Navy Pier in Chicago, I rounded a corner backstage & my heart did a mini-stop. There you were, visiting Tori, and you were so gracious, showing me the galley-proofs of Endless Nights. I taught Maddy how to bowl with lemons that night, she was so teeny when I met her, now a college girl off on her own. I hung out with her so you could have some grown-up time with T. One of the best chance meetings in my so-charmed life. I still have the envelope that you wrote your email on, it’s in my lucky closet. (remember the bigfoot email??) That was in 2002, ten years ago.
In 2003, I was on tour with Perfect Circle and you sent Lorraine to meet me, to bring Maddy backstage to a show, and I remember seeing Quiche and both of us saying, oh there you are, you are in my tribe.
The next year, I flew out to Minneapolis to work Fiddler’s Green, and it marked the first time that I came to the Addams Family Mansion. I met and fell in love with your other daughter, miss Hollyebelle. She had dreads then. Pod & Hermione & dear sweet Zoe & Fred were all still alive and well, and that fine lady, Princess was just the same. She’s a modern miracle.
Cabal wouldn’t come for a few more years, but that dog changed your life. You soften around him, a man in love. Remember when Quiche and I drove to Chicago to get the royals, the Bengals she was rescuing and we met you at the AFP show? You all came back to the house that next night and you taught me to bake fish in newspapers… How many times has that kitchen table become the signing area?
When I had a miscarriage in 2005, you sent me the most beautiful words. You always knew just what to say.
I remember being in Tori’s office, answering the phone, and when it was you, one time, I accidentally disconnected you. Sat there at my desk, in disbelief. How could I have done that? You called me back, and you were so kind. Not everyone was.
I also loved how good you were to my parents, remember them sitting with Salman Rushdie at the book fair in DC, my Mom said something to make you throw your head back and howl, but it's lost, as no one recalls what made you laugh so hard. That day was crazy, with the signing line getting out of control, on poor Elyse's first day. DanGuy brought you a panda that day!
You taught me the word: bolthole. Looked it up. It’s exactly what you think it is. You said your house could be my bolthole. You offered it so generously and so many have taken you up on it. In that bolthole, you will find Hanzi the Sherpa, and Merry Housekeeper who runs on the most amazing human energy and QuicheMeDeadly the rollergirl. I love being there.
Remember buying those luscious Japanese knives? I always love to watch you shop, much like a tiger hunting prey. You locked on to those knives. The salesgirl was hopping up and down, that you were buying them from her. And didn’t you give yourself quite the nasty slice soon after? Yeah, you did.
I remember getting you ready for your first Oscars- remember those gorgeous expensive pants that you took two minutes to buy? You looked straight off The Avengers (not the new one, you know what I mean) I had to pick them up from the tailors & I had a black eye and you drew a picture of it for charity. You also told me to tell everyone that you gave me the black eye.
I cried on your shoulder that day in some super-fancy hotel in Beverly Hills that had a huge chessboard in the grass below. I remembered it was raining as you were giving phone interviews and I was so, so proud to see you get into that town car.
The many trips from LA down to San Diego with you sleeping while I drove, the time you hosted Comicon, World Fantasy, so many conventions. One such trip, you sang to me, practicing for the mini-tour you did with Amanda.
You were always so generous with your music, here try these guys, you’d like them. A champion for musicians, you shared them all. and I remember, you were able to pull all the songs off my dearly departed cousin’s ipod, you saved her musical life for me. I don’t know if you ever knew how much that meant to me. That I can still play her stuff even though she left us all behind, that was another great gift from you to me.
I was with you in a taxi in New York City when we heard the news of your Dad, And I truly didn’t know what to do. You ended up calming me down and then you signed Blueberry Girls for almost 8 hours straight. Merrilee, Elyse & I were going bonkers with what to do for you and you said, just let me sign. Amanda sent you a cheer-up present of a banana, a tomato & a schedule.
It was the only time you smiled that day.
We flew to Portland for the premiere of Coraline. What a smash that night was. Seeing all the sets and the minatures, it was a dream-perfect night.
Oh! The Beowulf premiere! It was there that you introduced me to Warren Beatty, my crush of life. I was a bit tongue-tied, but then when Beatty asked you for your autograph for his daughter, I had to laugh-- I had just been telling Maddy, who had just horse-shied away from Brad Pitt, that Warren was the Brad Pitt of the 1970s, she seemed unconvinced. (I am sure Maddy still kicks herself that she didn’t let me take that photo of her with Brad, but she was adamant, no photo. Brad just smiled that pretty-boy smile and let her be. )
Hearing your stories of the Stardust casting calls and meeting Jane & Jonathan, remember that giant dinner at that place…that was also when you introduced me to another hero, Roger Avary.
Roger met us to the Scream Awards and wore a Scary Trousers tee. The photo I took of you two backstage remains a treasure to me. Although I do recall that you hated the photos from that black carpet— We will never again mention those photos… All the cast of Star Trek was there, and Harrison Ford, and you, remember those Spike Awards, I believe in your acceptance speech (which consisted of four key words written on a cocktail napkin) you called it the devil’s dildo. You brought the house down.
On the eve of the Newbury Award announcement, I said to you, pick any restaurant you want, because I Knew you were going to win, and remember, where we went? The Hump! That click-clack of the 24K gold-flecked lobster brings to mind a certain rattle bag now.
(This was the same place that got raided when you were dining with a fellow Brit on another visit.)
The next morning, you blamed me for leaving the Vanity Fair magazine that kept you up all night reading, when Quiche called to find you, you were super-sleepy. I am still sad I was not with you to witness you accepting that award, one of the most important of the countless you’ve received.
All the Neverwear prints, the hits and the misses. It really is uncanny, your eye for finding exactly what part of a piece that I wasn’t happy with, and you saying, trust yourself. You taught me to think bigger, To be unafraid of saying, no, that doesn’t work for me. To push back and to wait.
How many nights at the big house, spent typing out your stories and marveling at how you chose or even unchose a word, scratching it out in your inky hand. (Is unchose even a word?) Your handwriting, at times, hard to decipher, a dictionary always handy for me to learn something new from the tilt of your pen.
I remember backstage at Amanda’s show at the Music Box, before you had even kissed her, ever, I was working out the plot of one of my scripts, and you casually said, what if you flip it like this, and make the ________ be the ______. I looked at you, jaw open, after you completely solved my writing problem without even breaking stride, and I said, Do I owe you money for that? You stopped then, looked at me, and said, so sweetly,
That one was free, my Kitty.
Remember next morning? me driving you to the airport in the rain, she was still asleep in that crappy little side street room, and you didn’t want to leave her. You really didn’t. And I’ll never forget when you sent me an email several years later that read:
Ps. I think I got engaged last night.
I typed back, all caps, CALL ME NOW.
You said, with Amanda, you just never knew what to expect.
You read a poem at my wedding, and that was such a great gift there at the edge of the water, as we all stood by candelight. Later, we danced under fireworks and you stayed out later than I ever would have imagined, enjoying the dives of Baltimore with our friends. Drew told me when he picked you up at the airport, while you were telling him of your plans to marry Amanda, he said you were literally glowing.
Remember that day in New Orleans, your birthday, and we tricked you into getting to a certain place for tea, and there on the street, you had your first run of the "wedding" —Your bride was a statue, and Jason Webley was the emcee. That little movie I shot that morning has gotten thousands of views. I’ve never seen you happier.
At your engagement party, that Jon Levin and his wife hosted for you, remember I begged you to introduce me to Patton Oswald and you said, sure, come on--and then when we reached him, your dirty trick was to vanish and I had to introduce myself, me, all shaky bits, as you cruised back by and said all stage-whispery and big-eyed, pointing to me, Patton, She’s your stalker! I think you did that with John Hodgeman too. Yes, yes, you did!
Never a dull moment with our Neil Gaiman.
Oh man, I can’t remember his name but the handsome Chinese man, I laughed for days, when you texted me a photo of him slumped in a chair and said, your boyfriend is tired. This is the same man you told I spoke Chinese, and I managed to stammer out some very unpassable Mandarin, and his translator was mortified.
The Simpsons episode. The whole room got very quiet when you did your first take. They couldn't believe how good you were. Remember Matt Selman just throwing orders to you, he was so thrilled--do it slower! no wait! faster! less accent! more menacing! and you just kept batting them out of the park. You also brought Bonnie Pietila into our lives. We did an art show together this summer, along with Red.
How many nights would I call you from tour, something went wrong with some thing or another and you would talk me off the ledge. I will never forget one time you saying, Well, I don’t think the Motley Crue guys will die if that happens, I have no idea what it was but you brought me right back to reality. No one died, you were right. I remember being in Istanbul with Tool, and couldn't get through to you for the Iceland storm, you were stuck and I couldn't help you. Quiche did travel wonders that day.
Remember Maddy coming to see me on the Jonas Brothers tour? Those girls had a blast that night. My hearing is still impaired from the young girls screaming on that tour. Louder than a jet engine, decibel for decibel.
Amanda came to a Gaga show and I gave her and Kyle more food than they could carry— She also came to see the Roger Waters Wall show and so did my favorite Henry Selick, is that the first time they met? She was so tired that night, I said, go lay down in a bunk, And she wouldn’t, she didn’t want to miss anything.
I remember calling you from a Rob Zombie show, and you said, well, I didn’t realize how close you were, and I wish I had driven out to see you. Rob would have been so happy to see you, but my dream team of bosses in one room might have sent the world off-axis.
How many meetings have I sat in with you, watching you take over the room, I learned more in that Disney pitch than I could have ever learned in film school. You owned those worlds and even if you were a little worried or nervous, you never showed it.
It was with you that I first walked through the doors of Legendary. My heart was beating so fast, but you were the picture of calm. And HBO! You know that noise that their little clip makes, that sets off a Pavlovian response in me, they make the best of the best look even better. When we were in their big boardroom, under the Game of Thrones photos, I was learning, every minute. You had eaten a little bit of wheat at breakfast, by accident, and I remember worrying about you, but you aced that meeting as well.
remember in a meeting talking about casting Death, and someone in the meeting said, Taylor Swift, and I couldn't help myself and yelled out "NO!"-- you taught me don't show your hand at a meeting, don't stop the momentum and never be negative. Words I have in my head EVERY day still. Great advice from the master of smooth.
The first time you introduced me as a producer, rather than as your assistant… Oh, the world grayed out for a second, and I said, my god, if he says it, then I have to believe it. Last month, we sold our first show. You believed in me, maybe more than I did myself.
You never made me sign an NDA, like most of my bosses, but for you, I would have— Hopeful this isn’t too personal to share. You reblogged my personal story of pain to the world and set off a healing domino chain that keeps giving back to me every day. I have tears now just thinking about it. You use your powers for good. I could go on and on, there are so many memories.
but I'll stop here.
I just marvel at the fact that I’ve known you for a decade now & I still get a little fangirly around you.
it’s your birthday today, my darl.
I'm be grateful from the depths of my secret red-velvet heart to know you. Happy birthday, Neil.
ps. I got you this for your birthday from Elijay's Books, a Poe lunchbox: