For 10 years, Ray Bradbury signed books, celebrated his birthdays and drew large crowds to the Mystery and Imagination Bookshop owned by his friends Christine and Malcolm Bell in downtown Glendale.
It is here that Bradbury — best known for his science fiction novel, “Fahrenheit 451” — connected with fans one-on-one, where three dimensional-themed treats, overseen by Porto’s Bakery across the street, were brought in to celebrate his birthday. From a whale-shaped treat to honor Bradbury’s contribution to the screenplay of the 1956 film adaptation of “Moby Dick” to another in the form of a burning book — complete with flames and a list of all his lifetime literary accomplishments — they reflected Bradbury’s farfetched imagination and the overwhelming love his fans had for him.
On this bustling stretch of Brand Boulevard, the phone calls and emails haven’t stopped at the shop since the beloved author passed away at 91 last week. Some have sent mementos, such as a pink dinosaur — a Bradbury signature “beast” — that sits at the front desk. A butterfly hangs around its neck, an homage to the “butterfly effect” theory in Bradbury’s 1952 time travel story “A Sound of Thunder.”
A slew of bouquets flank the plush toy. “You all enriched his life” reads a card darting from the flowers.
Christine Bell first met Bradbury in 1976 during one of his motivational speeches, forming a fast friendship that would last for decades.
After the bookstore she opened with her husband, Malcolm, moved to its current, larger location in 2000, Bradbury offered to help out. And so the signings, meet-and-greets and celebrated birthday parties began.
The large crowds of hundreds of people lining the block was one way you could tell he was in town.
For the Bells, they weren’t just book signings, but treasured memories they now hold dear.
“Ray had an incredible imagination, to be in his presence, I was always in awe,” Malcolm said.
For Bradbury, it was a place to personally get to know those on whose lives he had such a big impact.
“He came here because he enjoyed himself, because we wanted to celebrate him,” Christine said.
And celebrate they did.
It was at Mystery and Imagination that author William F. Nolan presented him with his 2007 Pulitzer Prize, a special citation awarded to him for “his distinguished, prolific, and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy.”
It was also here that he was showered with confetti hearts during a “love” themed birthday party and put his incredible memory to use — vividly recalling a fan he had met long ago when his son provided details of what his deceased father wore and said.
For John King, a Glendale-based forensic accountant, it took one encounter with Bradbury to form a close friendship that saw him accompanying the author to various events as his wingman. King mustered up the courage to ask Bradbury to sign his book and offered him a choice of vintage pens.
There was something about King’s voice that Bradbury and his hearing aid took a liking to. And so King traveled to readings, festivals and even conventions like ComicCon with the author, making sure all went smoothly.
“He was one of the most positive people you could ever meet,” said an emotional King, remembering his friend on a hot Sunday at the bookshop.
Bradbury’s Glendale connection extends beyond Mystery and Imagination, however. The author directly influenced the design of the Glendale Galleria.
Jon Jerde, the lead architect designed it after reading Bradbury’s urban planning essay in West magazine, in which he lamented about L.A’s lack of town squares and how the city had forgone the great pastime of gathering and staring.
When Jerde met Bradbury at lunch through a mutual friend, he asked the author what he thought, according to Sam Weller’s “The Bradbury Chronicles.”
“It’s nice,” Ray said.
“That’s yours,” Jerde told him.
“Jerde had imitated all the things Ray Bradbury had spelled out in his urban planning blueprint. The Glendale Galleria was based on the concepts of Ray Bradbury. Ray was incredulous. And proud. He told Jon Jerde that if it was OK with him, he wanted to claim to the world that he was his bastard son.”
Though memorial services for the author are private, fans interested in honoring him might get their chance in the near future, as the Bells are thinking of hosting a posthumous event for Bradbury at Mystery and Imagination.
LIANA AGHAJANIAN is a Los Angeles-based journalist whose work has appeared in L.A. Weekly, Paste magazine, New America Media, Eurasianet and The Atlantic. She may be reached at email@example.com.