Ellison was playing billiards at the club and was wearing, in Talese’s words, “brown corduroy slacks, a green shaggy-dog Shetland sweater, a tan suede jacket, and Game Warden boots.”
Sinatra questioned him about the boots — were they Italian? Spanish? English? — until Ellison finally responded, “Look, I donno, man.”
The room went silent as Sinatra, accompanied by bodyguards, approached the 5-foot-5 Ellison, and then asked, “You expecting a storm?”
“Look,” Ellison said, “is there any reason why you’re talking to me?”
“I don’t like the way you’re dressed,” Sinatra said.
“Hate to shake you up,” Ellison replied, “but I dress to suit myself.”
More words were exchanged before Ellison walked away.
Harlan Jay Ellison was born May 27, 1934, in Cleveland. His mother was a store clerk, and his father was at various times a dentist, bootlegger and jewelry salesman.
Ellison grew up primarily in Painesville, Ohio, where his smart mouth, small size and Jewish heritage left him feeling tormented.
“When you’ve been made an outsider, you are always angry,” he said in 2008 documentary, “Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth.”
He said he first ran away from home at 13 to join a carnival, then later roamed the country, working as a truck driver, fisherman and lumberjack.
He dropped out of Ohio State University after arguing with a professor who said he had no talent as a writer. Ellison then moved to New York and promptly began selling stories; for the next 20 years, he sent the professor a copy of everything he published.
Ellison joined a Brooklyn gang as research for his first novel, “Rumble” (1958) — later published as “Web of the City.” He took part in civil rights marches, covered race riots and, for a while, ghostwrote a men’s magazine column for comedian Lenny Bruce.
Ellison moved to Los Angeles in 1962, aiming to break into the lucrative screenwriting trade, but continued to publish stories and novels, many under assumed names, most notably “Cordwainer Bird.” He also edited several major anthologies of science fiction.
One of his most renowned works was a 1969 novella, “A Boy and His Dog,” which portrayed a rebellious young man roaming a post-apocalyptic landscape with a dog possessing extrasensory powers. It was made into a film in 1975, and Ellison later expanded the idea into a novel, “Blood’s a Rover,” published this year.
Despite his disdain for television, Ellison won several awards for his TV scripts from the Writers Guild of America. He also received multiple Hugo, Nebula and Edgar awards for his science fiction, fantasy and crime fiction, including for lifetime achievement.