Well, at least one thing has seriously changed since I started attending comics-related events back in the early 1970s: The scenery’s been jumped up by an order of magnitude. Tonight, as I helped host the Dave Cockrum Art Tribute at The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art in New York City, I was amazed to see so many pretty ladies adorning the room. Refreshing hardly describes it. We’re all tired of looking at hairy legs.
I was helping set up for the event when that annoying thing in my pants started vibrating again, so I dug down deep in my pocket, fished out my pesky cell phone and answered it. It was already after business hours?couldn’t imagine who’d be nudging me now? But I should have guessed: It was artist Mike Pascale. He and his new wife Lisa had flown in from Detroit for the occasion.
“What are you wearing?” he asked.
“You’re getting freakier,” I answered.
“No, idiot?I’m asking you what the dress code is. I want to look like everybody else.”
“Then shave your ears,” I suggested.
“Can you ever be serious?”
“What exactly are you asking me?”
“What should we wear?”
“Neal and the other pros agreed to show up in clown suits,” I said. “But you’re a nonconformist, so skip the red nose.”
“Listen, Cliff,” Pascale pleaded. “My wife and I want to dress appropriately, okay? I don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb.”
I shook my head. He couldn’t see me do it, but it had the same effect. “Business casual,” I said (and I said it just like that).
“Uh oh,” Pascale worried. “I don’t know if I brought business casual.”
“Then wear a Bru-Hed t-shirt, for chrisake. I’m sure you packed one of those. Or three. I don’t know, Mike?wear anything at all. Nobody’s looking at you. They’re all coming to see Neal.”
“Won’t Barry Smith be there?”
I ignored it. “Just tell your wife not to wear underwear,” I said. And then I hung up. I’d never actually met Pascale, but I had a vivid image of him in my head. He didn’t want to know what it looked like.
The event was well attended: MoCCA founder/chairman Lawrence Klein was on hand, as was Jim Salicrup. Everyone was impressed by the surprise visit from my pal Pat DiNizzio of The Smithereens. John Petty of Heritage Comics flew in from Dallas for the occasion. Jim Reeber of Aardwolf Publishing drove across the bridge. Brilliant blogster Elayne Riggs and her husband, artist Robin Riggs took the F-Train. Several new Kubert School grads showed their faces, too, including Pat Parnell, whose recent society party you can read about in a previous installment of this column.
At halftime, Todd Casey of Wizard magazine walked through the door with his pretty lady and handed me a paper bag filled with cash recently collected at WizardWorld in Philadelphia for the Cockrums. Beats a sharp stick in the eye any day of the week. I was looking for a place to hide the moneybag when a tough little guy in a denim jacket approached me, stuck his tough little hand out, and introduced himself. “Joe Rubenstein,” he said. He said it tough.
“Clifford Meth,” I answered, grabbing his paw.
“Good handshake,” he said. His wasn’t so bad either. “So why isn’t my portrait of Dave on the back cover?”
“You got bumped by the art director, buddy,” I said, passing the buck to Rick Celano. Always blame it on the dead guy.
Rubenstein and I gave each other’s hands back. I counted my fingers. They were all there. Then I looked around again. The room was filling up with friends and strangers and everything in-between; most were wandering around admiring the more than 100 pieces of artwork that had been contributed to the event; others ogled the cute, teenage MoCCA volunteer with the belly ring.
Suddenly, Neal Adams appeared out of nowhere, sat at a small table signing autographs, then disappeared into the night. Who was that masked man?
Nothing terribly funny occurred until Ken Gale cornered me and asked if I wanted to be interviewed the next morning at 4 a.m. on his radio show. At least I thought it was terribly funny. I know most you are up that early listening to Ken’s show, but we don’t get up in my house until 5:00 to milk the cow (and the cow doesn’t get up ’til 6:30).
More and more people were coming through the door. I was worried that the floor might collapse. And it was getting louder. DiNizzio was hollering for another beer. “And where’s Barry Smith?” he demanded. I was starting to smell trouble.
But just then, a gorgeous brunette approached me. “I’m looking for Clifford Meth,” she said.
“This must be my lucky day,” I replied. There was no hiding it.
She put out her hand and introduced herself as Michelle. Told me she was Michael Netzer’s daughter.
I was ossified. Turned right to stone. “Michael never told me he had a beautiful daughter,” I managed out.
But right then, before I could say another word, all heads turned as something ominous came through the door. It was horrible. Tactless. It was wearing a Bru-Hed t-shirt. Stuck out like a sore thumb. I excused myself to the beautiful Michelle and hurried over.
“Paisan!” I said, throwing my arms around Pascale’s neck.
After eight years of e-friendship, we’d finally met. Tales would be told of this day; songs would be sung. I took a good gander at my pal. He was even punier than I’d imagined.
“So we meet at last,” he said. “You look younger than I imagined.”
“Clean living,” I said.
“So where’s Barry Smith?”
I ignored it and turned to greet Pascale’s new bride, but he leaned over to whisper-warn in my ear, “Don’t hug her too tight.”
I gazed back with raised eyebrow.
Pascale leaned forward again. “At least be careful,” he whispered. “Remember, she’s not wearing any underwear.”
[Ed’s Note: All illustrations in this column are by the immensely talented Mike Pascale. Thanks, Mike!]
© 2004, Clifford Meth