May 25th, 2012. I had to arrive at 10:00 am in a beautiful part of London called Kensington. As I did not want to be late, not for here, I can tell you, I was roaming the neighboring streets at 9 o’clock in the morning; well one thing’s for sure: it was not a slum I sat down for a while in a nearby park to calm down (I was a wee bit nervous to say the least), but the more I was thinking about what would happen soon, the more agitated I got. I had discussed via e-mail with the assistant, Phil Boot to meet in front of the house, but you bet the throbbing of my carotid artery was clearly audible from the inside. Brief self-introduction, clarifying a few important questions… and then I got ushered through the front door… and from that moment on I had the feeling that I had got into an entirely different world. I have never visited any 92-year-old Oscar-winning gentlemen at their homes ever, particularly not one that had inspired and influenced generations of filmmakers, and I was awestruck even by the interior of the hall. And then I turned right, entered a door and then came the moment I will never forget, never in my life, because sitting in an armchair, in three dimensions, smiling cheerfully, waiting for the encounter, offering his hand (the hand that made so many miracles) to welcome me – there was Ray Harryhausen.
I don’t know whether you can grasp the spirit of that moment – if I have to draw a comparison it’s like the moment for a Madonna fan to meet their idol, for a Star Wars fan to meet George Lucas – but I think those who regularly read my blog posts can somehow imagine how I felt.
I didn’t go empty handed. For Ray, knowing his affection for hats, I brought an authentic, traditional Hungarian “Tshikosh” hat, he never had anything like that (he loved it and it fitted him to a nicety!); Milo, the butler took the bunch of flowers I brought for Diana, and we started talking. During our conversation there was a moment when Diana asked me to go upstairs as she also wished to meet me – FYI she is the great-granddaughter of the famous Africa-explorer, David Livingstone. After a few minutes I went back downstairs and we continued talking. We talked about everything! He showed me some of his bronze sculptures (I had already mentioned them in a former blog post) and we discussed stop motion, CGI, old and new movies, film scores, we talked about London, about growing old (but never growing up), about dinosaurs, about Greek mythology, about King Kong and about countless other things. I was luxuriating!
Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take any photographs. I had been told no less than four times before (the fourth request was by Phil Boot himself, right before my entry), and although I gave a last try when we said goodbye, to no avail: Ray told me he didn’t look too great on photos those days. However, I had been allowed to record our conversation, and when I come to think of it, that is a much more valuable keepsake for me. After all, a photo can be taken at a convention or when signing a picture or a book, even if one just meets him for a single moment – but I have a one-hour taped conversation to cherish, I was let in his own home as a guest, sitting on his sofa, drinking his coffee, talking like pals. We were laughing and giggling a lot (sometimes we sound like Beavis and Butthead), but hey, he is a heartsome, jolly old chap who tells his anecdotes and the stories of his life ex animo, and his wonderful, charming personality helped me to forget that I was sitting face to face with the living legend of fantasy film making.
Now if I told you that it was the greatest day of my life, would you believe me?