- Posted June 6, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Ray Bradbury's legacy
Ray Bradbury Will Live Forever!
- nsaidi, CNN iReport producer
In 1953 the 3-D Ray Bradbury movie, It Came from Outer Space, appeared at the Bozeman, Mt. Rialto theater. I was 13 years-old and still remembered it in late 1968 when, as a 28-year-old reporter for the Ventura Star-Free Press daily newspaper, the editor asked me to cover Bradbury's talk to Moorpark College students. It became the Tony Robbins inspirational speech that changed my life that night.
"If this man can write as well as he can talk," I thought, "I'll read everything he's got and then write a magazine article on him."
I got his speaking agent's name (Ruth Albin), called her for his schedule of speeches, and was the first one to sit right in front of the podium at each college speech in Southern California. He was polite, but I wondered how I'd break through the celebrity veneer of politeness. I came up with the idea of inserting a $7 classified ad in his hometown Waukegan, Illinois newspaper, asking, "Ray Bradbury, where is your past?""
The next speech I went to, Ray leaned over the podium and said, "I heard about your ad! Let's get together at the break." He added that an aunt of his in Waukegan had been clipping my classified ad and sending it to friends and relatives nationwide. When we got together at the break, I read him one of the letters from his father's best friend, who then lived in Florida. Tears came out of Ray's eyes.
"I heard my father talk about this man often," Ray said. That's when I began to learn about how this was a man who wasn't afraid to display his emotions. One of his best lessons to writers was to write about your emotions. Some of his classic stories sprung out of moments of anger and frustrations with society.
"What do you want?" he then asked me. I told him I'd had a go ahead from Harper's Magazine and would like to see his office and get the names and phone numbers of his friends and colleagues. Then I asked him if he had a ride home that evening.
"I'm supposed to go with a woman here, but I'll cancel out and go with you," he volunteered.
That's what led to his first ride in my VW bug. Ray hung onto the VW dash crash bar and asked if we could get off the freeway at Spring Street and onto Wilshire Blvd. This thoroughfare was like a canyon at midnight with bright lights of the offices all the way to Beverly Hills. There he asked to be let out at his office versus taking him to his nearby home on Cheviot Drive near 20th Century Fox.
Within a few days, Ray called me at the newspaper and invited me to lunch in Beverly Hills. I expected to see a futuristic building and office, but it was really old and he had everything imaginable scattered all over his cluttered office. That's when I learned he was a pack rat who kept everything from his childhood comic books to stuffed animals. That was a clue that the genius kept his childhood that most schools rob by the fifth grade.
At one point he was talking to Charles Rome Smith, his play producer, on the phone. I overheard Ray tell Chuck that they had to be at a TV show at L.A. State that afternoon and would sock the taxi bill to L.A. State. I offered him a ride, and he quickly told Chuck, "Hey, Chuck, we're being offered a free ride, so meet me at my house at 1 p.m." He said he was taking his daughters swimming and to meet him at his house by 1 p.m. This began a lifetime adventure of knowing Ray Bradbury.
At one time, he even invited me to join his writers' club. Regretfully now, I did not carry through because I knew they were basically fiction writers and I was a non-fiction writer. However, Ray opened many Hollywood doors for me and got me interviews with his colleagues and even Charlton Heston, who said "Ray has a generosity of spirit!"
Heston was a huge fan of Ray's, who would buy first edition Bradbury books and read them to his son from the time he was in a crib. (His son grew up to be a screenwriter.)
I was crushed when Harper's rejected my too-lengthy and too enthusiastic article on Ray, saying they would not accept a 6,000-word article even from Jesus Christ. But Ray wrote me letters of encouragement, adding he got rejection letters all the time. Seeing even a famous writer got rejection letters was truly encouraging, of course.
I'm one of the lucky ones who got to know Ray at the zenith of his career, when he was still full of TNT every time he spoke and the most quotable quotes rolled off his tongue automatically, like "I remember being born!"
He inspired thousands of college students wherever he spoke who went on to become creative geniuses in their own right. George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and the astronauts looked upon him like a second father. Most Ray Bradbury fans have heard of how Mr. Electrico "knighted" Ray in his youth, by laying his sword on him, telling him, "Live forever!"
Ray, you accomplished that mission. You will live forever! Like the Johnny Cash song says, "We'll meet again. I don't know how, I don't know when. But we'll meet again."
If you want to learn more about Ray Bradbury, read my biography on him, RAY BRADBURY UNCENSORED! available on Amazon.com You can read the introduction and Chapter 1—a full text of the first speech I heard him give—FREE by accessing the book ad on the Internet.