By Brent Johnson
June 30, 2018 - I just heard about Harlan Ellison’s death and wish to express my very sincerest condolences. The world has lost a truly great man and he will be sorely missed.
I met Harlan at a Star Trek convention back in 1974. We met at a blackjack game and we hit it off. I was so very impressed by the kind of person he was; his honesty, forthrightness, and genuineness touched me, and I determined to get to know him better, which I did over many years.
I was always amused by how brusque his public persona was, knowing as I did the magnificent and kind (yes, kind) being he really was. It was as if Harlan put on a mask of what many deemed mean in order to weed out those who only wanted to know him because of his celebrity. His attitude was, “If you really want to know the real me then show me by getting past my brusque exterior.”
I remember one science fiction convention in New York, at the old Commodore Hotel. It was around 10:00 pm and he went to the hotel coffee shop for a snack. The coffee shop was closed. He walked out, muttering, “This place would make a nice fire!” Many who heard him thought he meant it and that he was inappropriate, but I knew he would never actually do such a thing and it was a sophisticated attempt at humor.
Harlan had a heart of gold. I recall an incident where he had attended one of the science fiction conventions I organized as a personal favor to me. We were robbed at the convention and I was unable to pay him his full speaker fee as a result. He never said anything about it. I sent him money every month to pay off the debt. I was unable to send him a lot, but I sent him what I could send each month. He told me several years later that he was very appreciative of my integrity and he ultimately forgave the last of the debt.
There are very very few people I have known who I admire. My father was one of them (Harlan actually met my dad once). Patriot Dr. Ron Paul (the former congressman and presidential candidate) is another. Harlan is the only other person I admire. I respect and love many, but I do not admire (meaning look up to) people. I admired Harlan. He stood by his beliefs, and never compromised his values (though he was often asked to do so).
I remember reading Memos from Purgatory, his first published book. He went into one of the toughest areas of New York City and became a gang member in order to learn about that way of life. He had the courage of his convictions, and inspired me (and I am sure many others) by his presence.
The world has lost a truly great man. I will grieve his loss for some time. He will be missed.
With much Love and the utmost of respect,
By Brent Johnson