On the Scene: Harlan Ellison, The Flying Nun, and TMI at Star Trek Las Vegas

By Bob Calhoun

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Harlan Ellison showing up at “Star Trek” Las Vegas is a hell’s frozen over moment. It’s something that seemed impossible just a year ago, or ten years ago, but there he was walking through some shuttle bay doors and onto the spacious stage at the Rio Hotel and Casino on Thursday after a reported 20 years of avoiding “Star Trek” cons. I’m not sure what the weather report is in Hades right now, but I bet there’s a polar vortex going on down there.

Ellison, stalking the stage, briefcase in hand, is here to promote a new comic-bookadaptation from IDW of his original, unaltered script to “City on the Edge of Forever,” the episode of the original series that is widely considered to be the best. You’d think that Ellison would dish dirt on his conflict with “Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry over the rewrites to his script that have supplied a half-century of Trekker debates. You would think, but instead, the multiple Nebula and Hugo award winner gave us a little TMI about this one episode of “The Flying Nun” he wrote.

“I wrote one episode of ‘The Flying Nun’ because I wanted to fuck Sally Field,” Ellison explained.

“I was absolutely knocked out by Sally Field,” Ellison continued, “I wanted to get next to her on the set, because I knew, a couple of minutes in her company, and I would get laid.”

When a fan in the audience yelled for even more intimate details on Ellison’s bid to sexually harass the two-time Oscar winning actor, Ellison asked him to raise his hand.

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“Raise your hand,” Ellison demanded, “so that everyone around you can see that you’re a pervert.”

Creation Entertainment exec and convention organizer Adam Malin, who was tasked with moderating the talk, attempted to turn the conversation back to “Star Trek,” but instead, Ellison told us what he really thought of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, his wife, and his mistress.

“As a Jew, I’m embarrassed to be in the same universe as them,” Ellison said. “They should be submerged in a gigantic ocean of monkey vomit with imps going around them in motorboats, and making waves.”

Ellison also doesn’t want to be “in the same time zone” as Lima beans, it turns out. Somewhere in the midst of so many of the creative tirades Ellison is known for, the author announced a new deal with MGM to remake his script for the classic “Outer Limits” episode, “Demon with a Glass Hand,” into a two-hour movie.

“And J. J. Abrams will probably rip it off, and sell it to you as a new idea and you won’t know the difference,” Ellison added as the assembled Trekkers were still applauding his announcement.

And sometime after submitting a Middle East peace plan that involves building a wall “twelve-miles thick and a hundred miles high” with only one door, Ellison finally talked about “City on the Edge of Forever.”

“I wrote ‘City on the Edge of Forever’ before Roddenberry had in stone some of the rules,” Ellison recalls. “I wrote a script that went through 12… 15 iterations before other people stuck their hands in it, and they couldn’t kill it.

“The idea was a simple love story where Kirk was willing to sacrifice everything—the universe, the ship, everything—for the love of this woman. And I said, ‘The love story will transcend whatever you do to it,’ and it has.”

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As Ellison started to rattle off a list of pet peeves, Counselor Deanna Troy herself, Marina Sirtis, graced the stage and whispered into Ellison’s ear, probably to remind him that he was eating into the time of her “Next Generation” panel with Gates McFadden and Denise Crosby.

The “cantankerous old fart,” as Ellison describes himself, then sped away on a Rascal mobility scooter and almost swerved into several of his most loyal fans, who were lining around the vendors’ room for his autograph.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I bought two paperbacks from Mr. Ellison, and I’ve never been more the gobsmacked fanboy in my life.

Bob Calhoun is the author of “Shattering Conventions: Commerce, Conflict and Cosplay on the Expo Floor” (Obscuria Press, 2013). You can follow him on Twitter @bob_calhoun.

IDW:
Star Trek Las Vegas: http://www.creationent.com/cal/st_lasvegas.html
Shattering Conventions: http://www.creationent.com/cal/st_lasvegas.html
Harlan’s site: /p>

Gary Edson Arlington (1938-2014), Creator of the Comic Book Store

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by Bob Calhoun

[Underground and retailing pioneer Gary Arlington died last week, and local writer Bob Calhoun penned this obituary for him. Above photo via Last Gasp.]

Gary Arlington’s comic book store on 23rd Street in San Francisco’s Mission District seemed more like a feat of engineering than the truly historic place that it was. Stacks of comic books and paperbacks were piled all the way from the floor to the ceiling. No discernible structure appeared to be keeping the columns of pulpy periodicals from tumbling over and crushing Gary as he sat there in one of the few patches of space left in his little shop. And before he had to close his San Francisco Comic Book Company due to health problems in the early 2000s, Gary was always there in his spot by the door, always ready to hurl an insult at you as you made your way from the bar to the taqueria and back again.

“Man, somebody should poke you with a pin and let all the air out of that big stomach of yours,” Gary once told me as I clawed at those stacks of comics, trying not to knock them over. “You’d be so skinny if somebody did that.”

“Gee, thanks Gary,” I replied with a grimace, “How much for this ‘Marvel Team-Up’ #7 with Thor and Spider-Man?”

“I can let that go for $6.00.”

And that’s how it went with Gary. You just took it for some reason. His clearly visible tattoos of the EC Comics logo and the Crypt Keeper may have had something to do with it. Those things showed a fandom that was raw and deep with him. But there was something else about Gary and his store that actually had me looking forward to going back there when I was in the Mission, even though there was another comic book store only two doors down from his shop in the same building. I doubt the guy who owned that store would’ve hit me with the fat jokes, but I returned to Gary’s store not in spite of his barbs, but because of them. If Gary took the time to joke at you, it turns out that it was because he cared.

It was only later that I realized that The San Francisco Comic Book Company was the first comic book store in the country, and almost the first one in the world if a store in the Netherlands hadn’t beaten Gary to it by a month or two. Think about that for a minute or two: the first comic book store in America! Consider how big a role comic book stores have played in our lives, and then wonder where we’d be without Gary opening the first one just to “have a place to put my comic books” as he unpretentiously put it to comic book publisher Don Donahue (1942-2010) in the foreword to “I Am Not of This Planet” (Last Gasp, 2010), a collection of Arlington’s later artwork.

But Gary’s revolution didn’t end with retail. After opening in 1967, his store quickly became a meeting place for such underground comics innovators as Robert Crumb, Spain Rodriguez and Bill Griffith. Arlington also launched a publishing company under the San Francisco Comic Book Company name and printed some of the first works by Rory Hayes, Melinda Gebbie, and S. Clay Wilson among others. His early contributions as both a seller and publisher of what was coming out of the underground earned him the title of “the spiritual father of underground comix.”

“Gary made a cultural contribution in San Francisco in the late ’60s, through the ’70s, ’80s & ’90s that was more significant than he realizes,” Robert Crumb says in a blurb on the back of “I Am Not of This Planet.”

“San Francisco was the capitol of comix culture in the ’60s and early ’70s; and Gary Arlington’s hole-in-the-wall shop was, for me, the capitol of San Francisco,” Art Spiegelman adds in the text lines that accompany a sideways photo of Gary’s memorable gaze.

The last time I saw Gary was at an exhibition of his art that his good friend Ron Turner of Last Gasp put on at the Mina Dresden Gallery in San Francisco in 2011. The San Francisco Comic Book Company had been closed for a while by this time, those precarious pillars of comics that had loomed over Gary’s head for 35 years had long since been disassembled. As I approached Gary to buy a copy of “I Am Not of This Planet,” I braced myself for the jabs and jibes that he used to pepper me with, but instead he was genuinely glad to see me, and I was only an occasional customer of his. This had me thumbing through his collection of self-portraits done in sharpie and faux comic book covers on the train ride home with a smile on my face instead of the usual grimace I had after talking to Gary. (My favorite piece of Gary’s in this book has to be the cover for “We Are Only a Speck Comics” with a 10¢ cover price. “See Specks Make Love” it promises.)

When news of Gary’s passing started to fill my Facebook feed last Friday (Gary passed away the night before on January 17th), I pulled my copy of “I Am Not of This Planet” off the shelf. It had been a couple of years since I looked through it, and I had totally forgotten what he wrote in his dedication to me.

“I still like your big wonderful stomach,” he wrote in big, bold letters, just like a comic book.

In a typewritten note from Gary printed on the last page of the book he wrote, “My name is Gary Edson Arlington. I know you. You know me. I am very pleased we know each other.”

I have to admit, I got pretty choked up reading all that.

Gary Edson Arlington (1938-2014) is missed by all of San Francisco and everyone who’s ever enjoyed an alternative comic or a trip to a comic book store. We would not be who we are without him.

[Bob Calhoun is the author of “Shattering Conventions: Commerce, Cosplay and Conflict on the Expo Floor” (Obscuria Press, 2013). You can follow him on Twitter at @bob_calhoun.]