Back to Square One: The Story of Ray Bradbury Square in Los Angeles

In honor of Ray Bradbury's 90th birthday on August 22nd, the Los Angeles City declared "Ray Bradbury Week." Despite failing health, Ray was able to attend most of the events. Sadly, they were his last public appearances.
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In 2010 the city of Los Angeles did something rather wonderful. In honor of Ray Bradbury's 90th birthday on August 22nd the Los Angeles City Council did not declare that date "Ray Bradbury Day," which would have been a very typical kind of honor for a city to bestow on someone of the literary master's stature. Instead they declared August 22 through 28 "Ray Bradbury Week," a completely a typical and unusually grand gesture of affection by a city for one of its citizens.

As the creator and organizer of Ray Bradbury Week, a series of events held in Los Angeles to honor Ray on his 90th birthday, I was deeply grateful to then council president Eric Garcetti, who made the motion, and the other councilmembers who spoke so eloquently in support of the motion, which passed unanimously. Having this official recognition helped me to bring in such organizations as the Writers Guild of America, west, The Central Library of Los Angeles, the Paley Center for Media, and the Playboy Foundation at the direction of Hugh Hefner, to sponsor and host events.

Ray, despite failing health, was able to attend most of the events. Sadly, they were his last public appearances.

But they were great events, and Ray had a wonderful time. And if he had ever had any doubts the the City of Los Angeles revered and loved him, those doubts were put aside that week.

One thing I wanted to accomplish for that week, but there just wasn't time, was to have some area or landmark or building in Los Angeles named after Ray. I talked to friends and colleagues about the idea, and fellow writer, Michael Mallory pointed me to the area around the Central Library in downtown L. A. We knew the library couldn't be named after Ray as it was already named after former mayor Richard Riordian. But a street or a major intersection that could be named, say, Ray Bradbury Square, Mike and I agreed, was a great idea.

We considered a small section of Hope Street from 6th that ran right up to the library, but my problem with it was just that -- it was a small section of the street. It was just not grand enough, I felt, for Ray. But there was the intersection of Grand Avenue and Fifth, right at the bottom of Bunker Hill, that might do -- except we soon learned that it had already been named John Fante Square after the L.A. based author who wrote of that area. That just left the intersection of Fifth and Flower.

But what a great location to be left with. It's a busy and active (just like Ray) intersection with much traffic. And not just with the autos Ray did not care for, but with many pedestrians, whom he adored. It's downtown, an area Ray once lived in and loved. And it's right by the Central Library, the hub of one of the greatest library systems in America. And libraries, to Ray, were hallowed halls, near places of worship -- homes to his creative self as a young man, and the products of that creative self as he grew.

However, as I said above, there just wasn't time with all the other events to organize to go through the process it takes for the city to bestow such a recognition.

Ray Bradbury Week passed, but the idea remained with me. Many months later it was reinvigorated when I happen to run into Councilmember Paul Koretz, one of the speakers in favor of Ray Bradbury Week. It turned out that he was Ray's councilmember and grew up near Ray's home, in fact had gone to school with one of Ray's daughters. And, had he not gone into politics, Paul had wanted to be a science fiction writer, so Ray had been a huge inspiration to him. Despite all this, except for a brief moment in the City Council chambers, he had never been able to spend time with Ray. I immediately offered to take him over to Ray's for a one-on-one.

After Paul's visit with Ray, he and I talked for awhile and I mentioned that I would still like to see something in L.A. named after Ray. Paul loved the idea and jumped on it right away, directing one of his field deputies, David Giron, to work with me on it.

Over time we looked at many places in Los Angeles that were important to Ray, including Venice where he lived as a young man and with his bride, Maggie, in a small house just a block or two from the beach. We also looked at Westwood where Ray wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the library at UCLA, and where he took his daughters to movies and bookstores. And even his own neighborhood where we thought his local library where he and his daughters spent many happy hours, the Palms-Rancho Park branch, could be named after him. Unfortunately we discovered that library rules do not allow branch libraries to be named after individuals, only after their area. But libraries can be dedicated to individuals. Councilmember Koretz and David worked hard to make that happen -- and it has happened.

But still, the idea was to name something -- something big, I had hoped -- after Ray.

While David Giron and I were sitting in the second floor office of the City Librarian meeting with library administrators on the dedication of the Palms-Rancho Park Library, David, very smartly asked the assembled if they could think of something or somewhere in Los Angeles the library would support being named after Ray. Not necessarily something the library was in charge of, just something they could lend support to.

As we all thought about this I looked out the window on my left and realized that it looked out over the Maguire Gardens, and just beyond that the intersection of Fifth and Flower. "Ah -- guys," I said to all, "my original idea sits right out there. How about naming Fifth and Flower 'Ray Bradbury Square'?"

Everybody in the room loved the idea.

As Fifth and Flower is in the district of Councilmember Jose Huizar, Paul Koretz went to him with the idea, which he also loved, and the two co-sponsored the motion to make the intersection Ray Bradbury Square.

And now we have come back to -- if I may put it this way -- square one. But in a very good way, indeed..

Ray Bradbury Square will be dedicated on December 6th at 2 p.m. in a ceremony held in Magiure Gardens. Councilmember Huizar will host the ceremony and he and Councilmember Koretz will both speak. The other speakers will include our new City Librarian John Szabo; the famed Hugo and Nebula Award winning author David Brin; Ray's biographer Sam Weller; actor Joe Mantegna who starred in both the stage and film versions of Ray's The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, and who was a close friend of Ray's; and Ray's eldest daughter, Sue Bradbury Nixon. And I will say a few words.

The dedication ceremony is open to the public. I encourage everyone to come out to honor a man who was a legend before his death last June, and who will remain a legend for years to come.

Photos and video from Ray Bradbury Week can be found on the RAY BRADBURY WEEK Facebook page.

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