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Monday, October 23, 2006

MEMORY GARDEN: EL BUNCHO'S BRUSHES WITH FAME

Over the years, thanks to the various jobs I've held, I have run into many celebrities and of course had to get my lovely visage photographed with them. It's fun in a surreal way to encounter the faces behind the music, literature, or whatever floats your boat, rendering its creators just as real as you are yourself. Here's the first batch of my real life pics with the famous, some known to the general public, others known to those like me who have an interest in fringy oddness.


Here's a shot of me with John Romita and his wife, Virginia, taken at last March's disastrous Javits Center convention. I worked with both of them for nearly nine years during my days in the Marvel Comics Bullpen, Virginia being my boss, while John headed up the art department. For those who have no idea who John is, he's one of the living legends in the American comics biz, a gifted illustrator who rocketed to four-color immortality when he took over THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN when original artist Steve Ditko left in the mid-1960's. The guy can draw his ass off, and among too many others to name, he designed the Punisher, the X-Men's Wolverine (for his first appearance as an adversary for the Incredible Hulk over thirty years ago), the famous black catsuit sported by the Black Widow, and perhaps most importantly, drew the immortal scene where Peter Parker first sees Mary Jane Watson face-to-face, a scene featured on this very blog less than two weeks ago. A true sweetheart in every way, John is one of the very few people in the biz that absolutely no one has anythinhg negative to say about, and that is rarer than tits on a trout. And the distinguished-looking guy standing behind us is none other than Jim Steranko, the guy who single-handedly turned comics art upside down with his unprecedented design stylings and psychedelic artwork when he took over the pencilling chores on Marvel's super-spy saga NICK FURY, AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Meeting him was a real treat, and he was funny as hell when relating his time working for the company, but what shocked the hell out of me upon meeting him was noticing that I was staring into the very face he used as the model for Nick Fury.


Every once in a while the strange zeitgeist of the barbecue joint throws me a curveball that even I can't see coming, and I was completely broadsided when one of the guests at a birthday party we hosted turned out to be none other than Danny Lilker, bass player for the seminal thrash band Stormtroopers of Death. As I was coming out of the kitchen with two trays of food, I almost dropped the meals when I recognized him. I introduced myself, told him how much I loved the "Speak English or Die" album, and soon we were chatting about a whole lot of stuff. By the time this shot was taken we were both well on our way to the Land of the Wrecked. Nice guy, too!

Over the years, I have seen the comedy metal band Gwar many times, so many that the members recognize me from my front and center position in the pit at their shows. About seven years ago I was visiting a friend in Atlanta and when we attended the Dragon Con for that year I was surprised to see that the gang from Gwar had set up a booth at the show. I heard a voice shout out, "Hey! Light-skinned Black guy from New York!" and I turned to see the guy who plays Techno Destructo, an enemy of the "heroic" Gwar characters, waving like a madman. Being one of the few Black folk who attend their shows, I was already somewhat easy to remember, but what really cemented their recognition and good will was the act of returning the lead singer's mic when it was knocked out of hand during a particularly spirited rendition of "Salaminizer;" in a rare moment of almost sportslike coordination, I plucked the microphone from midair and braved my way to the stage, shoving the thing into the singer's hand. He waved his thanks, and continued the show, then directed the effects guys to shower me with an extra-special helping of the band's patented stage blood. I was soaked to the skin in a show of appreciation, and the interior of that particular leather jacket is still stained red. Anyway, Techno and I exchanged pleasantries, and then he invited me to try on a couple of the band's stage costumes. There was no way I would have refused, and I soon found myself in the gear for Beefcake the Mighty, and Balsac, the Jaws of Death.





Lemme tell ya, the shit is fucking heavy!

1 comment:

Larz said...

Danny Lilker was the original bassist for Anthrax back in their fistful of metal days (when Anthrax was actually a decent band). I smoked a joint with those guys, helped them load their gear for a show I was too young to attend. Good guy from what I remember. Shit, that was like over 20 years ago. Ironically I met Dan Spitz a little over a week or so later at a Twisted Sister gig at a club on Long Island. I think those guys are a little bit older than I am, maybe 2-3 years or so. The only reason I was able to get in to the club (I was 17 or so at the time) was because I was friends with Mark "The Animal" Mendoza's neice and he got us in.

Good times. Once a metalhead, always a metalhead.