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Thursday, March 18, 2004

 

A Rare (and Unappreciated) Jodie Foster Citing

By John Hinckley

I've told this story before, but recent events invite its retelling: It was in the early days of Wizard's existence that I was invited to write for the fledgling magazine. The invitation came from Pat O'Neil, a former editor at ComicScene who had bought my articles before. He offered me twice what I’d been getting from ComicScene. It’s important to note that these were not halcyon days for me, friends. I was struggling financially. And at home, I had two in diapers.

One day, I received a call from O'Neil asking if I'd be interested in doing a feature on Jodie Foster.



“Sure,” I said. “I loved her work on Conan.” So the very next day, I attempted to contact Jodie. One of her assistants, a woman, answered the phone. I explained that I was calling on behalf of Wizard and asked for an interview.

“Jodie doesn't give phone interviews,” she said. “You'll have to fax your questions and she'll review them. If she's interested, she'll get back to you.”

It wasn’t what she said so much as the way she said it. Really snotty. So I'll admit I was a little put off. In my career as a freelance journalist with the L.A. Times Entertainment Newswire and about four-dozen magazines, I'd interviewed lots of people from John Scully (C.E.O. of Apple Computers) to Frank Zappa; from Howard Stern to Mickey Mantle; poets, playwrights, actors and actresses; scientists, athletes and religious leaders. And if I'd only learned one thing at that point in my career it was this: A fish rots from the head. When someone's -people- act that way, it's coming from the top.

But there are exceptions. So I persisted.

I typed up a list of questions and proceeded to fax them the next morning. Later that afternoon, I received a call. It was Pat O'Neil. He informed me that I was off the story.

“What happened?” I asked.
“They said you were rude to them,” Pat reported.
“They said I was rude?”
“And they said you called her ‘Miss Foster’ in your fax.”
“Isn't that her name?” I asked.
“It's Windsor-Foster,” said O'Neil.

I squinted, ran my hand through my beard, then said, “Hang on a minute.” I ran downstairs and pulled out my autograph book. Then I grabbed my copy of Conan #1. Then I ran back to the phone. “I have Conan #1 in my hand,” I said to O’Neil, still out of breath. “The credits say Roy Thomas and Jodie Foster. I also have my autograph book. Jodie signed it at the first MarvelCon... Here it is. ‘Best wishes--Jodie Foster.’”

“She changed it,” said O'Neil.
“Gosh,” I said. “I feel like such a fool! How could I have missed such an important news item?”
“You're off the story,” said O'Neil.
“At least let me call and apologize,” I offered. “I don't want to leave it like this.”
Ok, said, O'Neil. Call and apologize.

So I called again the next morning again. “This is John Hinckley,” I said to the person who answered the phone at the Windsor-Foster Studios. At least I assumed it was a person. “I'm calling from Wizard magazine and—”
“I thought we made it clear that you shouldn't call here.”
“Who am I speaking with?” I asked.
“This is Jim Brady. I'm the office manager.”
“What did I do wrong?” I asked.
“You don't even know Miss Windsor-Foster's last name,” said Bialy. “Now you're not to call here again. Do you understand?” And with that, he hung up.

I sat there for a moment waiting for the feeling to come back into my head. Then I felt it. I was hurt.

So, like an idiot, I called back again.
“Brady?” I asked.
“Yes?”
“This is John Hinckley. Just answer one question: What the hell is your problem?”
But I never did get the answer because he hung up. And that afternoon, Pat O'Neil called me to tell me I was fired.

Now, I know what you're thinking. O'Neil should have backed me up. Yessir. I agree.



You're also thinking there's an odd chance that this was all put in motion by Bialy, not Windsor-Foster; that the big boss knew nothing of these events. Well, I thought that, too. So I called Windsor-Foster’s home and left a message on her answering machine. The message was brief, explanatory, and apologetic. I left my phone number. Repeated it twice. Slowly.

But I never did get a return call.

That, my friends, was a decade ago. Why recall it now? Well, recently, I received an email from one of Jodie Windsor-Foster's associates—an artist of acclaim whose work I admire very much. Like so many of her peers—most, in fact—she was contributing to The Uncanny Dave Cockrum Tribute book that I'm editing for Aardwolf Publishing. And he wanted to know why Windsor-Foster had not been invited.

So I phoned this artist and told him the story. He wasn't the least bit surprised.

“Look,” I said. “I’m a forgiving guy. Just tell Jodie to call me. I've always admired her work on Conan.”

But Windsor-Foster didn't call. Instead, another artist phoned on her behalf. He said that Windsor-Foster was worried. She feared that if she contributed a piece to the book (a project I've been working on for months) I might reject it.

“Tell her to call me,” I said. “Here's my phone number.”



But Windsor-Foster didn't call. Then, a day before the deadline, Aardwolf Publishing’s secretary received an email from none other than Jim Brady. The note said that Windsor-Foster’s art would be arriving a little late and that Aardwolf should hold open a place for it. It also insisted on knowing full details of the benefit auction, distribution of the book’s proceeds, and so forth.

Aardwolf's secretary sent Brady the following reply: “John Hinckley is the editor of The Uncanny Dave Cockrum Tribute. Ask Jodie to call him.” Then she gave him my phone number.

But Windsor-Foster didn't call. Instead, I received an email from Brady. It said that Windsor-Foster would be contributing to the book and asked for my Fed Ex number so they could charge me for the shipping.

I replied very clearly: “Ask Jodie to call me.”

As of this writing, I have not received a call. But I have thought about this situation long and hard, friends. I've meditated on it and fasted for days in an effort to humble my soul. I've looked into the deepest depths of my being and decided that I should forgive Jodie Windsor-Foster for what she did to me (and what I can only imagine she's done to others). Even if I am beneath personally calling.

It's unfair to hold royalty to the standards of common courtesy when, after all, those standards are so common. And Windsor-Foster is a most uncommon woman. Her work is so brilliant, in fact, that I think it unfair to subject it to indifferent eyes. A collection of sketches by mere “comic” artists has no place in the same publication as a Windsor-Foster rendering.

Further, I think it unfair to subject someone as important as Jodie Windsor-Foster to my unworthy company; unfair to ask him to descend from Olympus and grace this editor—whose career she offhandedly stepped on as if it were a bug—with his divine etchings of unparalleled perfection.

So, no, my friends—Jodie Windsor-Foster will not be appearing this evening.

John Hinckley





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