Kage Baker would have been grieving today – instead, she’s very likely greeting old friends. Two of our oldest died yestreday, and those of us still even slightly attached to the Faire community are mourning. A lot.
Surrey Blackburn was a fixture and a saint at Dickens Faire. She played Miss Havisham, from Dicken’s Great Expectations. She did it so flawlessly and so well that even customers knew at first sight who the elegant lady in the cobwebbed wedding gown was. She was much, much nicer than Miss Havisham – witty, kind, extraordinarily talented in many fields. She was a skilled photographer, and in fact an expert in several antique photography methods – she spent some time generously explaining them to Kage, who was doing research at the time on Vermeer …Surrey was a regular at the Green Man at Dickens, one of the Tea Brigade for whom we kept a special place on the House Shelf of tea cups. She made Pip’s life miserable every day at one of my tables.
And she was that rarest of gems among our cast, A Real Englishwoman. And she never laughed at us.
As Miss Havisham, she was in the habit of handing out stuffed toy mice to little girls. A decade of small girls in my Green Man Public House have been subsequently hiding the damned things in the tea cozy, amid the mustard pots, on the window sills, in my reticule (yes, I mean you, Meagan. And Adelia. And Skye Kathleen)… I am still constantly ambushed by small giggling girls with stealth mice. They will be Surrey’s honour guard in my memory.
Not 10 minutes after receiving the horrid news of Surrey’s death, I learned that my old, old, dear, beloved friend Kent Elofson had died yestreday. I can’t express the depth of this loss. Kent was a friend from the oldest days in Agoura, a playmate of my youth and Kage’s, a neighbor for several years in the Hollywood Hills. He was a brilliant costumer. He was an Imagineer for Disney. He was one of the sweetest, kindest, cleverest men I ever knew.
We shared a duplex – made emergency dishes for one another’s dinner parties, shared laundry supplies, did one another’s shopping. When he had rehearsals in his half of the house, the sound of Court dancing, Privy Councils and the Reduced Shakespeare Company echoed up from my kitchen sink. He glued our toilet back together at midnight one Christmas Eve, when we’d broken it by dropping a conch shell into it and Grandma was coming for dinner the next day … when he eventually moved to Pasadena, a lot of it was in my truck. Load after load in the dark, gorgeous antique furniture, and boxes of vintage toys; ruffs and boots and swords and a skeletal Tinkerbell in a glass display jar, from his Dead Peter Pan costume.
He invented the Feta Oracalis, an heirloom of my house: the fabulous Fortune Telling Cheese of Antioch. That is a very nearly senseless reference, Dear Readers, I know: but try to understand the sensorium that accompanies it. It is symbolic of a thousand hot golden dusty afternoons under the oak trees, when we played silly games and told fortunes with a huge fake cheese adorned with one of Kent’s exquisitely jewelled gloves, laughing our brains out …
There is no way to memorialize either of these wonderful people adequately. All I can do is pour out what words I can find, wailing my furious and inchoate rage at being robbed yet again of people I loved. Fuck you, Death. You were already off my Christmas Card list, but now I’m drawing a big black line through your name.
So there. I’m sure Death is worried.
But in the meantime … Kage, good heart, go pour a couple of cups of Earl Grey for our friends, please. It’s been a long walk, and they will be thirsty.