If He’s Harlan, Let Him Go

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The Writers Guild Foundation, on April 19, saluted the life and career of a world-class crank. Harlan Ellison has won a galaxy of awards, Hugo, Nebula, Writers Guild, Edgar Allen Poe, as well as Emmy and Grammy nominations, for his science fiction, fantasy, horror and mystery writing.

Foundation Executive Director Angela Kirgo began the evening at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills by recalling her husband George’s biographical summary: “Characters like Harlan Ellison rarely come this way. This is a fact I sometimes contemplate with great relief.”

A work-in-progress DVD biography of Ellison began with his friend Robin Williams asking him true or false questions. Ellison confirmed it was true he leaped at an ABC exec who messed up a script of his for Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and broke the guy’s hip. He confirmed he once sent a dead badger to a publishing house in New York. “I sent it fourth class,” he mused happily. “And it was summer.”

Despite his diminutive stature, Ellison is clearly a force to be reckoned with. The Ohio State professor who told him he had no writing talent received a copy of everything Ellison published when he began writing full time. The first year yielded around 100 stories.

With more than 75 books and 1400 stories under his belt, it is wonderful to see time has not mellowed Ellison very much. The doc yielded a marvelous rant toward Warner Brothers, when he was asked to provide a free interview for a DVD. As for those with less than critical faculties, Ellison told the packed WGA Theater, “No, you are not entitled to your opinion. You’re entitled to your informed opinion. Otherwise, you’re just babbling hot air, farts in the wind.”

For the man who was a nitroglycerine truck driver in North Carolina, a singer with the likes of Bill Evans and Charles Mingus, a guy who helped paint the Brooklyn Bridge upside down in a leather harness, his WGA tribute was well earned. His unfettered, brave and perhaps frightening imagination is to be cherished by those who subscribe to his motto: “You must never be afraid to go there.”

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