By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
We end up not talking much about the movie, because there’s too much else to talk about, and we have less than an hour until the alarms go off and the Movie People whisk Pekar away.
Instead, we compare parents.
“My father,” says Pekar, “he seemed like a humble, normal kind of guy. My mother was real nervous. God, was she nervous. So nervous.”
“Mine, too.” I tell a nervous-mother story, hypothesizing the origins of Mom’s nervousness. (It’s a real good story, you should’ve been there.)
“My father was real religious,” Pekar says. “And my mother was an atheist.” ‰
“Oh, yeah? My mother was an atheist,” I counter, “and my father’s still agnostic. They used to argue.”
“Mine wouldn’t argue, about anything. It was really something. They really respected each other. It was amazing. You should write about, like, how your father came from the same town that I did, and my mother was a communist . . . ”
“There’s our headline, right there . . . ”
A lot of people who aren’t familiar with American Splendor comics may know Harvey Pekar as That Guy who’d get in arguments with David Letterman. The semiregular guest who wore the Boycott NBC T-shirt on the air and tried to get Letterman to talk General Electric. That guy.
“So is Letterman asking you back, to promote the film?”
“No, they’re not. I think I just cause painful memories for him. They made the movie and sent it to him, and he didn’t respond.”
“No shit? That’s pretty good.”
“That’s weird. I just would’ve guessed they’d want you on the show. Maybe after the film comes out.”
“Nah, they probably haven’t heard of me. I’m waiting for you to make me famous.”
“Oh, yeah. Once you’re in the L.A. Weekly twice in the same year, it’s just a matter of time before you’re in the Bakersfield Weekly.”
“So write an article about this, about us talking. Why not? Yeah. I mean, that’s the most comfortable thing to do, right? Not to transcribe the tape.”
“Well, yeah. I figure I’ll write it without the tape, then go back and listen to make sure I get the quotes right, and stuff like that. Figure I’ll focus on how I wouldn’t let you get a word in edgewise about yourself or about the movie while I was talking about my parents and Glenville High School and cancer and stuff . . . ”
“Ah, you were fine, you were fine. Don’t be hard on yourself. I mean, if you wanna do it to be funny, you know, comic relief or something like that . . . but, as far as . . . I mean, you’re a nice guy. I got no beef with you. You were nice to me. You showed up . . . ”
“No. I am the evil Dave. I have come here to ruin both our lives.”
Time to go. Pekar’s wife, Joyce Brabner, stops by with the professional publicity people. (You’ll meet her — she’s in the movie.) They’ve gotta get ready for another interview in 10 minutes, and then Pekar’s got one more right after that. And then the comic convention all day tomorrow . . .
“Do you know Victoria Looseleaf?” Pekar asks me.
“I just saw that name for the first time a few weeks ago. Where did I see it?”
“It’s just like Jennifer Blowdryer,” says Brabner.
“Possibly related to poet laureate Todd Refrigerator,” I offer. “It is a made-up name, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it’s a made-up name,” says Pekar. “She writes for various papers, and she’s also got a cable show. It might be on the channel where they don’t pay you. She’s from Cleveland, too. I got another interview after this, then I got her.”
“Do you end up having to repeat most of the same stuff in all the interviews?”
“Well, I didn’t do that with you. We’ve been talking about my communist background, and you didn’t ask me, did I feel weird about seeing somebody playing me on the silver screen . . . ”
“If it’s all right, I still won’t ask you. Not that I’m not interested, but I’m sure I can read about it later somewhere.”
“Nah — I give them such a boring answer that they don’t even publish it.”
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