My Lunch with Jim Warren
I’ve been in this racket since 1980 and even dating back to junior high school, I’ve been exposed to celebrities, politicians, actors, directors, producers, etc. My first interview was with Harry Chapin when he played a benefit at the high school and since then, there have been some really cool moments and opportunities. Getting to interview Chuck Yeager, the man who broke the sound barrier, was an incredible highlight.
In my field, we fortunately respect and revere the pioneers, the first generation who helped invent the comic book. I was thrilled when I got to know Shelly Mayer, who felt there had to be some connection between us since there are Greenbergers in his family tree. Maybe, we never figured it out.
As a result, there are very few pioneers I’ve never had the pleasure to meet and among them has been Jim Warren. For those unfamiliar, Jim was the enterprising publisher who launched Famous Monsters of Filmland and parleyed that success into a mini-empire with the introduction of Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella. I’d heard him speak at conventions, we even attend some of the same memorials but had never had the chance to say hello.
Last spring, an FM project came up that led me to go seeking Jim. It took a few weeks, but I got in touch with him and since May, we have spoken by phone every few weeks. I’m pleased to have been the one to arrange for Comic-Con International to invite Jim back so he and Forry Ackerman could be on stage together one final time, celebrating the 50th anniversary of FM.
One does not have a brief conversation with Jim. Our conversations last close to two hours and it covers a lot of stuff. Still, we had yet to be face-to-face, something he wanted to rectify. While in New York for business this week, he invited me to lunch.
I’ve been to lunch meetings since my Starlog days and in an hour or two you get to know one another a bit and discuss your business over the meal. Jim does it in a style I’d only read about. We met at a mid-town steak house and he was ensconced in a corner, at a large round table that normally sat four or more. Like a concerned parent, he warned me not to arrive in jeans and he approved of my attire when I arrived.
He warned the waiter that he liked to take his time and they were most accommodating since he seemed to be a semi-regular. I arrived at noon and we didn’t order until after 1 and we didn’t start talking business until 3 and by 4:40 I had to excuse myself to catch a train.
We discussed books, movies, politics, current events, people we knew. We shared an affection for Robert B. Parker’s works. He probed about my background and had asked to see writing samples. His probing mind asked about some of the stuff on my bibliography and was rather impressed by the titles I had done for Rosen Books. By the time we got to the business at hand, he seemed fairly comfortable with me. Along the way, I got some stories out of him that I hadn’t heard previously so we both gained something from the exchange.
Will this lead to anything? Who knows. That he’s still interested in doing new things these days rather than rest on his laurels is also impressive. But doing thing Jim’s way was a glimpse into the publishing world of the past and it made for a delightful way to break up the at-home routine.