With the news of his passing, I figured I’d reprint this rather embarrassing anecdote and bow my head in shame. Again.
I was meeting my friend Phil* for dinner in Glendale which boasts a terrific little downtown area as well as, according to Phil, the home base to a bevy of Armenian mobsters, all with horrible driving skills. We left said friend’s house, drove a couple of blocks to a parking spot—hey, it’s LA—and walked to the Tiki-style steakhouse that Phil enticed me with.
As we were walking, Phil points to a storefront. There were a couple of random paperbacks on risers in the window, with drapes concealing the store’s interior. The glass doors were blacked out, so we couldn’t see inside. “This is one of the last great sci-fi bookstores,” Phil tells me. “If you want, we could take a quick walk through.” I dig me some sci-fi, and I’m a sucker for buying books I’ll probably never get around to reading, so I agree. The ravenous beef hunger can hold for a few minutes.
We open the door and, right there in the vestibule, is a small crowd of people. Maybe 25. And they’re looking dead at us, as if we interrupted some cabal meeting. Which, it turns out, we did.
Because right to our left, sitting next to each other at a small folding table facing the crowd with their backs to the windows, was Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen. In case you don’t know—and, if you’re reading this blog, I’m probably pointing out scripture to the choir—these two gentlemen, the two Rays of sci-fi/fantasy, are responsible for many a warped childhood.
Bradbury is a titan of science fiction literature, having written Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Something Wicked This Way Comes, etc. And Harryhausen is the stop-motion wizard behind Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, 20 Million Miles to Earth, One Million Years B.C., and so on.
These guys were holding forth, like preachers in the Church of Christ Science Fiction, and we just stumbled into it. Cool, right?
Yeah, but we were hungry. So hungry, we tracked down the manager—who was so jazzed that she had these two legends in her store—and asked her to let us out the back door. Because we didn’t want to look like the dicks we so clearly were by walking past the Rays to head back out the front door.
As we walked to the steakhouse, we couldn’t even look at each other, the shame was so thick between us. So, whomever is the Secretary of the Geek Society, you can come and collect my membership card whenever you’re ready.
* His name has been changed, so as to not tarnish his own good geek reputation.