majority of his career, but he wasn’t able to get that autonomy of single-creator status on the Fantastic Four because he did develop it with Stan Lee and it became identified with Stan’s style of voice. He yearned to take the reins of everything, and it didn’t happen on that book, despite the fact that the creative contribution he gave to it was so extensive and unfortunately underappreciated. It’s his work history and example that drove me to make sure that the work I do here and all storytelling I personally draw in the future benefits from his experience. I will still collaborate with others, but my fully drawn works need to be just me so there is no confusion as to whom to attribute the effort.
Astronaut cancer risk needs careful monitoring, concludes a study that stored spaceflyer blood for 20 years.
All fourteen astronauts in the study, from NASA’s space shuttle program, had DNA mutations in blood-forming stem cells, a Nature Communications Biology study(opens in new tab) Aug. 31 concluded. The mutations, though unusually high considering the astronauts’ age, was below a key threshold of concern, however.
While the study is unique for keeping astronaut blood around for so long, the results are not show-stopping. Rather, the researchers suggest that astronauts should be subject to periodic blood screening to keep an eye on possible mutations. (And it should be considered in context; another 2019 study, for example, found that astronauts are not dying from cancer due to ionizing space radiation.)…
Scientists have identified a new species of long-extinct otter in Ethiopia that was the size of a modern lion. Weighing an estimated 200 kilograms, or 440 pounds, it is the largest otter ever described; it would have rubbed elbows, and possibly competed for food, with our much smaller ancestors when it lived alongside them 3.5 million to 2.5 million years ago. A paper describing the animal just appeared in the French scientific journal Comptes Rendus Palevol.
“The peculiar thing, in addition to its massive size, is that [isotopes] in its teeth suggest it was not aquatic, like all modern otters,” said study coauthor Kevin Uno, a geochemist at the Columbia Climate School’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “We found it had a diet of terrestrial animals, also differing from modern otters.”
Cockroach cyborgs are not a new idea. Back in 2012, researchers at North Carolina State University were experimenting with Madagascar hissing cockroaches and wireless backpacks, showing the critters could be remotely controlled to walk along a track….
(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Cult of the Lamb,” Fandom Games says this “well-crafted Indy” begins with the premise: what happens if cuddly animal characters were bloodthirsty advocated of evil? The characters are “adorable idiots you can manipulate” So in one game you can have huggable characters and grisly human sacrifice.
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Lise Andreasen, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]
By Steve Vertlieb: Here is, perhaps, the most exciting moment of my pilgrimage to Los Angeles and Hollywood, California two years ago. I’ve been a huge fan of character actor Nehemiah Persoff for some sixty years. We’d begun a degree of correspondence in May, 2019. I was watching an episode of tv’s The Untouchables during a televised weekend retrospective in the late Spring and there, of course, was the great Nehemiah appearing as a guest in three separate episodes of the classic television series.
I began to wonder whatever became of this marvelous actor and so, before retiring for the evening, I started to research Mr. Persoff’s whereabouts on my computer. As luck would have it, I found him and wrote him a rather hasty letter of personal and lifelong admiration. To my shock and utter astonishment, he responded within five minutes.
I told him that I was coming West in a few months, and wondered if there was even the most remote possibility that I could visit him, and personally pay my respects. Born in Palestine (now Jerusalem) on August 2, 1919, this gifted actor was then about to turn one hundred years old.
Mr. Persoff generously consented to a visit and so, on Wednesday, August 28, 2019, my brother Erwin and I commenced our long drive to his home. We spent two hours at the feet of this remarkable human being, and shared a virtual Master Class on the art and history of screen acting. He spoke reverently of working with Marlon Brando at The Actor’s Studio, and in On The Waterfront, as well as studying with Elia Kazan in the late nineteen forties.
When Billy Wilder was casting Some Like It Hot, he’d chosen Edward G. Robinson to play Little Bonaparte, opposite George Raft and Pat O’Brien. When the two had a falling out, however, someone suggested Nehemiah Persoff for the part. The rest, as “Some People Say,” is screen history. His hilariously venomous tirades against George Raft provide the classic comedy with some of its most iconic moments.
When Barbra Streisand sang the moving “Papa, Can You Hear Me” in Yentl, she was singing to Nehemiah Persoff in a performance that, I’d like to believe, most effortlessly captured this remarkable actor’s gentle soul. When Ms. Streisand was honored with a Life Achievement Award by The American Film Institute, Nehemiah Persoff rose memorably from his table, smiled sweetly at the actress, and said “Barbara, you’re just like a daughter to me … You never phone … You never write.” It was an adorable moment between these two stars from vastly different generations.
Mr. Persoff occupied countless memorable characterizations throughout the nineteen fifties, sixties, seventies, and eighties on television anthology series, most notably on both The Untouchables, and Naked City. He also voiced the lovely dialogue between father and son as “Papa Mousekewitz” in the beloved animated feature An American Tail in 1986.
However, it was his sensitive performance as Vladis Dvorovoi in an episode from the first season of Route 66, entitled “Incident On A Bridge,” that has become my favorite performance by the actor during a storied lifetime of fabled big and small screen appearances. Playing a troubled laborer who falls in love with Lois Smith, as a mute serving girl, provided this pioneering dramatic series with some of its most memorable moments in a haunting, nearly tragic variation of the classic “Beauty and the Beast” fantasy.
I shall remain forever grateful to have spent such joyous hours with this blessed soul … and for the gift of your friendship, dearest Nehemiah, I can only express my heartfelt gratitude. Wishing you a joyous, loving, and healthy 102nd Birthday. May God Bless and Keep You Safe.
is, perhaps, the most exciting moment of my recent pilgrimage to Los Angeles
and Hollywood, California. I’ve been a huge fan of character actor Nehemiah
Persoff for some sixty years. We’d begun a degree of correspondence in May
2019. I was watching an episode of tv’s The Untouchables during a
televised weekend retrospective in the late Spring and there, of course, was
the great Nehemiah appearing as a guest in three separate episodes of the
classic television series.
began to wonder whatever became of this marvelous actor and so, before retiring
for the evening, I started to research Mr. Persoff’s whereabouts on my
computer. As luck would have it, I found him and wrote him a rather hasty
letter of personal and lifelong admiration. To my shock and utter astonishment,
he responded within five minutes.
told him that I was coming West in a few months, and wondered if there was even
the most remote possibility that I could personally pay my respects. Born in
Palestine (now Jerusalem) on August 2nd, 1919, this gifted actor was about to
turn one hundred years old.
Persoff generously consented to a visit and so, on Wednesday, August 28, 2019,
my brother Erwin and I commenced our long drive to his home. We spent two hours
at the feet of this remarkable human being, and shared a virtual Master Class
on the art and history of screen acting. He spoke reverently of working with
Marlon Brando at The Actor’s Studio, and in On The Waterfront, as well
as studying with Elia Kazan in the late nineteen forties.
Billy Wilder was casting Some Like It Hot, he’d chosen Edward G.
Robinson to play Little Bonaparte, opposite George Raft and Pat O’Brien. When
the two had a falling out, however, someone suggested Nehemiah Persoff for the
part. The rest, as they, is history. When Barbra Streisand sang the moving
“Papa, Can You Hear Me” in Yentl, she was singing to Nehemiah
Persoff in a performance that, I’d like to believe, most effortlessly captured
this remarkable actor’s gentle soul.
shall remain forever grateful to have spent such joyous hours with this blessed
soul … and for the gift of your friendship, dearest Nehemiah, I can only
express my heartfelt gratitude. God Bless and Keep You.
By Steve Vertlieb: It was fifty years ago this month that I interviewed William Shatner for the British magazine L’Incroyable Cinema in July1969 (later re-printed in The Monster Times in early 1972) at The Playhouse In The Park. Star Trek was still in the final days of its original network run on NBC.
My old friend Allan Asherman, who joined my little brother Erwin and I for this once in a lifetime meeting with Captain James Tiberius Kirk, astutely commented that I had now met all three of our legendary boyhood “Captains,” which included Jim Kirk (Bill Shatner), Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers (Larry “Buster” Crabbe), and Buzz Corry (Ed Kemmer). It’s funny how an often charmed life can include real life friendships with childhood heroes.
Issue 3 Centre Spread for what may have been the first fanzine interview
ever conducted with William Shatner while “Star Trek” was still
airing over the NBC Television Network.
L’Incroyable Cinema No. 3 Wrap round cover for their special Star Trek
Here is the cover for The Monster
Times 1972 “Star Trek issue featuring my published 1969
interview with William Shatner from L’Incroyable Cinema Magazine.