Today Officially Stinks

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.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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25 Responses to Today Officially Stinks

  1. maggiros says:

    The first time met you and Kage outside of Faire was at that little duplex in the Hollywood Hills, some sort of party or Court thing or, I have no idea. For some reason, that’s where I always think of you though I know that’s long ago. What a day today is. What an awful day.


  2. Todi says:

    thank you for finding the words.


  3. Yup, today sucks rocks.


  4. Kate says:

    Maggie – I think that was Kent’s Night of a Thousand Desserts. He had an all day buffet and forgot until that morning to make any desserts. Kage and I ran next door and made about a dozen different cakes, puddings, pies, tarts, AND zuppa inglese from what was hanging around the two kitchens … Kent was running in and out between the back doors juggling plates and yelling “What’s in this one?” Hysteria on wheels …


  5. johnbrownson says:

    Tears in my eyes, Kate. Love you. -Buff


  6. Kate says:

    Love you, too, Buff. And DJ.


  7. Mark says:

    Feta Oracalis is not a “nearly senseless reference”….just one that was obscure enough that it stopped me in my tracks, as I flashed back upon the heat, the dust, the cold lemonade, and the passionate laughter of a youth spent with those who were family of choice. It will only be gone when the last keepers of memory fade from the scene, not merely the weary flesh……but those whose lives were touched.


  8. Kira says:

    i never met Kent, but i remember all the stories…tragic. the world grows poorer for every loss.


    • Kate says:

      Well, Kira, what we have to hope is for the young folks growing up behind us.(Like you – your life makes me happy!) Nature has a way of supplying what is needed. It’s just hard on us older folks along the way.


  9. Beth says:

    Tearing up, I sooo remember the cheese and not being able to breathe at times. It was also a carrot cake that wasn’t it… I don’t remember everything, but those stand out. What great holes are left in our lives..


  10. Luisa Puig says:

    Oh. My. God. I had no idea until this very moment. Kent! Gone? NO!

    We just saw him this past April at the 50th RF/Queen’s Court Reunion.

    Oh dear, oh dear.

    God bless him, and Surrey, too (though I only knew her from sight at Dickens).

    Our loss is very much Heavens Gain.


  11. Lynn says:

    We heard about Surrey and not half anhour later, we heard about Kent’s passing. Rory, Terry and I cried together for our other family. We thought of all the people who would be so sad. I know I had to sit in the car once I arrived at my first errand because I passed a large hardward store and remembered the fun we had when Kent taught his Costume College class of Home Depot for Costumers. We’ve really lost two wonderful jewels today. I hope kage had the tea ready for them – and maybe some gin. They should have enough people now for a Court dance. I’m so sad.


  12. Kate says:

    Try not to be too sad, Lynn – though it’s hard here, where we survivors are still marching on. But think about the company on the other side! The sparkle, the brilliance, the return of tireless youth and creative strength, all tempered now with the wisdom of age! What a hell of a party is going on where our beloveds have journeyed! And you can bet Kage is pouring gin and rum along with the tea.


  13. Tom says:

    A good friend told me about Kent’s passing a couple of hours ago and it is truly sad news.
    It’s been a long time since I joined all that fun and reading these entries has been both heartwarming and tearful.
    My condolences & best wishes to you and everyone.
    Thank you so very much for doing this site.


  14. Tom B. says:

    Oh, hell and damn.
    Kage told me about Kent once – a story of a gentleman going over the wall into a certain film studio’s costume warehouse before it was emptied and razed. A good man with a grappling hook . . .
    A big middle finger to you and your bony ass, Mr. Death!


    • Kate says:

      Kent was of a heroic frame of mind. And he was a genius costumer, as well as being just a brilliant all-around seamster. More than anything else, he was a generous, kind, sweet person, and his loss leaves an enormous hole in my heart.


      • Jane says:

        Did you ever see his attic? full closet space, organized by periods. Amazing. And his home was a cover issue on a Victorian magazine a decade ago. So shocking that he’s gone!


  15. Kate says:

    Oh, yes, I saw the attic, Jane. Helped set some of it up, in fact, when he first moved into the house. And before that, when we shared a house and a garage – my half of that garage looked like a hooraw’s nest, and his looked like a milliner’s shop.


  16. Athene says:

    Feta Oracalis, the cheese always knows. Sure wish it would have given a heads’ up this time. Still blind-sided.


  17. I am shocked and so sorrowed to hear of Kent’s passing, and the circumstances of his much to early departure to the heavens above. He was a truly gifted, talented, and amazing person. I went to high school with him & always delighted in seeing, and reading about his adventures. He seemed to have lived a charmed life, with many who loved him. I pray he finds the peace he sought, and am so sorry for those who loved him so dearly and now must cope with the loss. God be with all of us in these times that seem to grow more difficult.


  18. John B. says:

    I remember the first time i had made down for a Halloween party, Tired from the drive down bedding down on your livingroom floor. Out side the front window a light glowed. Then two Klingons ran by the window and the light faded. It looked as though they had just beamed in. Even though they were just quickly dropped by a friend from a party. The Headlights had cast just the right glow on the window.

    Kent was indeed a brilliant costumer, performer, and will be missed
    The Cheese Never Lies!! But you must have his glove or it doesn’t work.
    those were the rules he made them.
    The many laughs they are what I will remember most.



  19. Jess W. says:

    I only just saw this. Thank you.


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