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Friday, January 7, 2011

Verne Langdon: he could do anything but live forever...

Verne barely menacing me

Verne Langdon. Gone. I called him "Cousin Verne" because he occupied that awkward age-gap that separated my heroes from my peers. Too young to be Uncle. Too much older than me to be brother. But when we were together, we spoke the same language. We talked about the things we loved. Music. Movies. Monsters. James Warren. Forry Ackerman. All the creative pursuits. When I spoke, it was about my wishes and dreams. When Verne spoke, it was about all the dreams he had accomplished and how I might accomplish some of mine. We loved to laugh together.

Verne and his coveted Zombie mask!

Verne had been a fixture in the golden age of Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror. Back then he had his fingers in everything us little kids read about in Famous Monsters magazine and dreamed of being a part of. He knew our heroes personally and at Don Post monster mask company he made monsters with his own hands! He was also front and center as the era morphed from the 60's into the 70's - my own coming of age. While Forry and the old-timers were walking red carpets in skinny ties and horn-rimmed glasses, there was Verne, decked out in Polyester bell-bottoms and a psychedelic silky-shirt. Long, feathered hair and all. Just the sight of him made a kid of the era feel like there was hope for us to rub elbows with our genre greats.

You can read about Verne's varied and colorful life all over the Internet. But what many of you sadly won't get a chance to know now is his incredibly nurturing nature. His kindness to his fans and his loyalty to his friends. I have heard Verne speak hypercritically about people close to him without ever losing an ounce of the love he held for them. I have seen Verne champion people who needed him most - and without any expectation of reward. He mentored a young friend of Forry's and mine, Casey Wong and allowed Casey the privilege of making his last life-cast (Verne claims the first too)! All of this integrity bundled up in a big, warm-hearted man who made you smile just by entering a room.

I am happy to have been a member of Verne's extended family. He was there in Forrest J Ackerman's last days, crying and telling our Uncle Forry how much he'd miss him. I was happy to be able to return Verne's cover paintings for his Phantom of the Organ and Vampyre of the Harpsichord LPs to him. Eliot Brodsky, the generous man behind Monsterpalooza, was instrumental in showcasing Verne at his brilliant Monsterpalooza conventions and giving attention and respect to Verne. It was at a Monsterpalooza that Verne and I exchanged our only cross words ever. It was a disagreement about a talk Jim Warren gave in which I took exception to some of the things suggested about Forry. Verne and I got into it in the hallway. Then we had lunch! That was that. That was Verne. Never shy about speaking his mind. But always able to separate his love from his ire.

James Warren, Verne Langdon and Forry Ackerman
at Forry's final ComicCon.

While I spoke to Verne on the phone more often than I saw him in person, he knew how much I loved and respected him. I always told him so. At our last lunch together at Musso & Franks in Hollywood, we teased each other. Verne harangued me for eating a veggie platter while I mooed at him for scarfing down half a cow. You'll be happy to know that Verne didn't deny himself any of the joys of living. The gist of our lunch was Verne encouraging me to submit my solo CD (MAINLAND) to the Grammy's for consideration. He brought me the paperwork and all. Not only was Verne doing me a favor in mentoring me, but also in that gesture he was letting me know that he really liked my work and thought it was worthy of consideration. It meant the world to me.

The dust is still settling on Verne's passing. All I've heard is that he had eaten lunch, complained of indigestion, laid down for a nap and never woke up. If Verne couldn't be around forever, that's the way I'd wish for him to check out. We have experienced the loss of many old-timers in the past few years. It is a sad clearing of a field that is underrated and extremely important to our culture of creative vision and invention. So many good people. Verne, like all of the best of them, seemed to go peacefully and sweetly to his rest. Take the time to meet Verne Langdon now that he's gone. He'll surprise you, just as he did in life. Good-bye old friend.

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