Sunday, May 14, 2023

Godspeed, Allen Stovall

May 8th marked the latest premature loss to our hunched and goofy community with the death of Allen Stovall at the age of 69.  He was a veteran visual effects animator on features such as "Cats Don't Dance" and "Hercules". He always carried a gentle, mellow vibe, with a cat-that-ate-the-canary smile on his face.   

We first met in 1987 while doing 7-Up commercials at Duck Soup Produckions (yes, Produckions) a small commercial house in Santa Monica.   I recall going with Allen and a few others after hours to a sleepy little bar down the block called Father's Office.  Over beers, we started talking about strange dreams.  I shared a flying dream, where I floated up to a cloud which opened up to reveal a hilly, verdant village inside.  On the threshold of entering I panicked and backed off, waking myself up.

"You were Astral Travelling."  Allen said.

"What?"  I laughed.  I thought he was joking.  He wasn't.  

And so I was introduced to the concept of Astral Projection.  From what I could wrap my head around, you could travel to the after-life while still tethered to your earthly body by a silver umbilical cord.  But break that cord and you're dead!  Allen explained it with more nuance. 

The conversation somehow segued to the time he lived in Nicaragua during the counter-revolution. 

 "What?"  I laughed.  I thought he was joking.  He wasn't. 

Backstory: In 1979,  the Nicaraguan government was overthrown by the leftist, USSR backed Sandinistas, freaking out the US government.  In 1981 the right wing Contras (counter-revolutionaries) formed to overthrow the overthrowers with US backing under President Reagan.  It was quite a mess.  

Allen was very much bothered by Reagan's Contra policy and got involved - really involved.  He saved as much money as he could, working extra hours at his Filmation job.  In 1985,  he took his "She-Ra: Princess of Power" savings and joined a group of like minded Americans called "Architects and Planners in Support of Nicaragua" doing humanitarian work from the capital city of Managua.  He tasked himself with creating a comic book to teach impoverished locals, many illiterate, how to build their own homes complete with hiding places from the Contras.

Sample pages from Allen's "Manual Grafico"

This endeavor was not without risk.  One member of the American group, Ben Linder, was killed by Contras in 1987 while working on a small hydroelectric dam project.  Among the pall-bearers at his funeral were Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and....Allen Stovall.   

For all his bold adventures, Allen was no raconteur, no Commander McBragg.  He seemed to prefer listening.  So when he'd break out one of these stories, they always landed as jaw-droppers.  Allen was a very smart, unique, and most humble guy.   I last saw him about six years ago, at the Union Christmas party in the Gene Autry Museum.  He'd been fighting throat cancer with great courage for many years, and was doing pretty well at the time.   But last Monday he broke his silver tether,  joining that Nicaraguan village in the big cloud.   

Adios, Amigo!  And my sincere condolences to his wife, Jennifer.

And gratias, Al Holter, for your invaluable input with this post.


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