South Pasadena Library Honors Ray Bradbury with Free Screening of “It Came From Outer Space”

By Steve Fjeldsted, South Pasadena Library Director: The Fifties sci-fi classic It Came From Outer Space will be screened on Thursday, October 18 at 7 p.m. in the South Pasadena Library Community Room.  The remarkable, highly influential film, Ray Bradbury’s first, was released in the brand new 3-D technology to theaters in 1953.

The Library will be screening the flat, non 3-D version,’ but it will be projected onto a giant film festival type screen and professional sound equipment will be used.

Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. for the event which will also showcase a mini-exhibit of Bradbury-related artwork., courtesy of Ray’s friends and associates Robert Kerr, Dave Marchant, and John King Tarpinian who will also offer brief, insightful introductory remarks before the film that was released in 1953 when the iconic author had just burst into public adulation with his The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451.

The Library Community Room is located at 1115 El Centro Street in South Pasadena.

No tickets or reservations are necessary and refreshments will be served.  An opportunity drawing for door prizes including Bradbury paperbacks and Mars and Milky Way candy bars will be conducted.

The event is presented by the South Pasadena Public Library and the Friends of the South Pasadena Public Library with special thanks to 210eastsound, Videotheque, and Movie Licensing USA. For more information, please call 626 403-7350 or check www.southpasadenaca.gov/library.

It Came from Outer Space marked Bradbury’s initial foray into writing for movies. Ray wrote a story treatment entitled “The Meteor” and submitted it to Universal which hired him to expand it and he delivered a finished screenplay. According to Bradbury in his anthology They Came from Outer Space, he wrote it for the “grand sum of $3000.”

Portrait of Ray Bradbury, taken September 10, 2009

The success of It Came from Outer Space, Universal’s first 3-D film, led Bradbury to pen other screenplays, including Moby Dick –co-written with John Huston and an Oscar®-winner in 1956, as well as film versions of his own works. The South Pasadena Library has screened many of these and has been continuously developing its Bradbury collection since his passing. It now consists of more than 100 checkout books and DVDs and the special ‘reference only’ collection for the Ray Bradbury Conference Room has received about 200 very special donations that are starting to appear in its locked cases.

Dave Marchant of Alhambra, a friend and associate of Bradbury’s, once a resident in South Pasadena, met the author at a library more than 20 years ago. Marchant was already an avid sci-fi fan who knew and admired Forrest Ackerman and George Clayton Johnson. Dave had attended Cal State LA and was writing stories that eventually were inspired by Bradbury’s encouragement. Marchant at times “chauffeured” Bradbury to his appearances at bookstores and libraries, becoming a serious Bradbury collector in the process. Today, Dave Marchant is a frequent user of the South Pasadena Library and has donated more than 100 rare books, DVDs, audios, press kits, posters, and more to the library in honor his friend and mentor.

Free parking is available at the Mission-Meridian Parking Garage, located at 805 Meridian Avenue after noon adjacent to the Metro Gold Line Station, only one block from the Library.

Actor Bill Oberst Jr. Unexpectedly Performs Ray Bradbury’s “Pillar of Fire” ‘Unplugged’

By Steve Fjeldsted, Director of Library, Arts, and Culture,, South Pasadena Public Library: An unplanned power outage struck the Library on August 11 at 1 p.m. The facility remained open for the next two hours operating with minimal battery lighting. At 3:15 the utility company said power would not be restored soon and the Library was closed for the rest of the day. After learning that power wouldn’t be back on for the 7 p.m. performance by Emmy Award-winning Bill Oberst Jr., I called many equipment rental companies to rent a generator so that we’d be able to power up the Community Room sound system and lighting. Over and over it was stated that it was impossible.

Considering cancelling the show, I asked for Bill’s thoughts. He’s an in-demand actor with impressive theatre, film, and TV credits. He calmly stated that he’s previously done ‘power outage shows.’ The decision was made for the show to go on, but outside and unplugged. Oberst would play every part because we wouldn’t have the recorded voices of the other characters. Our sound and lighting engineers, Adrian Camp and Scott Brown from 210 east sound!  along with two of Ray Bradbury’s longtime friends, John King Tarpinian and Dave Marchant helped move about half of the Community Room chairs into the Library Park.

By this time, dozens of audience members were already arriving and it was about showtime. Bill was inside in the pitch dark of the Community Room with a small flashlight and softly praying with his friend Tamara Tucker who had arrived to help. Walking out into the park, I acknowledged the co-sponsorship of the Friends of the South Pasadena Public Library and SPARC, the South Pasadena Arts Council. Explaining that we would be unable to present the “Pillar of Fire” show with lighting, amplification, sound effects, etc., I asked the audience, now numbering 75 or so to encourage and support Bill who would be ‘winging it’. Among them was a friend, Joaquin Montalvan and his wife Eunice. Joaquin is a professional photographer who surprised me by informing me he was already a friend and fan of Bill Oberst. This was very pleasing because I knew we’d have some great photos of the unique event.

Draped in a charred and torn garment, Bill leaped to his bare feet, portraying William Lantry who had awakened from the grave in 2349 after 400 years of being buried, at a time in which the earth had been cleansed of morbidity and corpses. Halloween has been obliterated and cities have towering incinerators where dead people are burned without ceremony, The Government decides to destroy the last remaining graveyard and digs up Lantry, who represents all that is absent from the sterile world.

Oberst charged into the audience, standing on one of the few empty chairs. While gyrating and pointing he launched into Ray Bradbury’s 1948 novella “Pillar of Fire” with great intensity, continuing for 50 riveting minutes. Bill changed his voice and character repeatedly while climbing trees and the brickwork, oblivious to the sounds of the toddlers, skateboarders, and can collectors in the Library Park. He captivated the audience with a magnetic performance that was met with a standing ovation. Oberst pulled out the very same soiled Bradbury paperback that had started him on his acting quest at age 12. Bill revealed that he was a “fat kid with acne” in South Carolina and his whole life was transformed when he accidentally discovered the Bradbury paperback containing “Piillar” on a remote trail. Ray Bradbury’s powerful writing had changed his entire life and he had looked forward to performing in a place his literary hero loved.

Bill said he would be leaving soon for film projects in South America and Europe, but vowed to come back, hinting that he might return as Bradbury in a living history performance. Oberst has previously appeared as Mark Twain, John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, and Jesus Christ –so that’s certainly within his reach as an actor.

[This report originally appeared on the City of South Pasadena website.]

Bradbury Brick Donated to South Pasadena Library

The South Pasadena Public Library’s special event on October 29 took as its theme Bradbury’s “The Halloween Tree”.

A story and photo at South Pasadena Now tells about the participants:

Artist Gris Grimly not only illustrated the newest edition of Bradbury’s classic book “The Halloween Tree,” he also exhibited the book’s original artwork at the library event. Robert Kerr, a member of the Ray Bradbury Pandemonium Theatre Company, offered insider background details about both “The Halloween Tree” book and movie, as well as reminiscences of Bradbury’s fondness for “his favorite holiday.” Tarpinian, a close friend and associate of Bradbury, recently donated a brick to the library from Bradbury’s house in LA that was torn down in 2014. Fjeldsted is South Pasadena’s director of library arts & culture and has coordinated six events at the library since 2010 to honor both Bradbury and his legacy. Fjeldsted, above, is holding the brick that was beautifully framed by Mission Framing of South Pasadena.

(L-R) Gris Grimly, Robert Kerr, John King Tarpinian, Steve Fjeldsted, and T.E. Grau.

(L-R) Gris Grimly, Robert Kerr, John King Tarpinian, Steve Fjeldsted, and T.E. Grau.