Stephen King enthralls crowd in Edgeworth with local tales
Before Stephen King took the stage Wednesday evening at Sewickley Academy in Edgeworth, a slide show featured fans waiting on the sidewalks of Sewickley in April, some overnight, to secure tickets to the famed writer's appearance.
“It wasn't for a television show or a movie or a pop band,” King said to the 620 avid fans in attendance. “It's about books. That's a pretty fabulous thing for you to do.”
This was one of the many lines that drew loud applause during King's informal, often hilarious, occasionally ribald talk sponsored by Penguin Bookshop in Sewickley.
“To have Stephen King come here is one of the high points in my life and career,” said Susan Hans O'Connor, owner of the bookshop and a former associate editor at Penguin Books in New York.
King, dressed in a dark T-shirt, jeans and sneakers, especially regaled the audience with stories about past local appearances. When his novel “The Dead Zone” was published in 1979, his first stop on a book tour was in Pittsburgh, where he met with journalists and appeared on the TV show AM Pittsburgh on WTAE-TV. Later that day, before an appearance at a restaurant on Mt. Washington, King developed a case of food poisoning. In the restaurant's “classy bathroom with marble inlay,” King was greeted by “the oldest bathroom attendant in the world,” he said.
There were no doors on the stalls, and when King sat down to relieve himself, the attendant approached with a pad and pencil in hand.“Didn't I see you on ‘AM Pittsburgh?' ” the attendant said.
King noted it's the only autograph he's signed while sitting on a toilet.
King fondly recalled working on the movie anthology of his book “Creepshow” in Pittsburgh with director George Romero and special effects artist Tom Savini, and how actor E.G. Marshall, encased in a plaster mask and breathing through a straw, wrote BOURBON on a pad. Bourbon was quickly produced, and Marshall was fed the beverage via an eyedropper through the straw.
Melissa Michaels, 58, of Moon said she'd been a fan since 1976 and had all of King's books in the original hardbacks until they were lost in a fire a few years ago.
“This is like a dream come true,” Michaels said of King's appearance. “I love his characters, his storylines, the way he ties it all in at the end. He makes you want to read, and continue reading.”
King spoke of how he developed a reading habit when he was young, and being questioned by an older acquaintance about his love of books. King had no answer then, but knows what he would say now.
“I'd tell him, you've lived one life,” King said. “I'm going to have lived 10,000 lives (through books).”
Rege Behe is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.