Saturday, January 01, 2011
  Satan oscillate my metallic sonatas
Here's part two of my 1979 interview with Stephen King as it appeared in the February 1980 issue of Heavy Metal. Rereading, I recall the surrounding events, fore and aft. In retrospect, it's a peculiar narrative of close encounters with some friendly and a few unfriendly people. To read part one of the interview, go here and scroll down.

When I was teaching Boston art students in the 1970s, I would sometimes be broke during the summer months and seek out freelance work, which would usually come through at the end of the summer just when it was time to teach again.

In the summer of 1979, I was dining from the vending machines in the Harvard Architectural Center. The building was cool, and I'd stop there as I walked through the heat from Somerville to Harvard Square. One day someone phoned and told me that Stephen King was soon due to arrive in Boston on a publicity tour promoting The Dead Zone. Around this time, Publishers Weekly was running an ad touting King as "the bestselling author in the world".

I phoned the Viking Press publicist, got on the list and later that week I interviewed King at the Ritz across from the Boston Public Garden. Back in Somerville, I phoned the arts editor of The Boston Globe and told her that I had taped an interview with Stephen King. She said, "Who's that?" I said, "Er... I think he's like the bestselling author in the world." She said, "Perhaps you should speak to our book editor."

She transferred the call, and I spoke to the Globe book editor, described what I had, and he replied in a somewhat condescending manner: "Oh, we don't do author interviews." I hung up, contemplating the next move. I phoned American Film and spoke to film critic-editor Hollis Alpert (1916-2007), who asked, "Has he been involved in the filming of The Shining?" I said, "He went to England, and they showed him around the set." Alpert said, "In that case, we'll have one of our people write something." That was it. Three strikes, and I was out. It sure seemed incredible. I had an interview with the world's bestselling author, yet no one was interested. I put the tapes aside, planning another tasty stopover at the vending machines.

A few days later, Heavy Metal editor Ted White phoned, said he wanted me to do a monthly film column for the magazine, gave me a two-week deadline and asked what I was going to write. "How about Stephen King?" I said. I sat at the IBM Selectric and immediately began transcribing the tapes in order to generate 2,000 words for the January 1980 issue. No more vending machines. Even Harlan Ellison once wrote that Heavy Metal paid better than his other markets. The rate was 25ยข a word. This meant if I typed "a", "of", "to" and "the", I had already made one dollar.

For the second column installment, I had a bit more time, so I added another interview by phoning art director Jim Plumeri at Signet. I decided I needed to give Heavy Metal a photo of a topiary to illustrate the column's discussion of topiaries and mazes. Disney World had a topiary, so I phoned the Disney World publicist. He said, yes, a topiary was there, and yes, he had a photo, but no, he would not send it to me. I phoned the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and spoke to a woman who said, "Yes, we have several topiary photos." I said, "I'll be right over."

I arrived across from Symphony Hall at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Huntington Avenue where the Massachusetts Horticultural Society turned out to be nothing more than a single room of filing cabinets staffed by an attractive young woman, the only person there. She opened a file drawer and showed me a file folder with topiary photos. I said, "Wow! These are just what I was hoping for. Would it be possible to get copies?" She said, "You can have them. Take them." A refreshing attitude, I thought, but why? Was she getting her little bit of revenge for her Kafkaesque job situation, surrounded by filing cabinets and trapped alone in a room where few entered? Or was she simply leaving the job the next week? Or maybe she determined that 20 years might pass before anyone else would want a topiary photo. Whatever, it certainly counterbalanced the irritating refusal of the Disney publicist.

When I mailed in the second interview installment, Julie Simmons-Lynch read it and said to Ted White, "What's this? He only writes about Stephen King?"

After all that I went through to acquire a topiary picture, I was disappointed to see that Heavy Metal had reduced the photo, cropped it and covered it with a screen so dark that the image was obscured. A curious case where the photo credit is more visible than the photo, as you can see below.

Labels: , ,

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home
Masquerade of the albino axolotls

My Photo

is the editor of Against the Grain: Mad Artist Wallace Wood (2003), reviewed by Paul Gravett.

October 2005 / November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / July 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 / November 2007 / December 2007 / January 2008 / February 2008 / March 2008 / April 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / July 2008 / August 2008 / September 2008 / October 2008 / November 2008 / December 2008 / January 2009 / February 2009 / March 2009 / April 2009 / May 2009 / June 2009 / July 2009 / August 2009 / September 2009 / October 2009 / November 2009 / December 2009 / January 2010 / February 2010 / March 2010 / April 2010 / May 2010 / June 2010 / July 2010 / August 2010 / September 2010 / October 2010 / November 2010 / December 2010 / January 2011 / February 2011 / March 2011 / April 2011 / May 2011 / June 2011 / July 2011 / August 2011 / September 2011 / October 2011 / November 2011 / December 2011 / January 2012 / February 2012 / March 2012 / April 2012 / May 2012 / June 2012 / July 2012 / September 2012 / October 2012 / November 2012 / December 2012 / January 2013 / February 2013 / March 2013 / April 2013 / May 2013 / June 2013 / July 2013 / August 2013 / September 2013 / October 2013 / December 2013 /

Powered by Blogger