By John King Tarpinian: Today, September 23, the City of Los Angeles dedicated the Palms-Rancho Park library to Ray Bradbury. This is a newly remodeled and upgraded library, however, the original library was the one closest to the Bradbury household. Ray would take his four daughters on adventures to this library. Three of the four daughters were in attendance for the ceremony (the fourth was a little under the weather.)
Steven Paul Leiva spearheaded the dedication. Steve was responsible for most of Ray Bradbury Week in the City of Los Angeles which celebrated Ray’s 90th birthday, and for getting Ray Bradbury Square dedicated to Ray out front of the Main Los Angeles Library.
City Council members spoke on how Ray was a son of the city, even having only been a resident for 76 of his 91 years. Ray’s daughter, Susan Bradbury Nixon, read her tribute to her dad.
Harlan Ellison was there and noticed a gaggle of high school students sitting on the floor beside the podium. He went over to talk to them and had a little innocent fun with their teacher, to the students’ delight.
After the tributes and speeches were made by officials of the city and the head librarian, Maggie Johnson, everybody moved outside for the unveiling of the dedication plaque.
This was followed by a discussion panel about Ray in the Ray Bradbury auditorium which was dedicated years ago. Due to silly fire marshal rules only the first 80 people could attend.
Steven Paul Leiva, the moderator, was joined by Harlan Ellison and George Clayton Johnson. Steve has only known Ray for about thirty years while Harlan and George have know Ray for more than half a century.
Harlan began his tribute by saying that even with their different personalities they bonded almost immediately upon meeting. The “ah-ha” moment being when Harlan and Ray were having dinner with Leigh Brackett and her husband, Edmond Hamilton. Ray leaned over to Harlan and proclaimed that they were brothers and that across the table were their parents. That was quite the metaphor. I’ve spoken of Harlan with Ray over the years and the love was not made up, it was real.
The normally loquacious George Clayton Johnson was relatively subdued. He talked about his collaboration with Ray on the short-subject film based on Ray’s story “Icarus-Montgolfier-Wright.” George was so humble he did not bother to mention that the film, voiced by Ross Martin and illustrated by Joseph Mugnaini, was nominated for an Academy Award. It did not win but is part of the Motion Picture Academy’s permanent collection.
You will notice a copy of Ray’s first book, Dark Carnival, sitting in front of Harlan. That is Harlan’s personal copy, given to him by August Derleth. Ray did sign it for Harlan and he wrote something to the effect of, “My first best seller. Sold 5 copies per week.”
A few fans and a few fiends of Ray’s were in attendance that chose to speak. Among them Michelle Pincus. She was there representing LASFS, the world’s oldest sci-fi club. Ray joined at the tender age of 17 when it met at Clifton’s Cafeteria, but the meetings moved around over the years and, in fact, in 1970 LASFS met for awhile in a building at the Palms Park right next to this library.
Marc Scott Zicree spoke of having seen Ray talk for the first time at this original library when he was only 13. Ray’s talk was one of the reasons he became a writer.
Those three hours went by all too fast. It is sad that a few of us have only gotten together for tributes like this for Ray. We loved the man that played such a great part in so many of our lives. Even before we met him in person we knew him from his wonderful stories. Those stories will live on forever.
One last thing, this October will mark 60 years since the publication of Fahrenheit 451.