I’ve devoted a lot of time and energy to the life of Harry Crews, but I guess I can’t call myself a true devotee, now that I’ve seen Harry’s face tattooed on a human leg. Mike, the owner of that leg, was one of the many and varied attendees at Sunday’s Celebration of Harry at Lillian’s Music Store, one of Harry’s favorite bars in Gainesville.
It was a spirited affair, with a diverse and impressive cast of characters. In the house were Crews fans, students, friends, drinking buddies, aficionados and even a few bar patrons who were completely unaware of who Harry was. A few of them didn’t seem to notice that there was a book party going on. It was hot and loud and festive and just the kind of afternoon Harry would have appreciated until he was forcibly removed.
It was great to see some of the folks who went way back with Harry, from Ward Scott to John Feiber to Huntley Johnson (he promises me he was there) to Maggie Powell to Ed Nagel. All went out of their way to help me while I was writing “Blood, Bone and Marrow,” as did many others who were in attendance at Lillian’s. Thanks go out to Lillian’s owner Michael Giddings for hosting the party. Michael G. says a Crews photo will go on the wall soon. Some children who are many years from drinking age were even spotted in the bar, and it’s possible that they’re related to me.
On Tuesday, we took the Harry Crews road show to the other coast, for an event at Skylight Books in Los Angeles. Crews fans (and even a few Jim Murray fans) showed up to hear some of the stories of Harry’s life on what would have been his 81st birthday. It was a little less sweaty and beer-stenched, but still a great discussion of the writing life in a beautiful venue. Skylight is the type of independent, community bookstore that we all love, and to see it thriving in the heart of film and celebrity country is a tribute to its staff.
It was a treat to finally meet Willie Mickelberry in person. He was a student of Harry’s, who came to the event and shared a great story with the audience. Steve Oney, a fabulous writer and friend of Crews from days-gone-by, joined the panel and added some excellent perspective.
On the panel for both events was the great Michael Connelly. I can’t thank Michael enough for all he’s done for me and “Blood, Bone and Marrow,” writing the foreword and speaking at all the events we’ve held for the book. University of Georgia Press attended both events in full force, thanks to the largesse of Donna Scott Reed.
Donna’s support of the book has been unbelievable, as has that of Sheffield Hale, who was also in the house at Lillian’s. It was great to have Lisa Bayer and all Georgia Press folks in the audience, and they weren’t even harassed that much for their Bulldog affiliation. Dave Schlenker warmed up the crowd and emceed the program with verve, and Shannon Byrne was behind the scenes pulling the levers to make sure these events, and the entire BBM operation, rolls along.
And roll along it will – next month I’ll be in Augusta and Savannah, and perhaps a few more locales to be named later. If I show up at your front door with a Harry Crews tattoo on my leg, I’ll understand if you call the authorities.
A Celebration of Harry Crews at Lilian's Music Store
photos by Shannon Byrne
A Celebration of Harry Crews at Sklight Books
Los Angeles, CA
photos by Amanda Sharp