My first personal experience with Art Widner was when we put on Corflu Sunsplash in 1999. As always, he drove there -- and was always willing to drive fans back and forth, move things about, ready to pitch in at any time.
Art was the oldest one there, both in calendar years and -- as he has been around since First Fandom -- the oldest in fanac. . .but you couldn't tell it by the way he behaved. He was as friendly and open with neofen as experienced fen. That was displayed by the way he got along with my daughter, Cheryl, who has always been aware of fandom, and has dabbled in it, but certainly qualified as a neo -- particularly in a group that included Ted White, rich brown, Joyce and Arnie Katz, and so on.
We asked an oldtime friend of Art's, Earl Kemp, to tell us about Art. He responded, in his own inimitable style.
ShelVy, I know you asked me to write something for your webzine about Art Widner, but in all honesty I just can’t force myself to do that…much too degrading. Besides, everyone already knows who Art Widner is, everyone with an ounce of science fiction blood in his or her veins anyway.
Now, on the other hand, had you asked me to write something about that much more superior fellow, AR Twidner, that would have been a different matter entirely. Only I wouldn’t have written that one for you either, even though it would be more preferable than stooping so low as to write a Widner piece.
AR stands for All Wright, you know, and you pronounce it like a guttural growl of “ArrrRite!”
Arrr and me go way back a ways together into the dim, distant, rapidly fading past. But even after all that has passed under the bridge, Arrr still acts like a perennial teenager. He’s always the first to arrive at any fan gathering, convention, or bullshit session…and as often as not the last to leave….
That teenage stamina doesn’t always hold true for him though because there are many who can testify to the times they have seen Arrr passed out dead to the world in the host’s bathtub, drool running down the side of his face.
There are many more who would testify to the speed with which Arrr has been known to drop his coveralls, especially with a professional looking or even just expensive camera pointed in the general direction of his crotch. Pretty good for an old fart for sure that one, bragging or just overly brave, whichever comes first as we used to say in the sleazebook era. Besides, there’s no truth to the rumor at all that it drops off all by itself on your 90th birthday.
There are many more who would testify that Arrr’s periodic fanzines are quality work at the very best, and it hardly matters that Arrr almost never writes any English…just Gobbledegoop….
Or writes for that matter. There are 108 actual-count fanzine editors (certified by the Actual Fanzine Editors Certification Board) to whom Arrr has promised articles. He did it so long ago those fanzine editors had already forgotten, only Arrr hadn’t. He reminded them that it was on his list, he just hadn’t gotten around to starting it yet.
So you see the way I’m going with this, how difficult to write about a Widner when there’s a Twidner in the house…?
He also drives a really funny looking old Volvo. Looks like some street gang rubbed shit all over it with their hands, leaving all kinds of wild streak marks on the paintjob. Arrr will tell you that it’s “art” but that old cliché told me that if it looks like shit, smells like shit, then it has to be a duck.
And, so there’s no confusion about how it looks, here’s a photo that my son Erik took of me, Arrr, and Arrr’s “art” car when Arrr visited us in Kingman a year or so ago.
It’s all part of the family thing, you know, ShelVy…meaning we accept his peculiarities and try to ignore his funny quirks…and we love him. He knows that.
Oh, and ShelVy, one more thing, and this one’s important. I want you to hear it directly from me and not distorted through second or third hand messengers. It goes like this:
I bought myself a pair of coveralls. Yes, I did, at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store bargain bonanza blowout sale. And I want you to be ready the next time the three of us get together at the same science fiction doings. Be sure you’ve got your camera close and ready. You could be the very first to photograph the Twhrilling Twirling Twinkling Twidner Twins.