My Breakfast With Harvey

May 19, 2011   |   by Tommy   |   Big Fun, Blog, Newsletter  |  No Comments

30 years ago, I enjoyed watching a film directed by one of my favorites, Lois Malle, entitled—My Dinner With Andre. This brilliant film dealt with the true or maybe not so true life of  2 characters- Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn over a meal at a restaurant. One never knew if they were actually acting or telling their true life stories. Wallace Shawn went on to star in another great film—The Princess Bride with another Andre …. Andre the Giant.

A few years ago, I was most fortunate to have what I call—”My Breakfast With Harvey.” You see, Harvey Pekar called one day and said that he wanted to write a graphic novel about me. I was obviously floored and I immediately agreed to meet Harvey, whose work I’d admired for years, for Breakfast at Tiffany’s …. I mean Tommy’s (a real favorite of Harvey’s and my home away from home). The next morning I sat in awe as Harvey asked many questions. We talked about the “Diner Saga” and life afterwards. We had several more of these breakfast conversations at Tommy’s and then walks and talks through Big Fun.

We sat at a table eating and I watched in amazement as Harvey drew a comic panel grid, filling in the spaces with stick figures and verbiage that was coming from my mouth. I said verbiage, not garbage. Honestly, I couldn’t believe that this was going on. Harvey Pekar writing a comic about me. I asked Harvey why. In his traditional raspy voice, he said-” I know that you put your heart and soul in the Diner …. it sadly closed. I want to know the whole crazy diner story.” As we continued our talks, Harvey also became interested in the Big Fun move and renovation. Harvey told me that he was impressed that I was able to get back on my feet to take my existing Big Fun store and move it across the street to a much bigger space. Harvey was meticulous about detail and he let me know the importance of all the artist touches that became the framework of the new Big Fun.

Truth be told …. I would have been okay if the graphic novel that Harvey wrote never made it to print. I have learned in life that it really is the “journey” that is important. As we all know, sadly Harvey got sick and passed away. I was never sure if the book would ever be published. I got a call and then a visit from Joyce Brabner, Harvey’s wife and co-conspirator on so many of Harvey’s projects. The book would become reality …. A new Harvey Pekar graphic novel that was a compilation of several short stories using a relatively unknown artist named Summer McClinton (no longer unknown), that Harvey and Joyce had discovered. I never met Summer McClinton …. all of the images drawn are from photos that were sent her way.

So my 15 minutes of fame are here. The book is out-Huntington, West Virginia  “On the Fly.” Joyce was kind enough to give me an advanced copy. I opened it to my chapter and read the title—Neighborhood Spark Plug. That sent a wonderful feeling through my body. It didn’t end there. Underneath was the following:

(AND MY BUDDY).

Harvey was Harvey. What you see is what you get. Harvey had no filters that most of us use to placate others. Harvey said it like was. You know the phrase—S/he had me at …. I honestly didn’t need to go any further than the—(AND MY BUDDY). Harvey left me the best gift that he ever could with those 3 words. I am thankful for our friendship, I am thankful for our special time together, and I am thankful to be included in a Harvey piece. Thanks so much to Joyce for seeing this projection to fruition and being a friend with a heart of gold.

Finally, when Harvey passed, word got to Anthony Bourdain, chef, writer, television man extraordinaire. I, along with my wife Debbie, have always been a huge fans of Anthony (Tony) Bourdain, his works and his non-traditional look on life. Immediately upon learning of Harvey’s death, Tony wrote the most incredible piece about Harvey. The first time I read it, I had tears in my eyes …. OK, I actually cried. Tony and Harvey met, I believe only once when Tony was in Cleveland to film for his show—No Reservations. This poignant piece has been included as an appreciation in Harvey’s new book.

Thanks Tony.

One last note ….

On Thursday June 2nd from 7-9pm, Suzanne, my neighbor from Mac’s Backs and I are having a book party for Harvey’s new book. Come join us for a fun evening.

See ya then ….

~ Steve