As a first time attendee, I would like to echo the thanks to Barbara
Snedecor, the Center for Mark Twain Studies, and Elmira College for
putting together this important and stimulating event.
But of course, I also have to thank Kent Rasmussen, who insisted that I
come to the Forum. And when I balked because of scheduling conflicts, he
insisted I come for at least the last day. I suppose he knew that if he
could get me there for even one day, that I would be back--for the full
week next time--and would never miss another Forum while I was still
able to get there. I won't.
I was very sorry I never had attended before, of course. It was like
being in a whole room full of Caroline Thomas Harnsbergers (my own
personal Mark Twain Jedi Master). I thought about her all day in fact.
It was Caroline who introduced me to Hal Holbrook in 1978. She
introduced herself to me some months before that, saying, "I've written
thirteen books about Mark Twain. You wanna talk about that some time?"
and we became fast friends. She is, in fact my son Frederic Thomas
Henzel's namesake. And when I met her, I met, for the first time,
another person who was just as passionate about Mark Twain as I was--and
one who had also been a friend and correspondent to Clara from 1942
until Clara passed. When we lost Caroline in 1991, at 89, we truly lost
what Clara Clemens called "A Walking Mark Twain Encyclopedia."
And of course I also enjoyed Saturday's excellent presentations,
especially David's moving and well-deserved tribute to Hal--truly
memorable, as was Hal's brief speech giving due credit to all of you who
have written such extensive and fascinating books about Mark Twain. And
I too, like so many others, had my life course altered on that evening
in March, 1967, when I watched the second half of Hal Holbrook
presenting the most amazing performance I had ever seen--before or since
(I missed the first half, but recorded the whole show on audio tape).
The very next day, my teacher and mentor, James Thornton, heard me
raving about "Mark Twain Tonight" to my classmates. He told me I should
put my own Mark Twain show together.
I balked, telling him, "Mr. Thornton, Hal Holbrook has already done it.
No one could ever top what he did last night." To which James replied,
"Hal Holbrook wasn't the first person to play Mark Twain. And you won't
be the last. Get to work on it." I put my show up in December of that
same year, and have enjoyed sharing Mark Twain with audiences ever
since. My current project, however, is my Mark Twain In Person Audio
Book Library. I'm just getting started, with seven titles finished so
far. My next title will be a recording of Kent Rasmussen's Mark Twain's
Book for Bad Boys and Girls.
Again, thanks to all. Everyone I visited with was warm, inviting, and
generous. I am very happy to hear about the upcoming celebrations, and
will make every effort to attend every one of them!!