Thursday, June 9, 2011

Jack Magic V.2 Pt.5

So, I had this friend once and he told me about his last meeting with Jack Kirby. And, it is meaningful, so I will relate it.
Seems this guy had made a non-San Diego trip to Thousand Oaks, because he knew that it was only a matter of time and stayed for a couple of days.
The three of us knew that they were about to lose one of us, though not a word was spoken about it.
It’s the same way when you have to leave the amusement park at sunset. Or, the beach. You understand, with aching heart that there can only be steps forward and an understanding of both long past and short future.
Anyway, this is just the way the guy told it to me.
Anyway, there comes this moment where it seems like the last moments, but it’s literally the last.
That “I’m never going to see you again,” moment. And so, the guy tells me that Kirby actually said to him, as he followed this guy out to his rental car in the driveway and they had a moment near the driver’s seat.
Kirby said, “You’ve been like a son to me.”
And this guy says, “I’ll do everything I can to keep your memory alive, Pop.”
His last view of Jack Kirby was through a windshield, in intruding tail-lights in the rear-view mirror. The guy said that the last time he saw Kirby, Jake was waving good-bye.
And here’s the part that kills me.
The Kirby’s lived on a very steep mountain, so it was pedal to the metal on the brake all of the way down. And, as he loses sight of Jack, this guy’s lower lip trembles and tears welling up so fast the guy actually has to pull over on this very steep grade, pulling the emergency brake with great vigor.
And then the guy dropped his head on the steering wheel and couldn’t stop the tears from dripping into his lap in great numbers. As I recall, he said he made a mess of his sleeve with snot and tears just before he hit the San Diego Freeway in the general direction of Lost Angels.
As I recall, the guy said that his visit was in the fall of 1992 and as he knew it was coming and confirmed: Jack was gone in the next quarter.
So, I’m in this bookstore in New York City and I hear an N.P.R news report that Jack Kirby had died. And then, all of a sudden I hear a quote from me over the loudspeaker that they’d taped yesterday. Now, I know I’m not speaking, but I’m speaking. I wanted to beeline to the latest Kirby comic because I was in a bookstore, but there were none to be had and I didn’t have any of his new work to memorialize at the moment. And that realization was very sad.
Like N.P.R. reported, Jack Kirby was gone, so it must be true.
On the piece, I talked about how Kirby was to Comics what Armstrong was to Jazz. And mentioned that he was the Picasso of the Comics.
Next day, Julie Schwartz calls me and tells me Gil Kane is furious that I stole his quote. His “quote.” I’d never heard it from him and yet, it’s so obvious.
Still, next time I saw Gil, I remarked, “Thanks for that Kirby quote,” and offered a wink of the left eye. My left, not yours.
Unlike Kirby, Kane was always full of himself.
Roz was very stoic about all of it. My Yiddish Momma never cried when I called her. There was something about his passing, because I saw that in my mother after my father died. Now it’s only 50% and hardly passing.
As sad as the half-Moon.
I visited Roz in the late spring of 1995 shortly after she’d had a pacemaker implanted. Were took a trip to the Chapel of the Oaks at the Valley Oaks Memorial Park in Westlake Village so that I could see Jack’s grave. When we arrived, Roz declined to leave the car  the car that idled and sent Tracy and I along. It was a short walk over spring grass. As we approached the grave, Tracy remarked that Ronald Goldman’s grave was next to Jack’s. You know the one: the one O.J. Simpson didn’t kill. Strange juxtaposition. A dead world-famous waiter and a dead world-famous artist, side by side.
I imagine that the whole trip distressed Roz and some tears might have fallen in the car while Tracy and I knelt at the grave.
Motioning to the marker, I asked, “What are all of these rocks doing here?”
“Jewish tradition.”
I was shocked at how little I knew about the Jewish death rituals, but it was the first time presented to my Goy self.
Roz’s heart, in a parked car crying, heart invited to fail because she wanted to be close to her husband again.  Ready to die to embrace that, like so many widows.  If they’d had a pacemaker for the soul, she might have lived a little longer.  As it was, on December 22, 1997 Roz passed away in her sleep, shed this mortal coil and hooked-up with “Jackson.”
First love: best love.
On December 26th, her friends and family gathered again, in the Chapel of the Oaks at the Valley Oaks Memorial Park in Westlake Village. Tears and stoic struggled.
Two in forever-love spiraled through eternity: hand in hand with free hands clasped with everybody they’d loved, who had loved them, connected to everybody else all ever loved. A divine chain of love: which is what I believe Heaven is.
This time Thibidoux was so broken-up that he couldn’t even call me and Lisa broke the news. I grabbed my red phone book again. Joe Simon took it particularly hard. He’d had some ups and downs with Jack, but never with her. And in some respects, it ended an era for him.
Joe and I were not on the best of terms at the time, but we put that aside for a couple of minutes. Exchanged some similar sentiments and signed-off. I called Steranko next and then back to the “A” pages.
However, this time there was no call to my wife to break out my luggage as three days before Christmas a was stone-cold-broke. “No way that this is gonna happen.” I’d missed one and now I was going to miss the other.
“Your check is in the mail, but you probably won’t get it until after the new year.”
Robert Katz (Roz’s cousin) and Lisa Kirby took over the estate and disseminated the remaining art to family members. The house was pre-sold for $375,000.

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