Friday, April 20, 2007

the lovely and talented...FRED HEMBECK!!


i said that i'd fill you all in more about how the show--sherlock holmes--went, and i will...but not just yet.
first, being that i am still pretty tired from the whole thing--as well as spending time with my favorite 2 and a half year old, john conrad rousseau (i sdon't know how craig and trish--or any parents do it. i'm exhausted!)--my head is still spinning from the experience.
second, and even more importantly, i am lucky to be friends with a very talented and fun and funny fellow named fred hembeck.

now i have been a fan of fred's for close to 25 years now--his wonderful comic strips, books, commentaries, and interviews have always made me smile, laugh out loud, or wax nostalgic for the innocent days of comic books. i have been his friend for the past 14 years or so, many of those years spent talking to each other through a volleyball net during our tuesday night comic book guys volleyball games. fred has an awesome serve, an almost daredevil-esque radar sense, and the absolute best color commentary this side of fred willard! if you haven't checked out his site, run, don't walk over to and see what you're missing out on! fred's site--and especially his blog--are full of fun! (and don't miss the gallery of his excellent cover recreations!!)
i check out fred's blog every time he makes an entry. i used to only catch it now and then, but now, thanks to myspace, i am linked to his "fred sez" column/blog every time. in his post from last sunday however, i was amazed to see that the topic!?! sure, i had seen fred after the saturday night performance, but never thought that he would honor me with an entry. i, of course, blushed like a schoolgirl, but that won't stop me from reprinting the entry here. with fred's permission, also of course. (but don't let that stop you from checking out his siote like i toldja to at )

anyway, remember that this guy is a good friend and a little crazy.
heeeeeere's fred!

Clued in!
Current mood: chipper

It happened about seven or eight years ago.

I was home alone one day, sorting through some books and magazines on the living room floor and I had the TV on--I think it was tuned to a baseball game, but it could've been cable news. I had my back to the screen as I went about my paper shuffling, y'see, and was only dimly aware that a local commercial for an Albany based medical facility was playing. A series of heart felt testimonials from past patients droned on, barely making a dent on my otherwise engaged consciousness.

Then, without any warning, I stopped, stunned by what I was hearing!

I KNOW that voice!

And I don't mean I know that voice like it's some favorite celebrity trying to make a few extra bucks on the side by doing a sales pitch anonymously. No, this was the voice of someone who I'd actually spent time with in the same room! Believe me, the last thing you ever expect to hear when you're only paying half attention to the tube is the sound of an actual pal piping through the speakers!

I whirled around, to see if I was going batty, but sure enough, there he was, testifying earnestly for the Albany Medical Center--Todd Dezago!

You may know Todd for his Spider-Man and X-Men scripts, or maybe for his two fine creator-owned series, TELLOS and THE PERHAPANAUTS? Me, I'd known Todd since he was one of the clerks at A Strange Land (along with Tom "Hutch Owens" Hart), a long-shuttered Kingston Comics shop. And over the intervening years, I had encountered Todd at many a local party, and--up until it's untimely demise about three years back--on the courts during our decades spanning weekly volleyball game. But because of where Todd lives--pretty darn far away from yours truly--we generally tend to meet up somewhere in the middle. Fact is, in the ten years we've been happily ensconced in this house, Todd's only made out here once.

Well, twice, if you count that commercial.

(Which I never saw again, incidentally. And when I quizzed him about it at a subsequent volleyball gathering, turns out he was never a patient at said hospital at all! It was--to borrow a phrase from Jon Lovitz--acting!....)

Which brings me to last night....

Lynn, Julie and I drove over to Hyde Park to meet Terry Austin for dinner at the Everready Diner, a nifty fiftiesesque eatery, after which we headed out to the Dutchess Community College campus to catch a performance of "Sherlock Holmes, or The Strange Case of Alice Faukner", a play written back in 1899 by William Gillette based on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (and later made into a 1981 HBO telefim starring Frank Langella, following a Broadway production headlining same that Terry recalls seeing on The Great White Way back in his younger days).

The big attraction here? The star.

Forget Basil Rathbone! Disregard Peter Cushing! Dismiss Frank Langella--for now and evermore, after last night, for me anyway, Todd Dezago IS Sherlock Holmes!!

(And THIS time, I made a specific point of not turning my back on him!)

As odd a sensation as it was seeing his head pop up, unannounced, on my television set years back, it was nearly as peculiar watching someone I knew reasonably well (we don't see each other nearly as often as we may like these days.) up on stage for nearly two-and-a-half hours, portraying one of the most iconic characters in fiction--and doing a damn fine job of it, to boot!!

I'd been aware of Todd's thespian proclivities in the past, but I'd never quite gotten the opportunity to witness them. He really was quite good, and I'm not just saying that because he's a friend. The rest of the cast nearly matched him as well, I hasten to add. Oh sure, there were a few flubs along the way, but nothing worthy of a blooper reel. The play took a while to start cooking, storywise--no fault of the cast--but as soon as Todd showed up, deducing the bejeezus out of every little thing, we were well on our way! I wish you could all make it down to DCC for the show's final pair of performance's tonight and tomorrow, but as that isn't very likely, allow me, in my guise as Mr. Second-Nighter, to shower the productions with kudos. particularly the star, Todd "I-was-sick-but-Albany-Medical-Center-made-me-better" Dezago!

(I admit to chuckling out loud when Mr. D uttered the immortal line, "Elementary, my dear Watson", but waited in vain for that OTHER famous quote associated with the master detective, "No sh*t, Sherlock!". And, as I told Todd afterwards in the hallway, I was moderately disappointed that he regularly doffed his headgear as soon as he walked into a scene each and every time. I for one thought the show would've been even better if Sherlock had kept his coonskin cap on throughout! Well, maybe NEXT time...)

Summing up, a fine time was had by all (except maybe Julie--there were certain aspects of the mystery that confused her), and I even scored a nifty little Nick Cardy illustrated postcard promoting the play for my trouble (on view over at Fred Sez, natch)!

(And here's an article about the play from a local paper, featuring a photo of Todd alongside Sherlock's lady-love. No truth, however, to the rumor that the great sleuth wed the beauteous Alice and later fathered a baby girl named Katie. That, my friends, would be just Cruising for trouble!...)

thanks, fred! i am honored, flattered, and totally in love with you now!

have a great weekend everybody!
smell ya later!


Bill Nolan said...

Fred is truly an amazing creator. I try to get a commission from him every year or so. Here are my two favorites:

The Doom Patrol

WOW! Only my favorite piece ever!

Both are framed and hanging on my walls, along with another one of Impulse and Max Mercury.

Brian said...

That is quite the review. I had thought that the show was only last weekend, when I couldn't make it because of Dad's 80th. Had I known, I would have headed up to catch it this weekend. As it turns out, however, its lucky I didn't know as I'd be stuck on the roadside somewhere between here and there as my fuel pump just gave up the ghost.

Scott Weinstein said...

Wow. Great review. And Fred sounds like an interestng guy. As I'm thinking about it, he's probably one of the first artists that I was aware of. In the sense that I could recognize his style. And it made me realize that individual people have different styles. Granted I'm just putting this all together now, 30 years later.

Roger Owen Green said...

Wow - you and I BOTH get mentioned in one of Fred's recent posts. Yeah, he is an interesting guy, and a good one. (But don't tell him I said that, OK? He'll get a swelled head.)