I want to take a moment on Strange Shapes to say goodbye to one of the site’s greatest friends and supporters, Mr. Leslie Barany.
A proud New Yorker hailing from Hungary, Les straddled America and Europe throughout his life, investing himself in the art world and eventually becoming H.R. Giger’s business agent (and quite often his pitbull). Giger, Les told me, was very reserved, and disliked demanding fees and payment. Modest and unassuming, he would often undervalue the worth of his art, and so it was Les’ job to do such fighting for him. Giger described Barany as “the kind of agent one dreams about.”
Leslie is my friend, agent, English editor, curator, art director, troubleshooter, legal advisor, photographer, and one of my collectors, all in one. He is one of the most precise and correct people I know, and he is also painfully honest. As my dedicated advocate, he defends me so zealously that I almost have to apologize. He does it all with heart.
Giger and Barany were parted by the former’s death in 2014, but Les continued to preserve and promote Giger’s memory until his own passing in June 2021.
In 2010, shortly after launching Strange Shapes at Blogger, Les got in touch to inform me (a 22 year old literature student on the other side of the world) that an article I’d written on Giger was very good work. He was glad that Giger was centered, his perspective channeled and understood. I was thrilled, and felt encouraged to write more. Articles piled up, more correspondence followed, and our friendship grew. If there was ever an error or oversight regarding Giger on Strange Shapes, he would point it out, make suggestions (but never dictate) and provide insight. Sometimes he simply provided commentary, letting me know he enjoyed one particular article, or how the behind-the-scenes antics in another made him laugh or clench his fist. I honestly think Strange Shapes would have been lesser without him.
Les’ friendship did not mean he pulled his punches. His temperament could be pointed and sharp, but not mean or malicious. His nickname ‘Uncle Evil’ truly was avuncular. He was a man you could disagree endlessly with, but whose generosity often had to be fought off–more than once I reminded him that he’d already sent me a book, or already offered a gift. More than once he would e-mail and offer a spare iPad or other piece of technology he had lying around and thought I might make use of. Whether forwarding some titillating behind-the-scenes correspondence (a fond memory is tearing through an early Prometheus script over Skype months before the film released) or sharing some scuttlebutt, he always found time to inquire about my wife and daughter’s wellbeing.
In his last years, Les tirelessly spearheaded a memorialisation effort for Bolaji Badejo, having learned his gravesite in Nigeria was meager and dilapidated. Les never knew Bolaji personally, but still considered him part of the Alien/Giger family. Wanting to pay tribute to the man who brought the Alien so strikingly to life, he kickstarted an initiative to honour Bolaji with an elaborate sarcophagus– he had the gravesite scouted and measured, effigies designed and sculpted, anything he could do to preserve another man’s memory.
Les, I wish I could pull out some fitting tribute to honour you. I’ve found the outpouring of love from your friends around the world, the stories and remembrances, to be the greatest solace. I’ve found myself learning so much more about you. You seemed to have known people from every corner of the world. Even the ones you bickered with seemed to love and respect you. The people I have met and corresponded with through you will remain a precious parting gift. You will be missed, but not forgotten.
I measc na naomh go raibh sé