Friday, April 2, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 75

Cast of Characters:
Paul: age 35
Mal: my wife
Chris: my second store’s manager


As my second store’s manager, Chris, and I thought about possible future events to stir up some more excitement for the customers of our comic book and collectible stores I received a phone call from my old pal, Kevin Burns.

Kevin had moved from Massachusetts to California to work for Twentieth Century Fox. Kevin was a long-time fan of the 1960’s television show of “Lost in Space” and he had developed a friendship and business relationship with the original cast of the show. Kevin had been the primary force behind the big twentieth anniversary Lost In Space convention that was held in Boston in the mid-1980’s that reunited the surviving cast members. June Lockhart, Marta Kristen, Mark Goddard, Angela Cartwright, Bill Mumy, and Jonathan Harris were all there. Kevin invited me to attend a very intimate dinner party with the cast. Since I was allowed to bring a guest, I chose to bring my old journalist buddy, Mike Warshaw. The cast of “Lost In Space” was seated in a straight row of tables and they were introduced to the sixteen guests as we were seated across from them. Kevin had also acquired and rebuilt the original Robot from the TV show and we had a chance to get our photograph taken standing with it.

After the first dinner course, June Lockhart came around and spoke with all of us. She remembered all of our names and seemed to be genuinely interested in our comments. We were impressed that she cared enough to spend this time with us because she could have stayed seated with her celebrity friends like most of the other cast members. Mike and I got a real “kick” out of this special dinner. Now, a few years later, Kevin Burns was offering me an opportunity to have Bill Mumy as a guest at my Worcester store. Bill Mumy played young Will Robinson in the television show of “Lost In Space” and he still had many fans who would enjoy seeing him in person. Because Bill was a serious comic book collector we agreed to pay him for his time by giving him his choice of $250.00 worth of collectible comics. A few hundred fans lined up and got a chance to meet Bill and get his autograph and, as usual, many of the local newspapers ran interesting stories about his appearance in our store.

In 1990 we also arranged for my old friend, Carol Kalish, to come to my Worcester store to evaluate portfolios of aspiring artists. Carol had collected comic books for many years, she worked as a comic book distributor, and was now a vice president of “Direct Sales” for Marvel Comics in New York. She was one of the few people in the comic book industry who understood almost all aspects of this business. I enjoyed Carol because she was honest and humorous even in her role as one of the most important people in the comic book business. I remember her speaking to a gathering of comic book retailers at a comic book seminar in Baltimore. Referring to a popular (but poorly written) comic book series she said, “ Let’s be honest. Secret Wars Series One was crap, right?” The room full of comic book storeowners all agreed. “ But did it sell?” The retailers cheered. “ Well, get ready for Secret Wars Series Two!” We all laughed but we knew she was right. Secret Wars Series Two would be one of the biggest selling comic books of the year. We knew we could trust Carol’s opinion.

When she came to my store, Carol chatted with dozens of artists and writers and because of her “gentle spirit” she was able to honestly critique my customers work without hurting their feelings. She pointed out the weaknesses in their work but also encouraged many of them to continue to work to improve. Like most people who met Carol Kalish, my customers enjoyed the time she spent with them. Within one year, while walking down the streets of New York City, Carol died of heart failure at the age of 36. We all lost a special friend on that day.

Next chapter: The family goes to England.

Picture: Bill Mumy (TV's Will Robinson from Lost In Space) is a quest at our store.
Paul with The Robot from Lost In Space.

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