Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury, R. I. P.

I'm going to write more about Bradbury tomorrow, but I thought readers would be interested in this excerpt from my journal (lightly edited for family fellowship).  I saw him on 13 April 2000 at E. J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall in Akron, where he was the 2000 John S. Knight Lecturer.  With us that night--John Mlinek, whom I taught the first year of my career (1966).  Here's what I wrote in my journal when I got home that night ...

John came by about 5:30, and we headed over to Dontino’s for supper, then drove into Akron, using Joyce’s parking pass to get pretty close to E. J. Thomas; we were there about 7:05, and a crowd was forming already; like fools, they did not open the doors until about 7:20, by which time a line was queued out into the street; but the entrance was orderly; we were toward the back—but with a decent view nonetheless; just at 8 they wheeled Bradbury in—a wheelchair (unexpected)—and he basically riffed for an hour (he said he had no text, only a “list of metaphors,”  telling mildly amusing stories about his days in Hollywood (including one crowd-pleaser about when, as a boy, he got the autograph of W. C. Fields, who complied and then said, “There you go, you little sonofabitch!”); he told how he met John Huston and eventually got to write for him the screenplay of Moby-Dick; he seemed principally interested in revealing the financial conditions under which he worked in his early days (he got a $700 advance for Martian Chronicles and for The Illustrated Man, both of which he sold the same day to an editor in NY, who gave him both the title and the idea to arrange his previously disconnected Martian stories into a “novel”); he said only a few things about the craft of writing, basically that you should “hold onto your metaphors, compact them in your heart”—i.e., the loves of your childhood—for they will be the material of your writing (and he mentioned how Shakespeare and Melville and interest in Buck Rogers and the Ancient Egyptians have affected his work); then he talked rather foolishly about public education (“We have raised two generations of morons,” he commented, to wild applause) and how we could teach all kids to read and write in kindergarten and 1st grade, thereby freeing all subsequent teachers to “teach their subjects” (dream on, Ray); said we should fire all early educators who fail to accomplish his goal; then he talked about the local TV news, how bad it is, how no one should watch it (does anyone?); he said a few vaguely anti-Semitic things (“I love talking to an audience of Christians,” he said after a comic allusion to rolling a rock across a tomb was much appreciated); he also said how he’d worked on the remake of King of Kings with Jeffrey Hunter and how he’d prevented them from removing Judas from the story by saying that the millions of Christians who saw the film on Easter would blame the producer, Cohen, for not knowing the story; on and on he rambled, criticizing popular culture (to which he’s mightily contributed, from which he’s mightily profited—e.g., at Epcot, some of which he designed) ... ; he ended with a self-serving story about his indignation when he was invited on the day of the moonwalk (the greatest day in history, he opined) to be on Brit TV with David Frost but was preceded by Englebert Humperdinck and Sammy Davis, Jr.: in a huff, he walked off the show (never appearing) and made a London headline the next day: ARMSTRONG WALKS AT DAWN; BRADBURY WALKS AT MIDNIGHT; we stood with the crowd to applaud—but, as I commented to John, “This is for yesterday, not today”; drove home somewhat disappointed, glad I’d seen him, sorry I’d gone ...

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