George Clayton Johnson 1929–2015

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My long time friend, writer extraordinaire George Clayton Johnson, passed away on Christmas from cancer at age 86.

You might know a bit of George through his work.

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He created seven Twilight Zone episodes, including the classic “Nothing in the Dark”, starring a very young Robert Redford. His novel Ocean’s Eleven got turned into the Rat Pack film and the George Clooney/Brad Pitt blockbuster remake.

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George wrote “The Man Trap”, the very first Star Trek episode (the one about the salt-sucker creature, featured above) to appear on television.

GCJRay

George collaborated with our mutual friend Ray Bradbury on the Oscar-nominated short film “Icarus Montgolfier Wright”. George was in Roger Corman‘s masterpiece The Intruder (1962), playing a hateful racist. This was casting against type, as I don’t think he had an unkind bone in his body. George Clayton Johnson is perhaps most famous for co-writing the sci-fi cult novel and film classic Logan’s Run.

GCJMe

I loved George (that’s me, George and Sunny Brock at Comic-Con International a few years ago). He was quite the character with his unique, unmistakable visage (was he part Asian? I never asked) and a slightly high, sandpaper-ish voice. In the many decades I knew George (we met back in the early 1970s), his physical appearance and demeanor never seemed to change. He always seemed like a timeless ancient. I never saw the young George, except on film. To me, he always seemed like a whimsical Zen master, wandering the earth and strolling through life greatly amused and fascinated by whatever and whomever he would encounter with everything fodder for his stories.

I was channel-surfing a few years ago and to my surprise and delight came across George extolling the virtues of cannabis on some indy cable station. George was always quite the pot and psychedelic enthusiast.

My favorite party trick of George’s: He would ask you for three elements — an actor, a genre and a setting. From those three things he would immediately weave a riveting tale for you on the spot and without hesitation. At a wildly creative mescaline party thrown by my pal Rob Gluckson, I introduced my very straight, non-drug taking brother Bob to George. George had Bobby spellbound within seconds, spontaneously improvising a story that had Bobby’s eyes filled wide with wonder. I envied George’s ability to do such things seemingly effortlessly.

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He beat his first bout with cancer decades ago by going strict raw vegan. His tumor shrank and shrank until it disappeared. George told me the only unpleasant side effect from his veganism was bad breath.

You can still be delightfully entertained by George on his YouTube channel. On a 2009 posting he proclaimed in typical George Clayton Johnson style, “I’m George Clayton Johnson. I make a living daydreaming.”

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Love Forever, George.

6 Responses to “George Clayton Johnson 1929–2015”

  1. Robert Stout says:

    I will miss his grace, wit, and talent greatly. RIP George!

  2. Bill!

    Long time, no see, my friend. Hope you are very well, and this is a wonderful tribute. George was so loved, and will be sorely missed.

    –Jason V Brock

  3. Rick Tucker says:

    Bill,

    Thank you for the lively reminiscing on behalf of the late George Clayton Johnson. I’m sure he’d be happy to read such a glowing reflection from you.

    Rick Tucker

  4. Max Cheney says:

    Thanks for this, Bill.

    Makes me wish I could have met him, just to be able to name three things for his brilliant imagination to spin into gold.

  5. Aaron says:

    What a wonderful whimsical imagination he had. Making up stories on the spot is a fun way to flex your brain. Thanks for sharing these memories. The Man trap is one of my favorite Star Trek episodes and a well crafted story indeed.

  6. Sue (Foster) Miller says:

    RIP George. I remember meeting him at one of your parties, must have been over 40 years ago. Very nice tribute. Thanks Bill.

    English Sue

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