Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Susan Ellison - RIP and love

I met Harlan Ellison the day before his wife, Susan, met him, in 1985, in Glasgow. I interviewed him.  I didn't get to meet Susan until 1989, when I went to see Harlan in LA. She and I became friends incredibly fast. She was the most direct person I knew. Our first actual conversation, while Harlan was answering a phone, began with her saying, "So. I know you're a writer. I don't know anything else about you. Gay or straight? Married or unmarried? Children or no children? Who are you?" and so I told her everything I could think of, and I kept answering her questions for the next 31 years.

We were the same age. We did the thing of being two English People In America together. She would Big Sister me whenever I would go over there, and was one of the few people I'd allow to boss me around for my own good, mostly because I had no other choice.

And now Susan's dead. 

I'm not processing that properly. I'm writing this blog to try and get my head around it, because I don't believe it. I just opened my email, and read her email from a week ago.  It's variations on a theme: how are you? How can I help? Anything you need, I will help.

In 2016 I went to see Harlan and Susan. He was at his lowest ebb after the stroke. I gave him a photo of my new son Ash, and he just stared at it for half an hour. Patton Oswalt came by to see how Harlan was doing. Harlan began an anecdote about the Marx Brothers but got confused and couldn't finish it.  I'd never seen him like that.

This is the photo of me and Susan taken immediately after that. She is indomitably holding it together, and I'm so sad.

We last spoke a month ago. She was worried about me, and I told her I would make it through it all just fine and promised her that when the world was less crazy, and travel was a thing again, I'd come to Sherman Oaks and we'd finally have the dinner we had promised each other that we would have ever since Harlan died, and we'd talk about Harlan and life and we'd set the world to rights.

I'm still in shock. 

This is the announcement from the Harlan Ellison Books website, with the story Harlan wrote for her. It's a beautiful story. Go and read it.

I didn't reply to her very last email, which wasn't the  "The message is ANYTHING YOU NEED I WILL HELP. " one.  I replied to that.  But her last email of all.

It said,
Fair sized earthquake (I thought) this morning.  4.2., but everyone breezed about it.  I'm in the middle of Coy Drive shouting ARMAGEDDON.  30 seconds later...perhaps not.  It was an 8 toy event.  This is how I measure, the relationship of the shaking to how many toys fall over.  Everyone else on the block slept through it.  

Yours in cowardly fear.--Susan  
Which made me smile when I got it, and makes me smile now, because Susan was braver than lions.  She made it through so much.


(Cat Mihos took the photo above, and also told me that Susan was gone. Cat runs my film and TV world, the Blank Corporation, but for the last four or five years she also had an extra job, which was to go and see Susan, and take her out for food if she'd go, because I wasn't there. It was an actual job only because it was something she would have done anyway, and that way I hoped they were letting me pay for the lunches. Thank you, Cat.)