Written on May 6, 2013 at 3:00 am, by admin
It was 1973 when I first heard Ray Bradbury speak. I was an impressionable young teenager living in Santa Barbara, California when he came to lecture at our public library. The next day I returned to the library, looked him up in Who’s Who and got the address to his office. I wrote him a letter, and embellished it with a drawing of a triceratops rendered in ball point pen. To my delight, the author replied that he loved my drawing and pinned my letter to his bulletin board. By virtue of persistent correspondence (I must have been more determined in those days), he agreed to meet me at a restaurant in the Miracle Mile district of Wilshire Blvd. We discussed his short story “Boys! Raise Giant Mushrooms in Your Cellar!” (which I had just read) and ordered Portobello Mushroom sandwiches to compliment the conversation.
Years later, fresh out of art school, I got a summer job working at W.E.D. Enterprises (now Disney Imagineering) as an apprentice sculptor to the talented and gracious Blaine Gibson. At lunch on my first day I was standing alone in the line at the commissary when I saw Ray Bradbury ahead of me. He was consulting on a future-themed attraction for Disney World, Florida. I approached him and asked if he remembered me.
“Of course,” he exclaimed. “You’re the kid who sent me the drawing of the triceratops. I still have that on my office wall.”
During that summer we had lunch together every few weeks. Sometimes we were joined by Gordon Cooper, one of the seven original astronauts in Project Mercury (also there as consultant). When this happened I mostly kept quiet, content to listen while those two told stories. Cooper would talk enthusiastically about UFOs. Bradbury expressed the opinion that the individual most responsible for the USA putting a man on the Moon was Edgar Rice Burroughs. “The best way to prepare for the future,” he said, “is to read science fiction.”
Over a decade later I ran into Bradbury again, this time in the lobby of the Ahmanson Theater. He didn’t remember the three months we worked at the same company, but he did remember that I was the kid who drew the triceratops.
As a young man I had many wonderful instructors and role models, but when I was drawing Seven Extraordinary Things, and needed someone as the inspiration for the protagonist’s mentor, there was only one choice.
Ray Bradbury died on June 5, 2012, at the age of 91.