“Isn’t that Tony Millionaire?”
Samara is steadier on her feet in the world of cartoonists than I am.
In fact, she’s generally better at keeping track of people’s faces full stop. For much of my childhood I thought that Danny DeVito was Bob Hoskins and that Bob Holness from Blockbusters was the skeleton from the Scotch videotape adverts.
“Yes,” she said, “That is Tony Millionaire.”
It was hard to believe. I like Tony Millionaire a lot. And, an illustrator, Samara is in quiet awe of him. And he was sitting right there like a normal person.
We were at an indie press fair. All around, earnest young people sat behind trestle tables laden with exquisitely mimeographed fact sheets about exciting new genders, four-panel photographic comic strips made at the denouement of a pilgrimage to the last remaining chemical photo booth in Winnipeg, and potato-printed tales of lovely woe.
Ravenous throngs jostled.
Tony Millionaire sat behind a trestle table too, but in front of it was a circle of emptiness because the comics fans recognised him and they were shy about talking to him because he created Billy Hazelnuts.
I’m a big tall idiot though, so I marched right through the sacred circle and said hello to Tony Millionaire.
“Hello!” I said, “You’re Tony Millionaire!”
“Yes!” said Tony Millionaire, rising chirpily from dormancy like a fortune-telling robot on the end of a pier, “the famous cartoonist!”
I had known he was Tony Millionaire already. Because Samara had told me so. And Because he was clearly and horrifically Tony Millionaire.
I extended a hand and he shook it kindly.
“How’s it going?” I asked, “What are you up to?”
“It goes pretty good,” he said, “I’m hawking copies of my latest book. They’re forty dollars.”
He slapped the top copy as he said “forty dollars.”
“Nice,” I said.
“It’s a treasury!” he said, “All my work from the last twenty years.”
“Oh,” I said, “I’ve already got most of your work from the last twenty years. I mean, my partner has.”
It was then Tony Millionaire noticed Samara.
“Oh,” said Tony Millionaire, looking down at his notes, “Well, that’s great.”
Just as I was debating internally whether I should tell Tony Millionaire that he was the third or fourth Tony I’d met that week (I was vague on the numbers because one of the “four” Tonies was not a human being at all but a shoe shop called Tony Shoe) I suddenly noticed that an odd shift in atmosphere had happened in the room.
Tony Millionaire, the famous cartoonist, had been made shy by my girlfriend being the proud owner of much of his work and existing.
Samara is so lovely that she can make famous cartoonists–of whom all other cartoonists are shy–shy.
“Hey!” I said to Samara, trying to lighten the mood, “It’s Tony Millionaire!”
“Yes,” mumbled Tony Millionaire, “the, um, the famous cartoonist.”
“The what?” said Samara, blissfully unaware of what was going on.
“The… famous, um, cartoonist,” he said.
“He’s selling his new book,” I said.
“Yes,” said Tony Millionaire, “they’re, um, forty dollars or something.”
“Jesus Christ,” said Samara, “No wonder they call you Tony Millionaire. Eh?”
“Yesm,” said Tony Millionaire.
Tony Shoe once met a famous person too. There’s a signed photograph of Peter Faulk on the wall there, who allegedly once bought some shoes from Tony Shoe.