Leslie Harpold, a widely loved blogger and internet artist, died of bronchitis last week. Leslie was known for sites like Smug.com, an early proto-blog, and her other past projects included Hoopla.com and MotherFucker.com (I don’t think she ever did anything with this domain name, but she was very proud to have owned it). In July of 1999 I invited Leslie to read at the Literary Kicks Summer Poetry Happening at the Bitter End in New York City, and I’ve just uploaded a video of her touching and funny performance, which you can view after the jump below.
She’s reading a story called “Princess Winter Spring Summer Fall”, which is about her mother, her birth father, her love of symmetry, her knowledge of skin coloring and her skill at strip poker. I had to butcher the original video a bit to get it through YouTube’s ten minute time limit, but you can view the full text here.
I got to know Leslie better in 2002 when we spent a year together working on the relaunch of an ambitious fine arts site. Our office was on the sixth-floor of an old Chelsea building with an endlessly broken elevator, and Leslie hated those stairs. I wish I had gotten to know her better; she was the chief designer and I was the chief techie, and we were often too busy to talk about anything but work. Here are a few things I remember:
• I won’t say she was always in a good mood, but I will say she was always in a friendly mood. She was a people person, a good listener and a good talker.
• She once showed me a bunch of pictures of where she grew up, somewhere in the Appalachian mountain country. I don’t remember if she was offended by the term “hillbilly” or not, but Leslie definitely came from deep country roots.
• As a web designer, she had a fabulous client list, and I always had a feeling the clients she didn’t talk about were more interesting than the ones she did. I remember her talking about hanging out with Tony Hawk and Steve Burns (the original Steve from “Blue’s Clues”, who I later met).
• One day she came in to work raving about the movie Thirteen Conversations About One Thing. I remember her practically commanding me to go out and see it immediately. I felt guilty that I didn’t and still haven’t, but she raved about it so much that every time I hear of the movie I think of her.
• She was a natural onstage (as you can tell by listening to the crowd reaction in the video above). She also joined me for a post-September-11-themed poetry reading at a deserted theater in the Lower East Side in March 2002; this show had a smaller audience but she was a pleasure to listen to.
If you knew Leslie, the video above may bring back nice memories. If you didn’t, I think you might enjoy her short story, “Princess Winter Spring Summer Fall”.