When I woke up this morning I was missing a friend. Daniel Robert Epstein passed away last night at only 31 years old. And although you may not know it, you lost somebody too – Dan was one of the best interviewers I have ever had the pleasure to know, and he was branching out, with his first comic book story being published this summer.

I’ve known Dan almost ever since I started doing press junkets. I knew him first as a guy who was funny and who asked really good questions at round tables, and after a while he began helping me along, hooking me up with contact info and great advice, as well as being a terrific example of just what a good interviewer should be. Dan in an interview was informed but loose, willing to stray away from whatever line of questioning he had thought out in advance. Dan wasn’t afraid of asking questions that the talent wouldn’t like. He was tireless about getting interviews, in a way that I never have been. As a result his resume is filled with terrific talks with people from all levels of the entertainment world, from musicians to comic book artists and writers to filmmakers.

More than that, though, Dan was a great guy. He was a good friend in the way that I have found has only gotten rarer as I’ve gotten older. Dan didn’t make you feel like an acquaintance, you always felt like his close friend. He was incredibly funny and easy to talk to; I found myself getting to places very late because I opted to just hang around on the street in front of a screening room or a junket hotel bullshitting with Dan for an hour or more.

Dan was a great movie fan, as well, the kind of guy who saw more interesting films in a week than most people did in a year. He sought out things that were strange or outside the mainstream, and he had a strong knowledge of movies in general. His head worked like an alternate IMDB, pulling out names and titles in ways that amazed me.

I could tell you about the good time I had with Dan, but then I’d never get this thing finished. Traveling with Dan was always my favorite thing – getting a chance to be out of town and act like two idiots was something I always loved. Of course just hanging around with him in New York City was great, too, and we spent some nights – but too few, it turns out – having a great time, laughing, bitching and crackig bad jokes like overgrown 15 year olds.

This has been a weird morning for me, knowing that I’ll never hang out with Dan again. I’ll never make him laugh again. I’ll never bug him for a publicist’s phone number again. I’ll never go out with him and his wife for dinner after a movie again. But it’s been weirder knowing he’ll never see his comic story published in the upcoming Troma anthology (it’s the story of his time as an intern on the set of Tromeo and Juliet). He did an interview with Billy Connelly last week for Fido; he was so excited about the interview, and I hope we’ll get a chance to read it.

Today my heart goes out to Dan’s family, and to his friends who find themselves in a state of shock and disbelief just like the one I’m experiencing right now. In a lot of ways Dan was just getting started, and I’m especially sad about all the great work from him that we’ll never get to see.

Good luck out there, Dan.