Art Widner

by Debbie Notkin

Lots of people shared my first Art Widner moment.

It was a mid-to-late 70s SF convention (maybe a Westercon?). Art Widner, who was clearly born with white hair, a white beard, and a bald spot, was just another of those older fans, kind of quiet, not much of an individual in my eyes (though I have to say I had noticed the twinkle in his eyes). Among Art's contemporaries, the most notable Bay Area fans of the time were Aubrey MacDermott, who would talk your ear off at a moment's notice about whatever he happened to think you should be interested in, and Clifton Amsbury, who would (and still will) do the same: but Clifton is likely to be interesting when he does it. A bunch of my friends were sitting around at a room party when Art came in.

"Anybody got a drink?" he said rather frantically. "I just had to spend a whole hour with Aubrey MacDermott!"

The whole room did a double-take. If Art could be bored by Aubrey, just like the rest of us, maybe we should pay more attention.

So I started paying (a little) more attention, and I generally liked what I found. In the mid-1980s, however, I took a bigger step. I asked Art to be a member of my fledgling apa-about-relationships, Intercourse. In the intervening twelve years, we've really gotten to know and care for each other, and it's been an unmitigated delight.

If I hadn't made friends with Art, I never would have read "The Junkie and the Recycled Octagon," the astonishing biographical essay he ran through the apa.

I never would have gotten to see the stunningly beautiful recycled octagon itself, Art's home on the Mendocino coastline--and to appreciate the contradiction of hand-built home and awesome scenery on the one hand, and fannish piles of books and papers on the other hand. I wouldn't know that his old home in Orinda, which looked like an ordinary house in a suburban tract, had commune and 1960's political history behind it.

Most important, I never would have known just how much is behind the twinkle in those eyes.

Art, I'm glad you're 80, I'm glad you're reading this, and I'm especially glad you're still twinkling.