Harlan Ellison, Lunatic Genius, Rambles About Lusting After Sally Field, Wields a Knife, Accosts 'Assholes' at Cinefamily
Paul T. Bradley Demon with a glass temper, Harlan Ellison
Seriously, don't fuck with Harlan Ellison -- he showed up to Cinefamily last night with a knife.
Well, if you're Josh Olson, you can fuck with Harlan Ellison...but only a little bit.
Why shouldn't you fuck with the man who is, by his own admission, "possibly the most contentious person on Earth"? Well, other than the knife, Harlan Ellison has been fucked with before, and you, personally, don't have the chops to handle what will come at you in the aftermath. He's heard it all, he's seen it all, and he'll tell you all about it...if you keep to his good side.
Last night at Cinefamily, in a talk that was originally supposed to focus on recalling Ellison's TV career (one that includes some of the best Outer Limits and Star Trek episodes) the event became a three-hour story session and classic rendition of Jewish theatrical bickering -- oh, and the host, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Olson, fucked with Harlan Ellison.
Paul T. Bradley Harlan Ellison and Josh Olson: head to head
If you don't know who Harlan Ellison is, you might as well just pack it in and stop tweely calling yourself a nerd. He is the uncompromising, venerated patron saint of six decades of geeks, nerds and fanboys. Without Ellison, Patton Oswalt would probably still be a hopeless wedding DJ, there would be no Terminator, and the world would be 1,700 (mostly brilliant) short stories, screenplays, teleplays and novels lighter. And, really, that's just scratching the surface. Go ahead, read about in on Wikipedia, or better yet, buy several of his books. You remember what those are, right?
The 2,000+ people tuning in via livestream, and the hundred or so people in house -- whom Ellison kept sarcastically calling "these assholes" -- will all surely agree that there's no shortage of ways to talk about how utterly mindblowing last night's talk was. With his appearances being rare and Ellison being, well, outspoken, the night went all sorts of crazy places. Actually, calling him outspoken is like calling the Sahara a sandbox. From the start, Olson pointed out, "You know there's two thousand people watching this on the internet." Without missing a beat, Ellison quipped back, "Fuck the people on the internet...and the eel they slithered in on."
With Olson's first few questions spawning bouts of Ellison's old school raconteurism that stray well beyond the evening's stated topic, everyone began to realize that there was an igloo's chance in Ougadougou that they were getting out of there before midnight. Not that anyone minded. Most of his stories can't be done justice in less than a thousand words.
Some of them began began like, "True story, Philadelphia, 1952..." and most ended like, "Christ, I broke the pelvis of ABC network continuity -- the censor! I dropped a model of the Sea View on him!"
"So, anyways, back to TV..." Olson said frequently, trying to corral the uncorrallable Ellison back to the topic at hand.
Paul T. Bradley Harlan expression #1 Paul T. Bradley Harlan expression #2 Paul T. Bradley Harlan expression #3
On topic or no, with endless varieties of mugging expressions and carefully crafted contraposto postures, Ellison's energy kept the crowd riveted as he ambled through story after story. If a name was mentioned, Harlan had a story. If a show came up, Harlan had a story. If an out of place noise happened, Harlan had a story. The man has stories, and all of them are awesome. Even if his memory failed on a specific detail, he had his lovely wife and dozens of other friends/plants in the audience to help him out (including Wolverine creator Len Wein). "Honey, where did I used to go to the dentist?" he asks, trying to tell us where Gloria Swanson's house used to be (oddly enough it was on Sunset Boulevard).
The night took an awkward turn at one point, when, while Ellison was rather harshly bickering with his wife, she came to the stage and slapped his foot. A heckler screamed, "Hit him again!" Ellison bounded from the stage, asking who would dare anonymously engage him, and started stalking Cinefamily's aisles, taunting the heckler. Fortunately, he eventually returned to his seat and recovered with his trademark wit.