In all the tributes we heard last year from the friends of the late skeptic bon vivant Christopher Hitchens, one detail we missed: He called himself “The Hitch.”
For anyone else to refer to himself in the third-person would be a sign of insanity, author Martin Amis joked at Hitchens’s memorial service in Manhattan Friday, according to guests we spoke with. But “Hitch was penetratingly sane,” said Amis — and entirely in on the joke: Few other writers are recognized and stopped on the street by strangers, as he was.Amis recalled going to the movies with Hitchens one day in Southampton, N.Y., and being astonished when ten full minutes had gone by and “nobody had recognized The Hitch.”
He noted this to The Hitch, who replied, “No, it was more than that: It was 15 minutes.”
The Washington-based author died Dec. 15, at age 62, after a year and a half battle with esophageal cancer. We’re told that it was a packed room at Cooper Union’s Great Hall for the Vanity Fair columnist’s only official formal service. Literati and celebrity friends like journalist Victor Navasky, actor Sean Penn, playwright Tom Stoppard, historian Douglas Brinkley, and British comic Stephen Fry were among those who read from Hitchens’s writings; as well as rising young movie star Olivia Wilde, the daughter of close journalist friends Leslie and Andrew Cockburn. Conservative writer Peter Hitchens — unlike his brother, a religious believer — did a reading from Philippians.
Salman Rushdie told mourners about the unwavering non-belief he and his late friend shared. Raised Muslim, Rushdie explained that he realized he didn’t believe in God when he ate ham for the first time and was not struck dead — a favorite story for Hitchens, he said: “Christopher always appreciated the loss of my porcine virginity.”
Read earlier: Christopher Hitchens dies; Vanity Fair writer was a religious skeptic, master of the contrarian essay, 12/16/12
See related: Vanity Fair: Christopher Hitchens memorial service