Edward Gorey visited San Francisco only once, on a R&R break from his tour of duty in the U.S. Army during World War II. Since his death in 2000, the City of Love’s embrace of this brilliant Chicago ->Boston ->New York ->Cape Cod artist and author only seems to grow warmer.
It was in 2000 that the Edwardian Ball was launched. This increasingly legendary Steampunk celebration has mushroomed in 14 years from a fringe event into a multi-floor two-day festival, a bizarre Beaux-Arts bazaar of vendors, music, vendors, performances, vendors, acrobatics, dancing, and above all, costumes displaying every imaginable variation on Edwardian and Victorian, Goreyesque and Goth.
2000 also marked the first birthday party for Edward Gorey at the Cartoon Art Museum. I had hosted parties for Edward, who generally loathed and avoided them, on Cape Cod during the late 1990s when we were collaborating on theater projects. He strongly urged me not to fly back East for his 75th birthday, so instead, I got together with CAM to stage a sampler performance of some of his theater pieces, plus a giant cake. I sent him photos, not suspecting that less than two months later he would die from a heart attack.
This year Edward Gorey’s birthday–February 22–falls on a Saturday. CAM’s celebration, two days earlier, will be part of Yerba Buena Third Thursdays, a monthly evening of open museums and galleries in the area around Yerba Buena Park. If you’re in downtown San Francisco on Thursday night 2/20, drop by 655 Mission Street anytime between 5 and 8 PM to peruse the current exhibitions, watch a slide show, have your Fantods read, or buy a book written, illustrated, and/or inspired by Edward Gorey.
If you’re on Cape Cod in March, you can catch any of three preview screenings of clips from Christopher Seufert’s affectionate documentary film of Edward Gorey’s life and work in the late 1990s. Edward and Chris met when our town of Yarmouth opened a local-access TV station, C3TV. Eternally curious and experimental, Edward (and I) signed up to learn how to use this new medium; Chris was the resident expert. TV animation wound up not being a medium Edward chose to pursue, but Chris was fascinated by the media he did pursue, and pursued him. Over Edward’s theatrical groans of protest, Chris and company followed him everywhere with cameras rolling. For the price of some inconvenience (along with plenty of admiration), the legacy to which Edward paid no particular attention during his life is now bolstered by footage.
Wherever you are on February 22, take a moment to look closely at one of Edward Gorey’s extraordinarily intricate and beautiful drawings; read one of his startlingly simple but unsettling books. And don’t forget George Washington. This day has given us plenty to celebrate.