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.
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.)
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 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.
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.
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.
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.