Lee Creates a Fan

by Gary Ross Hoffman

My earliest memories of Lee were when she was still Shirley. She was a teenager living with her parents in Savannah, Georgia. (Note: These are only my memories. Errors will have to be corrected by the Reality Reconciliation Board in the Afterlife.)

I knew right away that Lee was a Special Person. Her room exuded a magical aura, attracting any curious kid who wandered too close. There were partially finished paintings on easels. There were Indian bead belts being constructed. There were miniature sailing ships. The whole room was filled with Neat Stuff. It was the best room in the house, possibly the best room in the whole universe.

Lee sometimes accused me of "messing with her stuff", but I was a good kid at the time and never dared touch her possessions. It was many years later, when I was no longer a good kid, that I messed with her stuff. In any case, I was shy and hardly ever initiated conversations on my own, and Lee didn't seem to have much use for little nephews, so our interactions were fairly rare.

Still, she had such neat stuff, and every now and then she'd set up a blank sheet for me and let me draw, so I was captivated at an early age.

Later in life I discovered that Lee had horses. Right there in suburban Savannah, Lee had horses. Can you imagine the impact that this had on a little kid? She even rode one over to our house one day. While she was engaged in conversation with my parents, the horse decided to roll around in the dirt road, saddle and all. (Lee accused my brother and me of "messing with her horse", but we were a little scared of Mister Horse and hadn't gone near him. Despite the sting of the accusation, though, it was pretty neat watching a horse decide to scratch his back right in front of us.)

Lee headed off to New York after a few years. I was pretty sure she was actually "Lee" by that time. I didn't know much about New York, but I knew it was a big place. Mainly I was impressed that Lee had struck out on her own, and pretty much without asking for permission.

Contact with Lee was sporadic for a while. I have a recollection of her visiting Savannah and showing us a record jacket that was based on a design she had done. But the next meaningful meeting was when my family (1) went to New York for the Worlds Fair, or (2) went to New York to catch a flight to England. My memory fails me at this point, I can't recall the occasion. I just remember that we caught a train from a deserted and very spooky station so that we could visit Lee at some apartment. I was almost a teenager by this time, and still somewhat in awe of her, despite our limited contact. We arrived at the address Lee had supplied, walked up a flight or two, and found go karts.

That did it. I now worshipped the ground upon which Lee walked. She was the coolest being on Earth. She built go karts in an apartment in New York City. She had all kinds of neat friends. She seemed to know Rocky and Bullwinkle on a first name basis. And, (shudder), I felt like she was beginning to take an interest in me. She did not accuse me of messing with her go karts! Clearly (in my mind, at least) she had elevated me to the status of Mildly Interesting Person. I was in heaven.

I don't recall having much direct contact with Lee during my teen years, but I did discover the attic space in her parents' home where all of her possessions had been stored. Like a stalker fixated on a movie star, I haunted that little room. I was Indiana Jones and I had made an amazing discovery, The Treasures of Lee Hoffman. There were ancient MAD magazines. There were Dennis the Menace paperbacks. There was the entire history of Lil' Abner and how he wound up married to Daisy May. There were science fiction pulps. Oh, the joy, the rapture! I admit it. I messed with her stuff.

(Unlike Carter, Schliemann, Evans, and Jones, however, I do apologize for the intrusion.)

Once I started college I thought that I had become a Real Person, a bona-fide Adult. Thus emboldened I started writing to Lee on a regular basis. And she wrote back! I'm sure that everything I wrote must have been childish gibberish, but Lee was kind and did not say so.

My (first) foray into higher education was a disaster and I quickly found myself in the military. Fortunately for me I wound up in the Air Force and was never sent to Vietnam. I spent my four-year enlistment in California. During that time I started reading science fiction paperbacks. I focused on Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Ray Bradbury. Lee, seeing that I was on the brink of serious interest in the genre, gave me a list of other authors to sample. That little push set my reading habits for the next several decades.

Lee completed my indoctrination years later when she (1) introduced me to Doctor Who, and then (2) took me to a science fiction convention and literally introduced me to Doctor Who. I toppled headfirst into fandom.

I was in. I was one of the proud, the few, the Tru-Fen. I joined clubs. I worked on committees. I wrote for the club-zine. I worked on cons and spent weekends at hotels babbling on a walkie-talkie. I hosted meetings at my home and alienated my spouse. And eventually I chaired a convention myself. And now, in my gray-hair years, I have even gafiated.

Did I do well, Lee?

Previously appeared in a private publication, 2002

© 2022 Gary Ross Hoffman

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