In March 1987, I was fourteen years old and obsessed with Monty Python.
I learned about the existence of fanzines and decided I wanted to do one about the British comedy troupe.
I have no idea why I thought it would work, but I dialed the London phone directory, or operator, or whatever body helped you locate London phone numbers back then, and asked for the number for Terry Jones.
He was listed.
I sat there holding a piece of paper with the numbers on it for a bit. I dialed.
I did not die of a heart attack.
I told him, in what I am certain must have been a high-pitched, terrified voice while rushing my words, that I wanted to start a Monty Python fanzine, and asked for his help.
He did not flinch. He did not slam the phone into its cradle. He did not tell me off. Instead, he volunteered the phone number for what was then the main Python office and gave me a specific name to ask for.
A few months later, I started my zine. I ran it for five years.
When I came to London at age seventeen, he was one of the three Pythons who were in the city at the time and invited me to visit them in their homes. (The others were Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam.)
He was never anything less than 100 percent supportive and kindly toward me. Never.
If I hadn’t started that Python fanzine as a teenager, I would not be where I am today–no question.
And I could not have started the fanzine without Terry Jones’s spontaneous and unhesitant act of kindness, bestowed on a weird American girl he had never met, who cold-called him at home and breathlessly asked for his help.
RIP, Terry, and thank you, for everything.
Here’s the BBC story about Jones’s death. If his family announces plans for a public celebration of his life, I’ll update this post with the news.