Out of Town Fans and Pros Visit Shel and Another Old Friend

October 27, 2009

On Saturday, October 17th, a group of fans and professionals from the Los Angeles, Riverside County, and San Diego areas got together to visit Shel Dorf in the hospital. The visiting group comprised the following individuals: Richard Alf, member of the first Comic-Con committee, and 1971 Comic-Con Chairman; William Clausen, professional comics artist and writer; George Clayton Johnson, screenwriter, author, and frequent Comic-Con guest; Greg Koudoulian, videographer, and former producer of Los Angeles conventions; Clayton Moore, former Comic-Con committee member; and Mike Towry, member of the first Comic-Con committee, and 1972 Comic-Con Chairman.

Left to Right: Richard Alf, Clayton Moore, William Clausen, George Clayton Johnson, and Mike Towry

Left to Right: Richard Alf, Clayton Moore, William Clausen, George Clayton Johnson, and Mike Towry

Greg Koudoulian (who wasn’t in the previous group photograph because he took it).

Greg Koudoulian (who wasn’t in the previous group photograph because he took it).

Greg organized the visit and Clayton drove into L.A. from Riverside County to pick up George and William. Greg put a lot of work into the event, even producing multi-page “Program Books” for all group members. He was even able to get fan artist Alan White to design special commemorative badges that we all wore while visiting the hospital. (Alan, by the way, is helping organize the March 27-28, 2010 Xanadu science-fiction convention in Las Vegas where George Clayton Johnson will be guest of honor. Visit http://www.xanadulasvegas.com/ for more information.)

Shel’s copy of the Alan White-designed badge, which Greg left for Shel in his hospital room. (1969 was the year Shel founded Comic-Con; 1978 was the last 1970s Comic-Con at the El Cortez.)

Shel’s copy of the Alan White-designed badge, which Greg left for Shel in his hospital room. (1969 was the year Shel founded Comic-Con; 1978 was the last 1970s Comic-Con at the El Cortez.)

We visited Shel in his hospital room two at a time. Due to his present condition, he was unable to communicate but he did clutch the badge that Richard held out to him and held it close to get a look at it. Shel also waved goodbye, as well as he could, when Richard and Mike left his room. (However, the nurse on duty – a very, very kind and caring guy, by the way – said that he’d read a letter to Shel earlier in the week and that Shel had seemed able to follow it as long as he spoke loudly.)

After we’d all had a chance to see Shel, we left the hospital and moved on to visit another old friend, the El Cortez Hotel in downtown San Diego.

The legendary El Cortez Hotel, site of Comic-Cons in 1972, 1974-1978, and 1981.

The legendary El Cortez Hotel, site of Comic-Cons in 1972, 1974-1978, and 1981.

The El Cortez hotel rooms have been converted to condos but the banquet facilities are still in operation under separate ownership. They were getting set up for a wedding reception when we got there, so we couldn’t spend a lot of time looking around but a very nice manager by the name of Joe Skillman did let us into the Don Room – the main banquet room – for a brief look. One unexpected treat: it turned out that the doorman, Nicholas J. Pomo, had been a bartender at the El Cortez from 1969 to 1978 and he remembered the Comic-Cons. He had left the El Cortez when a religious group took it over but he has been back there as a doorman since the year 2000. He is quite spry at 79 years young and was a lot of fun to talk to.

At the El Cortez entrance, from let to right, Nicholas J. Pomo, William Clausen, and George Clayton Johnson.

At the El Cortez entrance, from let to right, Nicholas J. Pomo, William Clausen, and George Clayton Johnson.

From there, it was on to Filippi’s Pizza Grotto in San Diego’s Little Italy. Filippi’s was an old favorite of the early Comic-Con committee. (In fact, when comics professional Jim Valentino organized a very cool dinner in honor of 1970 Comic-Con Chairman Ken Krueger at this year’s Comic-Con, Ken requested that it be at Filippi’s.) The inside front sections of Filippi’s look much the same as they did back in 1969, including the waiting area, which is in an Italian deli and grocery with whole cheeses hanging from the ceiling and crates of salted cod on the floor. There we were joined by Shel’s friend Mike Rossi, and the food, drink, and conversation where enjoyed by all.

Afterwards, the group decamped to the home of Anthony Keith, former Comic-Con director of security, to watch Twilight Zone and Star Trek episodes that George had written. George also showed some recent video work that he’d done.

Shel’s old house in San Diego’s Ocean Beach community. (From left to right: George Clayton Johnson and William Clausen.)

Shel’s old house in San Diego’s Ocean Beach community. (From left to right: George Clayton Johnson and William Clausen.)

The next morning the out-of-towners were up early for a visit to Shel’s old house in Ocean Beach. Then they met up with Richard, Mike, and Mike Rossi and his friend Raquel Lomeli at Perry’s Cafe for breakfast. Perry’s was a favorite of Shel’s. It looks a bit like a Denny’s from the late 1950s or early 1960s.

Perry’s Cafe in San Diego.

Perry’s Cafe in San Diego.

Waiting outside Perry’s, from left to right: Mike Rossi's friend Raquel Lomeli, Mike Towry, George Clayton Johnson, Mike Rossi, Greg Koudoulian, William Clausen, Richard Alf, and a random stranger. (Clayton Moore took the picture.)

Waiting outside Perry’s, from left to right: Mike Rossi's friend Raquel Lomeli, Mike Towry, George Clayton Johnson, Mike Rossi, Greg Koudoulian, William Clausen, Richard Alf, and a random stranger. (Clayton Moore took the picture.)

After Perry’s we called it a weekend (except for Richard and Greg, who spent the rest of the day visiting comic and book stores and other sites in San Diego). It was a memorable weekend for us all.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

David Lemmo February 18, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Great tribute; you can’t say enough about Shel, who was truly a great person, friend, and the man who started it all.

Reply

GREG KOUDOULIAN December 27, 2009 at 7:18 pm

Thank You everyone, THE SHEL DORF FAN CLUB AND ENTOURAGE IS
JUST GETTING STARTED! July 5th is Shel Dorf day.

Also George told me to say hi and thanks to all El Cortez Alumni.
If you are an Alumni, then you can become a charter member too.
Yeah, William was right, great write up.

Reply

William Clausen November 25, 2009 at 6:59 pm

WOW!….what a great writeup!!…..it was like re-experiencing the whole thing!!!….thank you………I just wished I could have seen KEN KRUEGER one last time before he passed,…I’m sure that SHEL DORF & CHAM HOLMES were waiting to greet him on the other side…………..he was one of my early publishers
….I co-illustrated(with STEVE GARRIS) a book called THE FINAL WAR for him(which was published,but I never saw a copy,…if anyone out there has,…please let me know)….most of the illustrations were not used due to the excessive size of the originals(30″x40″)

Reply

Matt Lorentz November 18, 2009 at 11:50 pm

What a great tribute! Thanks for posting these photos too. I now remember that Shel took a group of us SCCSers to Filippi’s and Perry’s. I really like the photo of George and Shel’s house. Rocky’s Surfshop, right across the street, appears in the opening scenes of the film Almost Famous.

Reply

William Clausen November 25, 2009 at 7:07 pm

that’s funny!,…I was a background actor in the same film(ALMOST FAMOUS),…I was in the sunset strip scene with PETER FRAMPTON!(I sneaked a quick chat with the guitarist from HEART when CAMERON CROWE left the room briefly)……and then PETER,onset with “the wig”,…and again at lunch,without it,…what a great guy!(and fantastic guitarist!).

Reply

Mike Pasqua November 5, 2009 at 9:37 am

The loss of Shel struck me worse than the fact that he was unable to attend the Comic Con 40th Anniversary. Having both attended and participated in Comic Con, I owe a major debt of gratitude to Shel. His early vision laid the foundation that allowed the Con to be the monolith that it is. God Speed, Shel.

Reply

Rory Murray October 29, 2009 at 4:26 pm

What a kind tribute. It was especially good to see George Clayton Johnson looking so well. He has always been very friendly to me at every Con I’ve seen him at. God Bless you all!

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: