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eBay Gem: A Pre-Simpsons Matt Groening and His ‘Smurf House’

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There’s an Ebay auction for a signed 1st sdition Life in Hell book. The seller used to work at the gas company and met Matt Groening when his gas was about to be shut off.

In describing how he got the item, the seller described Groening’s cottage in Venice as a “Smurf House.”

He also writes this:

Matt invited me inside. He said he was working on the strip and asked if I would like to see it. Matt was a bachelor then. His house looked bachelorish. Sketches everywhere. A cat, maybe two, maybe his, maybe not.

It’s super cool. The auction is here. There’s only two days left of the sale so we posted the entire text after the break.

Many thanks to our anonymous tipster for this one.

I worked for a Southern California natural gas utility in Los Angeles as a field rep. One of my duties was to collect for overdue bills or shut off the customer’s gas meter if they didn’t pay.

My territory included Venice, California. I went to an address on one of the Venice canals. I looked at the “Collect or Close” form and recognized the name, Matt Groening. I read his comic strip titled “Life In Hell” and his music column titled “Sound Mix” in the now defunct “Los Angeles Reader”.

The house was one of the older Venice canal “cottages”. It was slumping with age and reminded me of a Smurf house but not one you would find in Papa Smurf’s neighborhood.

I knocked on the door. No one answered. I knocked again. No one answered. I knocked a third time and saw someone moving inside. I knocked again and a loud voice shouted “WHO’S THERE!!!” I answered “Gas bills from hell”

The door swung open. Matt Groening glared at me and asked, “Why did you say that?” I answered, “Why wouldn’t I? Isn’t this Life in Hell?” Matt cracked a slow smile and said, “So you know my comic strip?” “Sure” I said. “Doesn’t everyone?”

Matt invited me inside. He said he was working on the strip and asked if I would like to see it. Matt was a bachelor then. His house looked bachelorish. Sketches everywhere. A cat, maybe two, maybe his, maybe not.

I had the power to grant an extension on the overdue gas bill if the customer could be considered a “hardship case”. I told Matt that I would extend the “Collect or Close” order for two days to give him a chance to pay the bill. He thanked me then told me that his strip “Life In Hell” was being made into a book. He invited me to the opening/book signing party. It was at a gallery on Melrose if I remember correctly.

I went to the opening/book signing party. That is where I bought this book. That is where Matt signed it. I bought 10 books from him that night. He signed all of them. He drew a sketch then signed it on the inside cover of each. I gave them that year as Christmas gifts.

I paid for all the books with a check that had a poodle and a skull and cross bones printed on it. Matt appreciated that. I was hoping he would keep the check because it was so unusual but he didn’t. He cashed it. Which means I should have another autograph around somewhere.

Matt and I talked a bit at the opening/book signing. Not so much about “Life In Hell” but about his music column “Sound Mix”. I told Matt that his musical tastes and reviews were very similar to mine and that I had bought music based only on a positive review in his column.

Then there was The Shaggs.

Matt wrote an over the top “They are godhead” review of an album called “The Philosophy of The World” by The Shaggs. I bought the album based on his review. Last time I did that.

Not too long after, Matt’s career commenced lift-off. When the Simpsons hit big, Matt and his new wife built a large house on a Venice canal not far from his old Smurf cottage. There was a small window at the top of the new house. If you were on Dell Avenue driving or walking in the direction of Matt’s new house at night, you just might catch a glimpse of his Emmy for the Simpsons sitting in the top floor window, comfortable, no more fears about gas bills from hell.

Inside cover of book has a signed and dated drawing of Binky the Rabbit, the leading man in the “Life In Hell” series.

Book has some wear, discolorations and bends from the passage through time. I haven’t tried to clean it.

The photos shown above were taken inside my house. They show color variations due to the outside light passing through “sun film” on the windows.

Book measures approximately 12″ by 12″.

I combine items when shipping

Please email me with any questions.

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