I grew up in LA, mostly Hollywood, in the 1960s and early 70s, and I was interested in popular culture, movies, and science fiction. That made Ray Bradbury a fixture in my life. Not just someone I read, but someone I frequently saw and heard in person.
My most memorable Bradbury experience happened in a screenwriting class in college. Bradbury came to discuss his experience writing John Huston’s version of Moby Dick. (We had screened the film beforehand.) He told us that after being offered the assignment, but before taking it, he went to the library, pulled the book off the shelf, opened it up at random, read one paragraph, and fell in love. He also described being completely blocked about the third act, sitting down at his typewriter, saying “I am Herman Melville,” and writing the entire act in one sitting.
His best Moby Dick story: He had moved into Huston’s house in Ireland, and they were working together. Huston received a telegram, read it, and handed it to Bradbury. It said something like:
Must add love story.
Bradbury crumpled up the telegram, threw it on the floor, and repeatedly stomped on it while yelling “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”
Then he noticed that Huston was laughing, and remembered the director’s reputation as a practical joker.
The last time I saw Bradbury was in 1975, a few months before I moved north. I was attending a 50-hour science fiction movie marathon (which I promise to write more about one day). Tired of sitting and watching the screen, I got up and wandered into the lobby, where I ran into Ray Bradbury. I told him that I admired his writing.
He exploded with joy, grabbed my hand, and cried out enthusiastically “Thank you! Thank you! God bless you!”
I’ll say one thing about Ray Bradbury. He didn’t suppress his emotions.