Ron Hogan over at Galleycat reports that author Harlan Ellison groped a woman’s breast as she was presenting an award to him…and that later Harlan argued on his website that she was asking for it. At least Harlan wasn’t in his bathrobe and pjs at the time (he once came to a WGA meeting like that). Ron writes:
You know, for the most part, we like to maintain some sense of
journalistic objectivity on this blog, but I feel reasonably
comfortable going into outright opinionating: Ellison’s gone way over
the deep end on this one. For years, people have been encouraging him
in his self-righteous, self-indulgent schtick, excusing away
his most outrageous behavior as manifestations of some sort of
uncensored passion for justice and creative expression, and years of
believing his own hype reflected back to him by both his peers and his
fans have finally worked their toll. With his boorish behavior and
subsequent outbursts, Ellison has become nothing more than a sad,
I’ve had a few run-ins with Harlan myself over the years. The one I remember most fondly had to do with an interview I did with him for Starlog Magazine. We were both speakers that year at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, so we did the interview there. Knowing that Harlan bites everyone in the ass, I decided to protect myself a little bit by doing a straight Q&A…unedited. I met him in his bungalow at the conference, gave him the tape recorder and let him go. I then transcribed the tapes and added a brief introduction. Easiest article I ever wrote. The article was published in two parts in Starlog. Naturally, Harlan said some things that offended people and, instead of taking the heat for his own opinions, he accused me of altering his words. So I sent him the tape and asked him to point to even one instance in which his words were altered or taken out of context. I’m still waiting.
That incident clearly pissed him off, because a few months later, he tried to get back at me. At the time, there was a radio talkshow here about science fiction (I think it was called HOUR 25). They were discussing the new TV series version of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, which Harlan briefly wrote for. One of the guests who was criticizing the show was a woman who may, or may not, have been an old girlfriend of Harlan’s. I don’t know. But some listener called in saying that the only reason she was trashing the show was because Harlan kicked her out of his bed. The caller identified himself as "Lee." The host hung up on the guy. Well, as it turns out Harlan was, unbeknownst to the listeners, in the studio, too. Harlan grabbed the microphone, said the caller was Lee Goldberg, and went on to trash me as a sleazy, lying, scumbag masquerading as a journalist.
Of course, the caller wasn’t me. I was out-of-town at the time, on assignment for Newsweek, and came home to find my answering machine smoking with phone calls from people furious at me for calling the radio show. I contacted the radio station, got a copy of the tape, and listened to it. I was more amused than anything else, but I wanted Harlan to be held accountable for his actions for a change. So I sent the station a letter on Newsweek stationary pointing out the irresponsibility of naming me as the caller and trashing me on the air. I demanded an on-air apology from Harlan within one week…or else. The station acknowledged they were at fault and agreed to immediately comply.
So, a week later, Harlan called into the show and apologized….and then said something like "the caller wasn’t Lee Goldberg, but you can’t blame me for thinking it was him, because he IS a dishonest scumbag whose articles aren’t worth wrapping a dead fish in," and on and on he went, basically repeating everything he’d said about me before. I wasn’t angry…in fact, I found it very funny and pure Harlan Ellison.
I later served with Harlan for a few years on the Editorial Board of the WGA Journal, where we frequently disagreed with one another. He’s a great writer, who deserves respect for his work, but I’ve always found his act tiresome and silly. Which reminds me…
When I was a student at UCLA, I remember taking the bus to campus and seeing him sitting in the window of a science fiction bookstore and writing like some sort of animal on display in a zoo. A writer at work in his natural habitat. I guess you could call it performance art…maybe that’s what his grope was, too.