Monday, June 28, 2010
JON DOWNES: Happy Birthday Ray
Fame is a strange thing. These days it seems that people can be famous just for being famous,and half the people who have their Warholian fifteen minutes seem to have no talent or skill whatsoever, and certainly have done not one iota to change the world in any shape or form.
However, there are other people who are truly famous. People of skill, power and talent; people who have changed the world to a greater or lesser extent, and people who have changed our culture to the extent that life would not have been the same without them.
I haven't a clue who won the last series of Britain's got Talent, nor do I care, but in a journalistic career stretching back just over 30 years I have met a few of these cultural luminaries who, by their actions, their art or their craft, have changed the world to what we know today.
I have met two of Led Zeppelin. I have met Dave Brubeck. I met Bernard Heuvelmans. I have had a Christmas Card from Yoko Ono. But one wet February night in Exeter I met Ray Harryhausen. There is no big story attached. He was giving a lecture in an Exeter cinema one night and Richard and I went to see him. Afterwards I shook his hand and we went home again. We exchanged perhaps four words, and I am absolutely certain that he will not remember the fat hippy with a walking stick whom he briefly met that night six years ago. But I knew that I was in the presence of greatness. I was in the presence of the man who created Talos, Medusa and the fighting skeletons that sprung from the Hydra's teeth. He was the man who unlocked parts of my imagination that no-one else had ever reached, and - without knowing it - first set me on the path to look for monsters. From reading the tributes I have here today I find that he did the same for many other people.
Ray Harryhausen is 90 years old today and I have taken the unprecedented step of turning today's CFZ bloggo into a tribute to a man who unwittingly probably did more for the cause of cryptozoology than anyone else has ever realised.
Happy Birthday, Ray!