Las Vegas isn't as fucking great as it's cracked up to be- judging by the funky occurances that happened on my last trip. Of what I had hoped it to be was a combination of a massive gambling spree to get myself ahead of the game before the IRS comes closing in on me for the kill and a yearly family reunion with my dad, brother, and my little niece Laura. What it actually turned out to be was a out of control Jackson siphoning losing streak even though I came close to hitting two jackpots. On one progressive I had hit three red sevens and got a pay out of $92 and another one this morning at the McCarron Airport netted me $74, but like a dickhead I couldn't leave well enough alone- I had to keep playing until it was time that they called my flight number back to Burbank and I walked away with $12 less than what I originally had my pocket. I'm never going to fucking learn.
On late Sunday, while my brother and my niece and I got lost in a rented car on the 215 to visit his mother (who btw used to be a restaurant critic for The Las Vegas Review) I started to feel a little weary- hoping it was some kind of allergy attack kicking in started to worsen on Monday morning and then presto, it turned out to be a full blown flu on Tuesday morning. I had to call in my work place in Burbank and tell them that there was no way in hell I was going to make it in by Wednesday morning and that I was going to have to postpone my flight back by another day. Fucking Southwest Airlines charged me an additional $65 to my credit card. The trip was a total financial disaster- but then, aren't all trips to Vegas in a vain attempt to get yourself out of fiscal hot water supposed to self destruct in your face?
On top of that, my six old niece looks to me as if I'm Freddy from Nightmare on Elms Street- she won't say anything to me when I'm in the same room with her and IF I'm in the same room with her- her first reaction is run screaming up the stairs to her guest bedroom at my dad's house. I've heard that I have a reputation of being a Scary Cary, but this is goddamn ridicious. I don't know what the heck I've done to piss in her Trix cereal, even though everytime I come out to see her I shower her with gifts from the studio lot. I can't figure it out. I really suck at child behavioral science - so that's probably why I don't have any.
AND ON TOP of everything else- I'm calling Obi Wan Danobi and checking out Heidi MacDonald's blog on my dad's computer (which doesn't allow me to send e-mail out) at the same time and the news from both of these sources sends me off on another spell of respiratory spastic coughing fits concerning Golden Apple Comics founder, Bill Liebowitz dead of a heart attack at the age of 63.
I was completely and utterly flabbergasted. I could hardly believe my eyes - If the presidental campaign were to really pull a October surprise (i.e. Kerry practically raising Clinton from the dead in helping to secure votes or Georgie girl W actually lowering his IQ another 10 points?) then the comic book industry's version really slapped us with a whammy this time around.
All that is going through my head right now is how is the city of Los Angeles is going to cope with the passing of it's first and only superstar of comic book retailers? I mean, this gentle giant of a guy was a pioneer in the development of what a comic book store should aspire to in areas of customer service, sharp looking continuously stocked shelves, great decor, and a over all safe shopping environment. Everytime I found myself stepping foot in Bill's store on Melrose Ave - it was if you'd walked into a party and Bill was always the guy who was serving up the trays of hors d'oeuvres. That store was Bill's party planet where you could find yourself mingling with some of the Hollywood power broker elite and not even know it! I remember just a little over a year ago, I was in the store to check out a rumor that my first issue of the Deposit Man and the Last Great Gate of Mortality was being carried in his store. I couldn't believe it because my distributor, FM International said that they only sold a handful of copies! Well guess who bought some of them up? That's right, Bill did. And whilst I was gaping in awe at seeing five copies of my book on his shelf in the independent area- Bill comes out of nowhere and makes an announcement that a special guest has arrived to sign some posters of a movie that he will be starring in that will be released early next summer. And emerging from a black curtain in the back of the store comes Ron Perlman who tells everyone (and there weren't that many people loitering at the store at this late Saturday afternoon hour) that he will be flying out to Prague next week to being lensing Hellboy and in order to celebrate he wanted to come down to sign some Dark Horse promo posters that were idly lying around. I thought that was pretty neat of Bill to allow something that spontaneous to just happen in his store with no warning or no fanfare. Everyday at Golden Apple could be a adventure in LA LA Land or at least flirtatious glance from porn stars to actress who liked to schmooze around the place- such as Chase Masterson or Hyapatia Lee. I even spotted John Singleton checking out some old 70's Jack Kirby Black Panthers once just shortly after he achieved his fame from making Boyz in the Hood. Scores of signings that Bill would arrange have been legendary and have been well organized- there have been so many, that I couldn't even begin to remember them all. Harlan Ellison's release of his Dream Corridor series for Dark Horse was the first time I ever mustered up the courage to actually saying something to the guy other than blowing it off everytime I saw him at a San Diego Comic Book Convention. There's a score of others who probably haven't done a signing in the states other than Bill's store, at least that I know of, of which Warren Ellis and Grant Morrison come immediately to mind and that's probably because of Bill's brilliant approach to comic book marketing has spread so fast and so vast across the globe that it's inspired other people in other countries to follow suit in modeling stores just the way that Bill diagramed them to be.
Besides all the laudations and commendations from all honors bestowed from the comic book industry, I like to remember Bill the best for, along with his business partner and wife Sharon, to be the finest community servants. Bill and Sharon have at countless times volunteered in a tireless effort to get the word out on the value of reading comic books and to motivate children to read by picking up a comic book - particularly the Archies or the Simpsons line of titles. Their presence was always welcome at all the Teen Age Comic Festivals that I've helped Eugene Mandelcorn organize at the Los Angeles Central Library. They've always had a couple of booths set up at the Los Angeles Festival of Books in the young readers area that takes place every spring on the UCLA campus that was always well attended by talent supplied by Bongo Comics. From what Obi-Wan Danobi describes, Bill was also running a little DJ company on the side, supplying music and doing yo-yo tricks for three barmitzvahs that his DragonLady wife had dragged him off to (Bill's accountant just happens to have his office right next door to Obi-Dan's insurance office- that's the reason why they always got invited) these shindigs- but I understand that Bill always volunteered his time - because he was a just that kind of all around community teddy bear. And that about sums it up for the man- a big fluffy cigar chomping gentle giant of a teddy bear that looked and talked like a New Jersey mafiaoso- Tony Soprano definitely had nothing on him. Personally, I think Bill's lovable girth may have given David Chase the inspiration for his mob boss in the Sopranos.I wouldn't be at all surprised
Anyway, I'm going to miss all those swell radical events that Bill would help to organize to make the Los Angeles area a comic book industry melting pot. The LA Weekly has for the past few years or so has done a issue at the beginning of each year that is devoted to the comic book art form and Bill will always throw a bash at the store surrounding that theme....
...y'know what the heck am I saying?
Every week, Bill was always celebrating some monumental event that fluctuated within the art form, no matter how big or minuscule- it didn't matter- just as long as Bill got it media exposure, he got the job done.
What? Your book got a Movie deal out of it because of exposure in my store?
Next. Whose turn is it now?
What can I say?
The man ate, drank, and shat comics. It's Simple as that.
Lots of people, including me, are going to miss him...tremendously.
I hope the tradition of the qualities that I listed above will carry on within his family for many generations to come.