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Clevelanders remember Pekar
Loved blues, jazz, his neighborhood

Vivian Goodman
Harvey Pekar, the Veterans Administration hospital file clerk who never left Cleveland even after becoming famous as a comic book writer and late-night talk show curmudgeon, has died at the age of 70.

Pekar's wife Joyce Brabner found him dead this morning at their home in the Coventry neighborhood of Cleveland Heights. He'd been suffering from cancer but the cause of death is not yet known.

Saxophonist and music educator Norm Tischler saw him at the Lee Road Library just yesterday morning:

Tischler remembers Pekar's love of jazz

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Bob Frank from Blue Lunch recalls his first interaction with Pekar

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 "I knew him as a record collector, a jazz aficionado,” Tischler said. “The man was just...he was brilliant. I can't believe he's gone."

Before he started writing comic books in the early 1970s , Pekar was already well-known in Northeast Ohio as a jazz critic. And even before his appearances on David Letterman’s show, he was known as being pretty cranky.
Bob Frank of Cleveland’s Blue Lunch remembers being a little scared when he asked Pekar to write the liner notes for the group’s CD “Big Sound Blues.”
 “I called him on the phone, I was real nervous, and I said, 'Harvey, this is Bob Frank from Blue Lunch. Would you be interested in doing liner notes for our new CD?' And the first thing out of his mouth was 'How much you gunna pay me?!'” Frank recalled. “I went 'uh..uh..uhh...uhh' and I named a number and he said 'Oh,  that’s fine.' I think he just wanted something, you know. But he got very excited about it and he called me a number of times on it. It was kinda touching now to think about it."
Harvey Pekar was born in Cleveland and never left except for a brief stint in the Navy. He worked for 37 years at the Cleveland VA hospital, retiring just two years before the movie based on “American Splendor” came out in 2003.


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