It's sort of appropriate that Eloise should still be causing major trouble. And that her illustrator should prove quite amazing:
First of all, everyone loves the Eloise books - the multi-volume story of the terminally obnoxious, presumably neglected, ultimate city child running wild in the Plaza Hotel and abroad. Eloise is equal parts demon and adorable, bane of waiters and lover (kind of) of animals and dolls. She is, quite simply, one of the best and most complex heroines of all time. Her author was a known character - what the Daily Beast terms "one of New York's great eccentrics" who'd made a career as a bonne vivante, actress and cabaret performer before she created the Eloise alter-ego. (She plays the larger-than-life, pink-thinking Maggie Prescott in Funny Face) By all accounts, she got very involved with Eloise, falling into her voice and her mannerisms pretty often - so it's not a shocker that she'd be proprietary about her creation. Hilary Knight, the books' illustrator, and Thompson butted heads - and continue to. Says Knight, still very much working, his involvement "was the best thing that ever happened to it, though Kay wouldn't ever say so."
Since her death, Thompson's estate has the books in something of a stranglehold. As he says, "Withholding is a nice way of saying what her estate is...But Kay would not be happy with the new book, or any of the re-printings. You see, she didn't want anything done. I know deep down that we will someday see more Eloise, and I hope I'm here to do them. I would love to see an animated movie, because live-action cannot capture how terrible she really is."
Knight has become something of a New York institution in his own right: active on the social and charity scene, he has recently started blogging for Vanity Fair (his whimsical "sketchbook" is, I daresay, a reason for VF's death-defying numbers.) He writes frequently about his favorite New York haunts and even name-checlks yours truly's favorite time-warp restaurant. He also has a tres chic Myspace page, and, currently, is working on a project that will thrill a certain segment of the population that may include me more than anything in the world possible could:
a new book with June Havoc, the 97-year-old sister of Gypsy Rose Lee ("Baby June" from the musical), creating an "adult graphic novel about her life in vaudeville in the 1920s when she was a huge star. It's quite grim."
But, quoth he, "They (Havoc and Thompson) are both Scorpios. And Eloise is a Scorpio, and I am too. I've always been drawn to these strong, captivating women." Us, too.