Bill Warren (1943-2016)

Robert Heinlein, Beverly Warren and Bill Warren at LASFS in 1976. Photo from Fanac.org.

Robert Heinlein, Beverly Warren and Bill Warren at LASFS in 1976. Photo from Fanac.org.

Critic, film historian and long-time LASFS member Bill Warren died October 7. Over the past decade he’d suffered from a series of cardiac and pulmonary health problems, and lately was treated for an infection but never recovered.

When Mark Evanier announced Bill’s passing yesterday, he paid tribute to Bill’s wife, Beverly: “The last few weeks, I’ve watched her tend to his needs night and day, doing every single thing you’d want someone to do for you if you were in his position…except maybe go home and get some sleep.”

Bill and Beverly Warren married in 1966, and that same day moved from Oregon to LA. Bill had been corresponding with Forry Ackerman since 1958, and the couple’s new social life centered on the Ackermansion and Forry’s activities. That included celebrity encounters with horror stars like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee, and a party invitation that led to their immersion in organized fandom. Bill later recalled for File 770:

Forry Ackerman invited us to a birthday party for Dr. Donald A. Reed, president of the Count Dracula Society. We’d heard of the Society, but had as yet had no contact with it, and were a little uncertain about it. Somehow, the idea of dressing up in tuxes to attend dinners given by a group named after a vampire seemed a little more bizarre than our countrybumpkin Oregon minds could deal with right away. But Forry told us there would be interesting people at the party.

Upon arriving at the event, held in the screening room at the back of Milt Larsen’s home, the first two people we saw were Robert Bloch and Christopher Lee, neither of whom we had met until that time. Both were charming and affable, with Bloch being especially warm. A cake with a bat on it was presented to Don, and then we all sat down to watch WereWolf of London, the first time we’d seen it on a screen. We joined the Dracula Society on the spot.

 

Christopher Lee and Bill Warren in late 1960s, in home theater of Milt Larsen.

Christopher Lee and Bill Warren in late 1960s, in home theater of Milt Larsen.

This was also the period when Bill met Ray Bradbury for the first time, at a big surprise party for Forry in 1967. The photo below was taken five minutes after they met, after they had swapped glasses and discovered their prescriptions were similar.

Bill Warren meets Ray Bradbury at the Dracula Society banquet.

Bill Warren meets Ray Bradbury.

Ackerman, a founding LASFS member, probably brought Bill and Beverly into that club, too: they joined in December 1966. Bill became one of its hardest-working members, honored with the Evans-Freehafer Award in 1973, and he served for many years on the Board of Directors. His suggestion led to making a one-shot winter convention into the club’s annual LosCon.

Bill launched his writing career in the Sixties. His short story “Death Is a Lonely Place” appeared in the first issue of the magazine Worlds of Fantasy in 1968. The story hit the newsstands just before the 1968 Worldcon, precipitating another meeting between Bill and Ray Bradbury, as Bill remembered:

At the Oakland-Berkeley Worldcon in 1968 (or so), I was sitting in the coffee shop with some friends when we saw Bradbury enter the hotel.  He smiled and waved at me — then, to my surprise, made an abrupt turn and came into the coffee shop to talk to me.  He said I always knew where the best stuff was going on, so where should he go?  We chatted a bit, and he breezed out of the place.  My friends stared at me in shock.  Ray fucking BRADBURY?  Did I know Bradbury THAT well?  I said “Evidently so,” but I was quite puzzled myself — yes, I knew him (thru Forry), but I didn’t think I did know him that well.  So later I encountered him in a hallway and asked about it.  He was ready for me.  He said that at an early convention (I figure this was the post-WWII Worldcon in LA), he was with a bunch of friends when Leigh Brackett came up and chatted with him about his work.  He was puzzled; they WERE friends, but it seemed out of character for her to approach him like that.  So he asked her about it.  She said she was trying to encourage his career as a writer, by treating him as a fellow professional — and did it in front of his friends, to give him egoboo.  Bradbury said “Now you have to pass it on.”

During this period, he also wrote scripts for (Jim) Warren Publishing’s black-and-white comic books Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella. Later he was a contributing editor to Leonard Maltin’s annual Movie Guide for more than twenty years. He produced annual movie reports for many Nebula anthologies.

Subsequently he wrote film history books, The Evil Dead Companion, about Sam Raimi’s horror series, Set Visits, interviews with filmmakers on the sets of their films, and Keep Watching the Skies, about science fiction movies of the 1950s.

keep-watching-the-skies

He also co-authored a fannish mystery with his friend Allan Rothstein, Fandom Is A Way of Death, published and sold during the 1984 Worldcon. The solution to the mystery was placed in a separate envelope at the back of each copy, because only on the last day of the con was the murderer was revealed — and took a bow.

I met Bill and Beverly at the very first LASFS event I ever attended, the 1970 LASFS Anniversary Dinner.

When I co-chaired the 1978 Westercon with Ed Finkelstein, Bill ran the film program. And I remember that right after the con was over, before the rented prints had to be returned, Bill gathered the committee at the LASFS clubhouse to watch a couple of the rarely-seen feature films he’d chosen.  The 13 of us who’d run the con were exhausted – which caught the eye of fanartist Linda Miller, who did a drawing of us symbolically clumped together for mutual support, a triangular composition with the tallest, Bill Welden, in the center, and the rest distributed around him by height….

Bill participated in the early days of social media. In 1989, he created the ShowBiz Roundtable for the online service GEnie to generate discussions about films and other aspects of show business.

When his friends produced movies, there was often a minor role or appearance as an extra for him –Joe Dante, Don Glut, and Somtow Sucharitkul were among the people who cast Bill in The Howling (1981), The Laughing Dead (1989), Hollywood Boulevard II (1990), My Lovely Monster (1991), Ill Met By Moonlight (1994), Dinosaur Valley Girls (1996), and The Naked Monster (2005).

During the 1990s, he and Bill Rotsler produced segments surveying American television for the French TV series Destination. In fact, the day before Rotsler died in 1997, he and Bill had driven all over Hollywood shooting video of billboards for an installment of the show.

And after Rotsler died, Bill became the custodian of his good friend’s unpublished fan art, of which there was an enormous amount. He did his utmost to get it into the hands of fanzine editors for publication. Bill also discovered the raw material for 15 more issues of Rotsler’s fanzine Masque, which he completed and distributed to the mailing list.

The last time I saw Bill was at a Loscon room party a few years ago where he was doing what he liked most, holding his friends spellbound with his endless supply of anecdotes from Hollywood history. The things about movies that fascinated him growing up had never lost their allure, for as he told an interviewer:

I found that my taste as a kid was pretty reliable, even if more enthusiastic than myself as an adult. I no longer think that It Came from Beneath the Sea and Creature with the Atom Brain are the two best movies ever made, though I still like both of them. And those I didn’t like then, I still don’t like.

Pixel Scroll 9/27/16 If Pixels Come, Is Scrolling Far Behind?

(1) THE FLYLEAF IS STILL HITTING THE FAN. When it was first reported that Governor Brown had signed this law, it was in triumphant terms of Mark Hamill no longer being victimized by autograph forgeries. Now people have looked under the hood and are reacting with outrage — “New California law will make it harder to sell autographed books, art”.

The law supersedes existing California law, which had previously only been directed at sports memorabilia. The law requires that any autographed item sold for more than $5 must include a certificate of authenticity including information about the dealer, where and how the item was signed, and the name and address of any third party from whom it was purchased. The law was undoubtedly aimed at shutting down forgery mills, but it was written so broadly that it will make things a lot harder for anyone dealing in autographed goods.

You don’t have to think about this law for very long before you realize how problematic it would be for antique and second-hand booksellers, some of whom carry hundreds or thousands of autographed copies of books. Given that few such books would sell for less than $5, this means that these booksellers must either create individual certificates of authenticity for each book, or else discard thousands of dollars in inventory that is no longer salable. Even if they were to create such certificates, in the case of a third party purchase the certificates would have to include the personal information of whoever sold it to them–a clear violation of privacy.

It would also apply to any art gallery that sold original works–and the ramifications for San Diego Comic Con and other conventions that have “artist’s alleys” where artists can set up booths to sell (and autograph) their own artwork might also be considerable–to say nothing of authors who set up to do the same thing for their books. What if everyone who sold an autographed book or sketch had to make out a certificate of authenticity when they sold it? (The law says that “the person who signed the memorabilia” isn’t considered a “dealer,” but if they’re also the one who sells the work in question, they should still be on the hook for it.) Likewise, it will also affect out-of-state dealers who want to sell to California residents, or who come to those conventions to display their art.

The Eureka Booksellers site reported what action its owners are taking.

Two prominent California booksellers — Scott Brown, co-owner of Eureka Books in Eureka, and Bill Petrocelli, co-owner of Book Passage in Corte Madera and San Francisco — have written letters to their representatives* in opposition to Assembly Bill 1570 Collectibles: Sale of Autographed Memorabilia, which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on September 9 and requires dealers in any autographed material to provide certificates of authenticity (COA) for any signed item sold for $5 or more.

Brown and Petrocelli assert that though the law is intended to regulate the sale of sports and movie memorabilia and combat “forgery mills,” it will have drastic, unintended consequences for the sale of signed books, paintings, sculptures and almost every other type of artwork. Under the law, which would go into effect next January, COAs for signed memorabilia would have to include a description of the collectible and name of the person who autographed it; include either the purchase price and date of sale or be accompanied by a separate invoice with that information; indicate whether the item was autographed in the presence of the dealer with specified date and location and name of witness; or, in the event that it was obtained or purchased from a third party, indicate the name and address of that party. Dealers must also keep their copies of these COAs for at least seven years….

(2) PKD FILM FESTIVAL. The Philip K. Dick European Science Fiction Film Festival boasts two lineups of over 40 films to be screened at sites in two countries.

pkd-europe-header_16In Cologne, Germany from October 14-15 at Filmclub 813 e.V., the program includes a special block of virtual reality films presented with Google Glass. The festival then returns to Lille, France at the L’Hybride theater on October 22.

Highlights include Juho Aittanen’s Hypnos based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft, Coralie Fargeat’s sensory perception drama Reality+, Thierry Los’ robotic surf culture short Forbidden Beach and Eymeric Jorat’s robotic murder mystery Jakob. The Cologne virtual reality blocks includes Ben Leonberg’s zombie apocalypse Dead Head, Philipp Maas and Dominik Stockhausen’s atmospheric Sonar, Ryan Hartsell’s music video I’ll Make You Bleed by the band “These Machines are Winning” and Pierre Zandrowicz’s I, Philip, an in-depth look into the mind of an android modeled after the one and only Philip K. Dick.

 

(3) SMOFCON SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS. CanSMOF Inc, has announced the recipients of three scholarships given to help fans attend SMOFcon 34 in Chicago. IL, December 2-4. CanSMOF Inc. created these scholarships to allow promising convention-runners to attend the annual SMOFCon convention-runners convention. The first scholarship was open to a Canadian citizen or resident. The winner is Patricia Widish of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The second was open to a non-North American resident. It went to Esther MacCallum-Stewart of Southville, Bristol, United Kingdom.

The third was open to anyone involved in running conventions, regardless of their place of residence or citizenship. This scholarship was awarded to Katharine Bond of Seattle, Washington.

(4) FIFTIES SF MOVIES. Carl Slaughter wants people to know about Bill Warren’s Keep Watching the Skies, a recently revised and greatly expanded reference book on science fiction films of the 1950s. Publisher MacFarland issued this “21st Century Edition” in February 2016. It includes a foreword by Howard Waldrop.

keep-watching-the-skies

(5) SWAN OBIT. Patricia A. Swan of North Carolina reportedly passed away September 25 of cancer. The family posted the news on her Facebook account.

(6) LEWIS OBIT. Herschell Gordon Lewis (1929-2016): US director, died September 26, aged 87. Nicknamed the ‘Godfather of Gore’, Lewis achieved greater career success as a leading figure in the US direct marketing industry, writing more than 20 books on the subject.  Entered movie-making in 1961 with a series of ‘nudie’ exploitation releases, but made his mark with Blood Feast (1963) and Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964). Later genre credits include Something Weird, A Taste of Blood and The Gruesome Twosome (all 1967), The Wizard of Gore (1970), The Gore Gore Girls (1972). He returned to directing with 2002’s Blood Feast 2, and Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Bloodmania is currently in post-production.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 27, 1985  — CBS broadcast the first episode of the revived Twilight Zone series.

(8) TOMORROW IN HISTORY

Comic book superstars Brian Bolland, Mick McMahon, Dave Gibbons, and Kevin O’Neill are set to return to the pages of the legendary 2000 AD for its 2,000th issue!

Europe’s longest running sci-fi action comic reaches its landmark 2,000th issue on Wednesday 28 September and some of the most prominent creators ever to grace its pages have returned for a 48-page celebration bonanza, including Bolland (Batman: The Killing Joke), McMahon (The Last American), Gibbons (Watchmen), and O’Neill (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), as well as a brand new series by Peter Milligan (X-Statix) and a poster featuring specially commissioned artwork.

(9) INKLINGS EYEWITNESS. Urbana Tolkien Conference’s Melody Green promotes a rare opportunity:

On November 5, Colin Havard, the son of Dr. Havard, one of the Inklings, will be the keynote speaker at Urbana Theological Seminary’s fifth annual Tolkien Conference held in Champaign, IL. He will be speaking on “The Inklings as I Remember Them,” in which he will be sharing his own memories of Tolkien, Lewis, etc. We will have a few other excellent speakers and interesting events, as well!

(10) CAPE V. GOWN FOR HALLOWEEN. Matthew Townsend’s article, “Superheroes Top Princesses in Halloween-Costume Battle” at Bloomberg tells that a National Retail Foundation survey predicts superhero costumes are expected to be #1 in Halloween this year with princesses second and animals third.

The popularity of costumes reflects a tug of war between Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. and Walt Disney Co., which control many of the top entertainment properties. Disney has dominated the princess trend, helped by the release of “Frozen” in 2013, and owns Marvel and Star Wars characters. But Warner Bros. is trying to develop an expanded universe of DC Comics heroes for the screen. “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” hit theaters earlier this year, followed by the Batman villain ensemble film “Suicide Squad” last month.

At stake is $3.1 billion in Halloween costume spending.

At least the kids haven’t gotten the idea of dressing like Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.  Now THAT would be scary.

(11) DEBATE COVERAGE. Chuck Tingle’s contributions to the world of science fiction continued last night with his live Tweeting of the first US Presidential debate. Did you know? — Chuck is another third-party candidate who couldn’t get in the door.

His running commentary about the debate has been collected on Storify.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Martin Morse Wooster, Mark-kitteh, Steve Green, Carl Slaughter, Elusis, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg Hullender.]

Bill Warren: An Appreciation of Christopher Lee

Christopher Lee and  Bill Warren in late 1960s, in home theater of Milt Larsen.

Christopher Lee and Bill Warren in late 1960s, at the in-home theater of Milt Larsen.

By Bill Warren: Christopher Lee died last Sunday; no cause has yet been given, but he was 93 years old and in poor health. Almost anything might have carried him away.

He worked hard at avoiding being labeled a horror star, because he didn’t want to be considered only a horror star. But he really was the last of that very small group of fine actors who were primarily known for their horror movies. I think he knew that. He did know Boris Karloff; not only were they in a couple of movies together, but early on, Lee was in an episode of Karloff’s Colonel March of Scotland Yard series. And they lived in adjacent homes in London. He was also friendly with Vincent Price — they loved making each other laugh — and downright adored Peter Cushing, with whom he costarred in many movies. He said that he amused Cushing by doing voices from Warner Bros. cartoons; Cushing did too, but also did Jimmy Durante.

But he did make movies of all kinds — he played Mycroft Holmes in Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (he’s the only actor who played both Holmes brothers — and Sir Henry Baskerville as well). He was Rochefort in Richard Lester’s Musketeer movies, and loved making them. He occasionally sang in movies including his The Wicker Man, and the odd Aussie The Return of Captain Invincible; late in life, he did a few heavy metal albums. He was an indelible Dracula, of course, but also was Frankenstein’s Monster, Rasputin, the Mummy and Fu Manchu. And he was The Man With The Golden Gun in a Roger Moore 007 adventure, as well as being Ian Fleming’s cousin. He also met J.R.R. Tolkien, and was Saruman in the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit movies. He was Count Dooku in a couple of Star Wars movies, and remained stubbornly unaware that he was cast in those because Peter Jackson and George Lucas were fans of his Hammer horrors. So were Joe Dante and John Landis, who both cast him in movies — Dante’s was Gremlins 2, in which Lee got to be (somewhat stiffly) funny.

He once corrected the sound of someone being stabbed in the back in a Rings movie — he knew what it really sounded like, from personal experience in WWII. He rarely spoke of what he actually did in the war, but he was fluent in French, German and Italian…

He was a very good actor, but his inherent tendency toward pomposity often intruded. But he was graceful — an expert fencer, for one thing, with a finger permanently bent from a duel with Errol Flynn — and had a magnificent, recognizable baritone voice. He was, like so many actors, a shy man who became an actor partly to avoid being himself. He was also egotistical, another common trait of actors, but this was not intrusive. He was generous and kind, open to his fans (but wary of them in herds), intelligent, and could be very funny. As with Vincent Price, he and Bob Bloch loved making each other laugh.

I met him (and Bloch) in the late 1960s; in person, he tended to be poker-faced and serious, but not solemn. We corresponded for a while, mostly about Peter Cushing. I interviewed him several times. I liked him.

He made movies all over the world. He once privately lamented that while the world grieved when Peter Cushing died, his death wouldn’t produce the same reaction. He was wrong.

Christopher Lee and Bill Warren on the set of Gremlins 2 (about 1990).

Christopher Lee and Bill Warren on the set of Gremlins 2.

Send Get-Well Wishes To Bill Warren

Robert Heinlein, Beverly Warren and Bill Warren at LASFS in 1976. Photo from Fanac.org.

Robert Heinlein, Beverly Warren and Bill Warren at LASFS in 1976. Photo from Fanac.org.

Fantasy film historian, long-time LASFSian, and File 770 contributor Bill Warren has had two surgeries in the past week. His wife, Beverly, says he’d love to hear from friends by email or on Facebook. That could cheer him up, and hasten his recovery process.

He had both his mitral and aortic valves replaced on January 9. And on January 11 he had another procedure, to deal with his right lung leaking air into his chest cavity.

Beverly wrote on Facebook —

He will be happy to get emails and Facebook messages. Doctor was very pleased with how today’s repairs went. No flowers. Not well enough for visitors. The phone is hard to get to and use, so computer is still the best mode of communication.

Note — I’m assuming Bill’s friends already have the contact info, or know someone who can give it to them. E-mail me if there are any questions.

Today in History 9/7

Queen of Outer SpaceQueen of Outer Space with Zsa Zsa Gabor opened this date in 1958. It’s a movie in which Earthmen are captured on Venus while trying to sell bicycles to fish. Or something like that.

The script was written by Charles Beaumont from an outline by Ben Hecht – both famous today but not for anything they wrote for this movie. Hecht was entering the last decade of a career in which he’d earned the nickname “the Shakespeare of Hollywood” by scripting hits like The Front Page and Mutiny on the Bounty. Beaumont later wrote several classic Twilight Zone episodes and the screenplay for 7 Faces of Dr. Lao.

Those with a fine eye for such things will be interested to know that Bill Warren’s Keep Watching the Skies: Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties, Vol. II, 1958-1962 says Queen of Outer Space recycled costumes from Forbidden Planet like the C-57D crewmen’s uniforms and Altaira’s wardrobe. It also reprised models, sets, and special effects from Bernds’s World Without End, and a model rocketship from Flight to Mars.

Cards Requested For Walt Lee

Cover Walt Lee Reference Guide To Fantastic FilmsBy Bill Warren: I just heard from Steve Lee, son of Walter W. Lee, Jr. — he of the Reference Guide to Fantastic Films and other genre movie research projects, starting as far back as the early 1950s, when he lived in Coos Bay, Oregon. He came to California, married, had two great kids, worked at Hughes, and produced the incredible Reference Guide, which I was privileged (and paid well) to type.

Walt’s birthday is next Saturday; his folks would love to take him cards and good wishes — to his care facility. Walt is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s. This is a stunning shock to me, as one of his outstanding, most interesting and productive traits, was always his quick, sharp intelligence. And he was as funny as hell, from time to time.

It was the first truly major work of film scholarship in the area of science fiction, fantasy and horror. It wasn’t easy to do; while being a father and holding down a job, he researched that exhaustive book.

This was long, long before the iMDB, long before most books on movie research. He spent hours upon hours in the files of the Motion Picture Academy, UCLA, USC, Forry Ackerman (a lifelong friend) and elsewhere. He corresponded with people all over the world — he was determined to make the book as inclusive as possible, and he did. It was the first citation in print (other than industry books and magazines) for hundreds upon hundreds of movies. He was one of the first researchers to routinely include many of the great Hollywood cartoon shorts.  Walt was there first, before anyone. I still consider my work on his book to be one of the most important things I ever did.

The address to send cards:

Walt Lee
c/o Steve Lee
3431 Inglewood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90066

The family wants cards and letters more than eMails.  If you want to eMail Steve directly, here’s his eMail address: Hwlostandfound (at) yahoo (dot) com

Ackermonster Chronicles World Premiere

Ackermonster ChroniclesBy John King Tarpinian: This Sunday the 24th would have been Forrest J Ackerman’s 97th birthday. The Aero Theater in Santa Monica will be hosting a birthday party for 4E and also premiering the documentary The Ackermonster Chronicles at 5 p.m. 

There will be a discussion following the showing with Chris Alexander (Editor-in-Chief of Fangoria Magazine; moderator), George Clayton Johnson (Star Trek, Twilight Zone), William F. Nolan (Logan’s Run), Diane O’Bannon (wife of the late filmmaker/writer Dan O’Bannon [Alien]), Jason V Brock (Director/Writer/Producer), Sunni K Brock (Editor/Producer), and Bill Warren (Ackerman’s assistant and film historian).

Bill Warren: Ray Bradbury, Professional Writer

By Bill Warren: I’ve never met someone who was so enthusiastic, ebullient, upbeat all the time.

At the Oakland-Berkeley Worldcon in 1968 (or so), I was sitting in the coffee shop with some friends when we saw Bradbury enter the hotel.  He smiled and waved at me — then, to my surprise, made an abrupt turn and came into the coffee shop to talk to me.  He said I always knew where the best stuff was going on, so where should he go?  We chatted a bit, and he breezed out of the place.  My friends stared at me in shock.  Ray fucking BRADBURY?  Did I know Bradbury THAT well?  I said “Evidently so,” but I was quite puzzled myself — yes, I knew him (thru Forry), but I didn’t think I did know him that well.  So later I encountered him in a hallway and asked about it.  He was ready for me.  He said that at an early convention (I figure this was the post-WWII Worldcon in LA), he was with a bunch of friends when Leigh Brackett came up and chatted with him about his work.  He was puzzled; they WERE friends, but it seemed out of character for her to approach him like that.  So he asked her about it.  She said she was trying to encourage his career as a writer, by treating him as a fellow professional — and did it in front of his friends, to give him egoboo.  Bradbury said “Now you have to pass it on.”

People don’t quite seem to realize how VERY unusual he was — not really so much so in his fiction (though nobody else ever wrote like him), but in how he used his fame.  He was EVERYwhere in Los Angeles, turning up for many events, always upbeat, always booming and very much there (that stunned me when I first met him; I thought he’d be a shy, quiet poet type, not so much like say Jack Carson or Sonny Tufts).  He had a direct, forceful way of talking that still seemed fresh and spontaneous and friendly, dropping in little affirmations (“doesn’t it?” “don’t they?”) of what he’d just said.  He was just about the most PUBLIC writer I have ever seen, or will ever see again.  He was a very big booster of Los Angeles, so much so that it still seems a little odd that he ever lived anywhere else.

Side note: I read, then heard directly from him, about how he changed his mind about Disneyland.  At first, he was highly skeptical of the place, and of Walt Disney.  He refused to go to the park for a couple of years, then Charles Laughton, “the biggest child on Earth,” impatiently took him by hand and down to Disneyland, where he showed Ray that the place was not at all what he had imagined it to be.  Too bad there are no photos of Laughton leading Bradbury around Disneyland.  To me, that’s as wonderful a thought as imagining Ray Bradbury as a grandfather.  He would have been the greatest grandfather who ever lived — except maybe for Walt Disney.

Today, I thought further on the strange tale (I think I heard it from Bill Nolan) that in the 1940s, Bradbury had a big bonfire in his back yard, where he burned all his unsold stories–and he must have had hundreds of them.  At first, I was horrified — all that great Bradbury stuff, gone up in a gout of fire, undoubtedly burning at Fahrenheit 451.  But then I realized what it was: His way of ensuring that he would not be followed around by the ghosts of his past writing, of stories that he knew weren’t as good as what he was turning out by then.  He also knew he had become a professional writer; he couldn’t yet have been certain that he could be the sole breadwinner of his (new or about to be) family, but he knew he could write stories that would sell.

I hope someone more skilled than me can write about the habits of Ray Bradbury, Professional Writer.  He said he wrote a thousand words every day of his life, and I have no reason to disbelieve him; I’ve heard that he kept on doing it, up until a few months before he died.  That indicates a steely, hard-learned discipline — even though he came on like a house afire (which greatly surprised me), even though his reputation at LASFS was that of a practical-joking chatterbox, he was very serious about becoming a writer.  Then he was very serious about BEING a writer; he was just about the most public writer I’ve ever heard of.  He loved being famous, and he used his fame very wisely, and very often.  Okay, so his plays were usually not very good, and his poetry was limp, but long ago he won the right to be judged by his best work.  Don’t all writers have a falling-off period? 

Take a look at his Internet Movie Database (imdb.com, I think) pages; he wrote for a LOT of TV series in the 1950s, many more than I knew about, some of which seem highly unlikely as a venue for Bradbury material (Steve Canyon???), but he was a pro, and pros sell their stuff.  He even wrote 65 scripts for his own Ray Bradbury Theater, which was often not all that good, but by George, he did it, he did it.  There’s a whole lot of filmed Bradbury, much more than most people realize–and even more yet when you count all the student and amateur productions of his work.  He told me that he allowed any film student who asked to adapt his work, as long as they sent him a print of the finished product.  As he said this, he gestured sort of absently toward the darker recesses of his basement office, where there was a lot of room.  I hope his family considers collecting the best of those student films into a set of DVDs.

I’ll attach three or so photos.  The black-and-white was taken (by Daugherty) at a big surprise party for Forry in 1967, about five minutes after I first met Ray Bradbury.  We swapped glasses, and found our prescriptions were similar. 

Bill Warren meets Ray Bradbury at the Dracula Society banquet.

The shot of Ray talking was taken at the 2nd LASFS clubhouse in North Hollywood, when it was still under construction.

Bradbury addressing the LASFS.

The odd shot requires a little explanation.  Remember the Lytton Center for the Visual Arts?  (I think that was the name — the basement of a savings-and-loan place that was at the corner of Sunset and Laurel Canyon)  One night, they showed something of interest; Beverly and I, and our friend Jon Berg, went; so did Forry, Bradbury, Ray Harryhausen and his wife.  We were there for a movie, but there was also a current display of slightly eccentric wire sculptures.  One of them was of an elephant, and was about half the size of a baby elephant.  It had a door and a stool inside; you could sit there and waggle the trunk and ears.  I did this to amuse Harryhausen (“Is this how you do it, Mr. Harryhausen?”) but Bradbury got all excited and insisted I get out so he could get in.  He, too, waggled the ears and trunk and declared “I am the spirit of the elephant!”

Ray Bradbury as the Spirit of the Elephant.

Bill Warren: John Carter

[Bill gave me permission to post his reaction to the John Carter movie, part of an exchange with Bjo Trimble. It’s helpful to bear in mind Bjo’s first sentence about Bill liking the movie. The promotional campaign, not so much…]

Bjo: Good to hear that you liked John Carter. I hate the trailers, don’t like the look of the hero, and don’t care for the derivative monsters and things. But that’s all from the trailers. Maybe I’ll go see it.

Bill Warren: The entire promotion campaign for this movie was moronic.  The first big mistake was in not promoting it at the last two Comic-Cons; they chose to promote it only at an all-Disney proprietary convention.  Next, they dropped “…of Mars” from the title because focus groups told them no woman would see a movie with the word “Mars” in the title; they were going by the utter disaster of their own Mars Needs Moms.  They decided to do nothing whatsoever to connect it to the Tarzan lore, and initially didn’t even feature the name “Edgar Rice Burroughs” in their ads and trailers.  Those trailers emphasized the wrong stuff; they had little sense of adventure, of thrills, of the wonders of visiting another world, and nothing whatsoever of the occasional humor; even the one shot of Woola the calot isn’t amusing, but he’s funny in the film.  They said nothing about the fact that the Mars books were tremendously influential on Star Wars and especially Avatar; weird that they did not try to hook their movie to what is nothing less than the most successful movie of all time.  James Cameron himself has cited the Barsoom books as one of his main inspirations; so has Lucas.  The current promotional campaign is different (because it’s being run by completely different people than those who handled the first go-round)–and connects the movie to Star Wars, Avatar, Ray Bradbury, etc., even mentioning Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke as being among those who loved the book.  But it’s probably a day late and two hundred million dollars short. 

The movie has some problems — but they’re mostly in pacing, not in how the book(s) has/have been adapted (the Therns, prominent here, first showed up in the 2nd Barsoom novel).  It’s immense, a gigantic epic — there’s a scene of a few thousand Tharks shouting John Carter’s Barsoomian name.  And a wedding scene in Helium that is bigger than any other wedding scene, ever; it’s bigger than Cleopatra’s entrance to Rome in Cleopatra (the one with Liz).  Dejah Thoris doesn’t really need all that much rescuing, and is a brilliant scientist on her own–as well as tough as a buzz saw.  The relationship between Carter and Tars Tarkas, and between Tars Tarkas and Sola, are exactly as in the book.  There’s a bit more humor than in Burroughs, who didn’t use it often (though I love the “Chessmen of Mars Chapter” ‘Ghek Plays Pranks’), and quite a bit more to Carter’s character.  The special effects are, of course, perfect; this much money had to have that result.  We can even believe Carter leaping around like a flea (though it takes him a bit to learn to do that).  The movie is very well cast, especially Lynn Collins (Dejah Thoris), Mark Strong (the main Thern) and James Purefoy (in briefly as Kantos Kan, but terrific, very amusing, very Errol Flynnish.  He was Mark Antony in the HBO series “Rome.”)

Warren: Frankenberry at LaCon

After seeing Mark Evanier’s story about Forry Ackerman and monster-themed cereal, Bill Warren sent this related fannish memory:

At the 1972 Worldcon costume contest, Don Glut went as Frankenberry, pink with that huge head. It was scrupulously accurate. (Linda [Gray, who soon wed Don] went hubba hubba as “Conana,” with a sword she borrowed from Bruce Pelz, a few ounces of copper, a few hard of filmy yellow cloth.)

Don Glut as Frankenberry at the 1972 Worldcon. Photo by Al Kracalic.