I don't know why I took the news of Sir Christopher Lee's death so hard this morning. It's not as if his face and his voice have been crucially intertwined with all the reasons I love movies, or anything. Oh, wait. it is that. But, you know, he WAS 93. Maybe I thought he was going to live forever.
One of the greatest pleasures of my professional life, hell, maybe of my life, period, was an hour-long interview I conducted with Lee in late 1994. I don't even remember what the occasion was, but it was for a column I had at TV Guide so I guess he had a special or some sort of hosting gig. In any event, I had been told that Lee could be a prickly interview subject, but that absolutely turned out not to be the case when I spoke with him. Perhaps he was in a terrific mood. Maybe I had good questions. All I know is that at a certain point I thought, "I'm not going to be able to get him off the phone." This observation was not a complaint.
The most moving and surprising portion of the conversation was when Lee was recalling his friend Peter Cushing, who had just passed away in the summer of that year. Lee missed his friend terribly but also delighted in telling me the way the two would keep each other entertained in the down time during the shoots of the many films they worked in together. Apparently they were both keen Looney Tunes fans, and used to conduct entire conversations in the voices of their favorite characters. To demonstrate, Lee actually laid his Foghorn Leghorn impersonation on me.
I'll let that sink in for a second.
I also asked Lee about his occasionally misbegotten work with microbudget auteur Jesus "Jess" Franco, and elicited a rather amusing backhanded compliment from Lee about the filmmaker: "Not an untalented man, by the way." There was more, quite a bit of it, too much for a 500-word column in TV Guide (which my editor, cheekily and to my great delight, headlined "Christopher And His Kind") and I thought that when I could get around to it, I'd whip up a complete transcript and give it to my friend-who-I've-still-never-met-in-person Tim Lucas of Video Watchdog.
I bet you know what happens next. I lost the tape, and have never been able to find it. To this day, whenever I come upon an unmarked audio cassette in the bottom of some drawer and file cabinet, I pop it in my recorder with the small mad hope that it might be the Lee conversation. It never is. But I still remember. And I'll never forget.