I am, by nature, a very social animal. Every Sunday during the regular television season, a small group of dedicated friends gathers here at Weinwords Central to endure my cooking (God bless Rachael Ray) and to watch "The Amazing Race", which is easily the best reality show on the air. On selected other weekends during the year, slightly larger groups show up to watch "The Super Bowl" or "The Academy Awards" or just to play board games or celebrate a birthday. And twice a year -- but ONLY twice a year, thank the Fates -- my darling wife and I completely lose our minds and throw a full-on, all-out, wing-ding party. In the summer, it's our annual Pool Party BBQ and, in January, it's our traditional Twelfth Night Party.
What I love most about our little shindigs, I think, is the eclectic mix of people who gather here. Over the years, Science Fiction luminaries like Harlan Ellison, Larry Niven, Jack Dann, Joe Haldeman, Barbara Hambly and Arthur Byron Cover have rubbed elbows with Comic Book folks like Marv Wolfman, Bernie Wrightson, Jerry Bingham, Steve Mitchell, Roger Slifer and Wendy Pini who in turn would chat with screenwriters like Paul Guay, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio or animation writers like Christy Marx, David Wise, Robert Skir, Craig Miller and Shari Goodhartz. And that's not even to mention the wide variety of lawyers, horse people, comics and SF fans, and just plain normal folks who are invited here as well.
The biggest problem we have is that we live in a nice little A-frame house that is far too small to comfortably accomodate that many people. As Dolly Parton once put it when describing her efforts to squeeze her two most notable assets into a very tight-fitting dress, "It's like tryin' to stuff ten pounds of potatoes into a five pound bag."
The pool party BBQ is, of course, easier, since we can spread out into the yard as well, but lately California Januaries have become a lot colder than was advertised before I first moved out here and we have to fit everyone into the house somehow. This year, in an effort to solve the problem, my good friend and fellow Friday night poker player Steve Cuden, developer of the hit Broadway Musical "Jekyll/Hyde", suggested we simply spread Vaseline around the front door jamb and have someone standing outside to squirt people into the house.
Still, I wouldn't trade the obligatory headaches of throwing these parties for anything. The memories alone are priceless. Like the 12th Night Party two years ago, where I watched Harlan Ellison acting like a giddy 12-year-old, sitting cross-legged on the floor at the feet of the legendary Jerry Robinson, creator of Robin and the Joker, and carefully handing Jerry his precious double-bagged early Batman comics, humbly asking if Jerry would do him the honor of autographing them. Or like the pool party a few years back where Larry Niven (Hugo-winning author of the "Ringworld" books, among many others) and Ted Elliott (co-screenwriter of "Shrek," "Mask of Zorro," "Aladdin," and the "Pirates of the Caribbean" trilogy, to name just a few) finished one of the lengthy conversations they'd been having for years now and finally thought to introduce themselves to one another, only to discover they were each huge fans of the other's work. Or the time my friend Ed Green stood admiring an original Bernie Wrightson 'Swamp Thing' pen-and-ink drawing hanging framed on the living room wall, going on and on about what a brilliant artist Bernie was, and I -- doing my best "Woody Allen producing Marshall Mcluhan in 'Annie Hall' bit" -- reached over, grabbed Bernie by the shoulders, and dragged him over, telling Ed, "Here. Why don't you tell Bernie that yourself?" I'll never forget watching poor Ed 'homina-homina'ing at Bernie as he struggled in vain to pick his jaw up off the floor. Or the time when...
Well, there are lots of other party stories and I'd love to share them with you sometime. But right now, unfortunately, I've got to go start cleaning the house for this summer's BBQ.
SHUT IN THEATER: Weekend Reading 178
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