Remembering a friend: Steve Haynes, Cinevent co-founder
In the beginning, there were three: John Baker, John Stingley and Steve Haynes. They formed the triumvirate that created and ran Cinevent, the movie convention in Columbus, Ohio, that has taken place over Memorial Day weekend for half a century.
I was about 16 when I began attending and met Steve, and he was then as he always was – pear-shaped, smart, mellow to the point of avuncular, and unflappable. For the next 15 years, I attended Cinevent religiously, gorging on movies and a trading room full of posters, stills and films.
It was at Cinevent where I first began worshipping at the church of Douglas Fairbanks, Cinevent where I first saw “A Woman of Paris” in a print so dark it could have starred Paul Robeson rather than Adolphe Menjou, Cinevent where I began the joyous task of watching absolutely everything so that I would have a base of knowledge on which to base the books I was going to write.
And then I moved to Florida and stopped going. A new life happened, and the flow of my old life was disrupted. It was about 12 years ago that I woke up one morning and decided to go to Cinevent again.
The beauty part was that nothing had changed, not really. John and Steve were still smoothly running things, the films were still a mixture of the famous and the hopelessly obscure, the trading room had actually gotten bigger and the hotel was still a pit – collectors think nothing of paying thousands for a one-sheet but bridle at $150 for a hotel room.
Steve Haynes died yesterday (April 21, 2015). John Baker had retired to Florida years earlier and eventually died, John Stingley died five years ago. Baker was quite elderly, but neither John nor Steve was. Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise – to put it in the mildest terms possible, collectors are not known for their rigorous health regimens. After John Stingley died, Steve carried on, running the convention by himself with the help of his son Michael.
In retrospect, I can see that Steve and I had a classic film nerd’s relationship – we communicated mostly during the convention, with a very occasional email. He never invited me to his house and I never invited him to mine.
So the friendship had very strict parameters, but it was true and, at least on my end, surprisingly deep. We had shared our youth, so we had the precious, irretrievable past in common. Besides that, we saw films, ancient and modern, in much the same way.
We reminisced a lot in recent years, mostly about people: Don Poston, a persnickety schoolteacher who accompanied the films he showed with impeccably prepared needle-drop musical scores played on twin turntables; Gerry Clark, the original projectionist at the convention, who had the personality of a rustic in a Will Rogers film; John Stingley, of course, and dozens more.
Rich, Dickensian characters. Gone, all gone.
This year’s Cinevent will honor Steve’s memory, as it should. I won’t be there, because months ago I had committed to a publicity event for a book. Next year, I told myself. And if Cinevent is there next year, I will be, too.
There’s some consolation in that, but not much. Steve never quite accepted John’s death, and now I find that I can’t quite accept Steve’s.
Steve’s death has brought with it something unexpected: an existential chill. For the first time, I feel old.
— Scott Eyman