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'Dandelion Wine' and Roses for Ray Bradbury

August 22, 2000|PATT DIROLL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Author-playwright Ray Bradbury has offered a variety of explanations for his creative genius during his prolific career. He once said, "When people ask me where I get my imagination, I simply lament, 'God, here and there, makes madness a calling.' "

He offered yet another spin on his success before a packed house of family and friends at his 80th-birthday bash Saturday night at the Burbank Center Stage. "It's memory," he said. "I discovered a couple of years ago that I was a 10-month baby. I was born seeing and hearing . . . and I was born with the gift of remembering. I remember the flavor of my mother's milk. I remember being circumcised five days after I was born." He described his memory as a "God-given gift. I've been labeled a science-fiction writer, but that's not what I am. I'm a mythologist, a collector of metaphors. I grew up reading mythology. And when myths collide with the memories of one's own experiences, then a new metaphor is born."

Bradbury's birthday celebration was held at the new home of the Colony Theatre Company, which will open its new season Saturday with a revival of his musical "Dandelion Wine."

Dandelion-yellow balloons and streamers festooned the lobby, where Norman Corwin, Stan Freburg, Charlton Heston and William Schallert were among scores of artists from Bradbury's past. They had gathered for a champagne reception before the Bradbury tribute--a reprise of scenes from the playwright's works mounted at the Colony over the past 23 years. They included the world premieres of "The Martian Chronicles," "Fahrenheit 451" and "The World of Ray Bradbury."

"Our world premiere of 'The Martian Chronicles' in 1977 put the Colony on the map," said Barbara Beckley, producing director. "We couldn't think of a better way to christen our new home than with one of his productions. That's why Terrence Shank, our founding artistic director, has returned to direct the season opener . . . 'Dandelion Wine.' He directed the Colony's original 1981 production of the musical."

Bradbury's wife, Maggie, (they've been married 53 years) and their daughters were beaming with pride from the front row as Beckley presented him with a birthday memento, an empty wine bottle filled with glass dandelions and mounted on a marble base bearing the inscription "Author! Author!" Then Beckley led the crowd in a rousing "Happy Birthday."

Quite a night for a guy who's transported us to outer space but doesn't drive a car.

*

Departing from his night partying and signature silk pajamas, Hugh Hefner emerged from his Holmby Hills aerie on Sunday afternoon wearing street clothes--white slacks and a gaudy print sport shirt covered with postage stamp-sized "Playboy" covers. As usual, the Viagra poster boy made his entrance flanked by les jeunes filles du jour for the 20th annual Garden Musicale hosted by Hefner for the American Jazz Philharmonic. For the past four years, the event has supported the Henry Mancini Institute's summer education program under the direction of its founder Jack Elliott.

The Playboy Mansion is impressive in the daytime when Hef's exotic birds and monkeys are wide awake. His menagerie behaved well during the performance featuring more than 80 young virtuosos from 33 states and 11 countries. Even the raucous parrots lent an ear for Brazilian guitarist Dori Caymmi's quartet and jazz pianist David Benoit's musical tribute to the late Charles Schulz.

Judy Henning and Dick Rosenzweig chaired the event with assistance from Elliott's wife, Bobbi, Maggy Martino and Mitchel Moore. Mancini's family was out in force, led by his widow, Ginny, who noted, "The average age of these young people is 23. Henry was 23 when he became my husband and my dream of a lifetime. I watched him study with the best teachers, thanks to the GI Bill, and grow into the consummate musician."

Drew Carey was the only sour note in an otherwise harmonious afternoon. As emcee, he attempted to entertain a refined crowd but with little that can be quoted in a family newspaper.

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