My goodbye to Stan Lee, my co-host and one of the coolest men in the world
Just saw the news about Stan Lee. He lived a long life, and he died today at 95. The accomplishments of this man are stunning. I don’t think I have to tell you about them. You’ve heard of Spider-Man, right? I was beyond lucky to have worked with him. We got to co-host a show together called Cocktails With Stan. I don’t care if it feels self-serving to write about him and our experiences together. I’m a writer. This is what I do. It’s how I process. He had a huge impact on my life and I want to honor this man today.
I’ve seen this day coming for a long time. I mean, he wasn’t exactly young, but you know Stan. He was supposed to live forever. The man had more energy than anyone I’ve ever met in my life. He would bounce around the studio and his face would perk up as soon as anyone entered the room. Weirdly enough though, the first time I saw him was at San Diego Comic-Con, my very first one. I was in a van, and he was just walking in front of the Marriott hotel. No one was with him and he was just smiling to himself. I remember asking the driver if I could just get out and hug him. That was 11 years ago. Later, I got to interview him. I will never forget that he was wearing a salmon-colored shirt. The odd things you remember, right? I told him it was really nice, and he hugged me. Yup. It happened so soon after that van trip at SDCC that I almost thought I’d been granted a wish. When I got the call to do a show with him…perhaps I saved a boat full of kittens and puppies in another life?
I remember the day I came in for the first show with him. He told me that he knew everything about me. He actually did! He knew the sites I’d worked form. He knew the people I’d interviewed. He even knew about the comics I’d written for “Womanthology.” He asked me to bring in a copy and sign it for him. I cannot begin to tell you what that did for me. Stan Lee asked me to sign something I’d written for him. The thing is, that’s what Stan did. He made everyone feel special that way. Everyone. Every single person he met. He always had a smile and a kind word. Tired? Yeah, he was tired on the day I got to walk to a panel with him that we were doing together. He looked exhausted, but when he passed people and they’d ask for time or a word, he gave it to them. We were late for the panel, but he was Stan. Who cared? We got to see him. I said this in a story I wrote for SYFY Fangrrls, but that day was shortly after he’d gotten a pacemaker put in his chest. When I asked how he was, he told me he was Tony Stark now. He was. He told the audience something sweet about me at every single panel we did together. Selfish to be remembering that, but it meant so much to me.
I remember going to interview him for the foreword for a book I’d contributed to called “Captain America vs. Iron Man Psychology.” I got to hang with him for a bit in his office, and he wanted to know about my life and if I was dating someone nice. He’d been around when I’d gotten divorced, and he insisted I’d find a Prince Charming (which I did). He would always ask me about things like that, and he remembered every single answer. How many people did this man meet a year? More than I’ll ever meet in my life and I have a pretty public job. He still remembered, because he was Stan.
I will never forget watching the celebrities that Stan and I were going to interview come in to meet him before the shows and watching them choke up and stammer over their words. Major celebrities, who meet people all the time would be brought to tears in his presence. I remember silly things from that show, like how Stan would tell me how lovely I looked every day, or how when we came up with drinks for the show, he joked that he wanted a milkshake with vodka in it. I remember interviewing him backstage with Kevin Smith, and how he broke the news about his cameo in Agent Carter. He told me the news was just for me and my new website that he’d actually read. He sang to me that day!
One of my favorite Stan memories was backstage at LA Comic-Con. We had just done a panel together and I wanted to get a selfie with him. He said of course, as he always did, but I don’t think he knew the world selfie back then. I’d taken a picture of a little kid dressed as Stan, and it was up on my phone as I went to switch to the camera. He said, “Wait, that’s not a picture of me, is it?” When I told him that it was a little Stan, he laughed and said it was the best costume ever!
I knew he was getting older, but Stan was supposed to be around forever. He was! I put out of my mind when he’d joked about a cough he had and how it was good that we got to see each other before he was gone. That was years ago, but it stabbed me in the gut. The last time I saw him, we were doing an interview for another book, and before I left, he said, “Jenna, we need a picture together.” As if I’d ever leave without taking one. We did, but then he said, “We need to hug in the picture. A good hug!” That’s the one you see above. After, he kissed my cheek and I walked out of the room. I always wondered if it would be the last time. It was. Well, it was, but Stan will live forever. How could he not? There is no time in the universe that is coming that we won’t love Spider-Man, or remember every character he created. There will never be a time when we won’t remember how he changed the world for us nerds.
Stan, you’re still here for me. You changed me life and so many, many others. Excelsior.