Sunday, 2 December 2012

Ray Palmer: In Remembrance

10 years ago today, my great friend Ray Palmer died suddenly at the age of 48. 
It’s hard to believe that he was taken from us a full decade ago.
Ray Palmer was a photographer on rock magazine Kerrang! between 1981 and a year in the late ‘90s which I now forget.  He was, of course, far more than just a photographer: he was a husband to Chris, a father to Ross and Faye, and a friend to so many.  He was also an absolute one-off: there was no-one in the industry like him and there never will be again. 
I’m very much a believer in people living on in hearts and minds.  When the departed are remembered, they continue to have an effect on the living and are therefore still with us.
Ray Palmer will assuredly never be forgotten.  Below, I’ve gathered together just a few of the reasons why, as everyone from close friends to virtual strangers clamour to tell their part of The Ray Palmer Story.  You’ll notice several recurring themes.  Ray was kind, funny, intelligent, generous, a great storyteller, a great drinker, a charmer of considerable proportions and an all-round wonderful human being, while at the same time being no saint.  As sad as I inevitably am on today's anniversary, I also have to remain thankful that I had the opportunity to spend time in Ray’s orbit.  Indeed, I had more than my fair share of boozed-up fun with the man, whether we were sitting by swimming pools in Los Angeles or by an open fire in a Wimbledon pub.
Back in the mists of time when I was a rock journalist, you see, Ray and I would travel the world.  We covered the Manic Street Preachers in Japan, Bad Religion in LA, Iron Maiden in Germany, Paradise Lost in Seattle... and oh dear God, it was no end of fun.  Considering Ray was a photographer (despite being blind in one eye), there are shamefully few photographs of us in existence.  The picture above, then, is one of those few: it’s me and Ray in a Tokyo hotel room, drunk, in kimonos, somewhere around dawn. Yes, that’s me on the left with the rock hairdo.  Ray is presumably activating the camera via remote control.  Out of all the many trips abroad I did for Kerrang! magazine, that Manics In Japan jaunt with Ray remains my favourite. 
Ray Palmer became one of my very best friends and I would give pretty much anything for a catch-up session with him in a pub.  Hopefully that will happen one day.  We’ll see.
I hope the following recollections and anecdotes help paint at least some of the big picture when it comes to the man, the photographer, the legend, Ray Palmer.  Enjoy... JASON ARNOPP, DECEMBER 2, 2012

“Ray once told me a story of a court case in which he defended himself without the aid of a barrister. Having destroyed the prosecution's star witness (an old man with bad eyesight, much like himself!), Ray concluded his defence in classic courtroom drama style, declaring with a theatrical flourish, "No further questions!"
I would love this story to be true, but in all honesty, it hardly matters that it is. I just love the story and the humour with which Ray told it.
I also remember a trip in ‘92 to do a cover story on Izzy Stradlin, during which we christened Izzy's bass player Jimmy "Two Fingers" Ashurst. We had a great time during that weekend in Copenhagen, but of course, everybody always says they had a great time with Ray, because that's the kind of man he was.” - PAUL ELLIOTT (former Kerrang! staffer)

Ray with wife Chris
“Ray will always be best remembered by the readers of Kerrang! for his 'Ladykillers' series that graced the magazine in the mid to late ‘80s, where he photographed virtually all the well known (and not so well known) rock chicks of the day.
I worked with Ray on many trips both at home and abroad in my time with Kerrang! in the late 80s and most of the 90s, and he was always a pleasure to work with and a fantastic bloke.
My biggest memory of working with him was hearing all the tales he had to tell of his various escapades and experiences as one of the leading rock photographers of the day. And we certainly shared a few ourselves.
One of the funniest moments that springs to mind was when we had to change planes in Atlanta to go to Wilmington, North Carolina (‘Where?!’ - Indeed, the girl on the Delta Airlines desk at Gatwick had asked us that very question on checking in!) to do a story on Canadian rock chick Sass Jordan.
I breezed past immigration, but Ray had been stopped and it looked like he was getting a bit of a grilling. And the police gorilla told me in no uncertain terms what would happen if I went back to try and find him. So, with the prospect of flying to Wilmington on my own I made my way to the gate, only to find Ray sitting there already with a pint of cold Bud waiting for me. I have absolutely no idea how on earth he beat me to that check in gate!
There are so many stories. Ray Palmer you will NEVER be forgotten!” - DAVE REYNOLDS (former Kerrang! staffer)

"Probably my fondest memory of Ray is of going with him to some weird castle in the middle of Germany to do a Black Sabbath feature. There are no wild stories to report, though we had a few beers, but it sticks in my mind because he was so kind to me. I'd never been sent on a trip for a magazine before, never been on a plane, and never had to deal with nervous managers who were worried about a hatchet job on their band (this being one of the shite line-ups). Ray was kind enough to guide me through some of the pitfalls and I shall always be grateful. I lost count of the amount of trips we did after that, but it was always a pleasure" - MORAT (journalist and photographer)

“I have so many great memories of Ray: Sitting through an earthquake in the bar of the Hyatt on Sunset (I never felt it, darling); being shot at by a sniper on the set of a WASP video; stopping me from stepping into a puddle of blood on a pavement in New York; mysteriously acquiring the nickname Mr Pooh; playing football behind the stage of a Dio gig at Long Beach arena; flying to LA to take a photograph of Magnum that looked like it was done in Wolverhampton; going to Morecambe beach and taking a photo of Lisa Dominique that looked like it was shot in Malibu at sunset; persuading Marino hed seen a werewolf at Donington; having an acid flashback in his car somewhere; finally revealing the contents of the secret box of photographs he kept in a drawer at the office; riding with Lita Ford in Laurel Canyon (which resulted in the first ever shot of a large horse on the cover of Kerrang!); looking at the porno mags that Chris Holmes kept by his side of the bed at Lita Fords house; sitting on a tour bus with Helloween while the singer asked him which camera is the best for taking pictures of someone from inside a bush; appearing unannounced on the terraces at Highbury with his son, Ross. 
Mostly though, I remember long and friendly days over at his house with [Ray’s wife] Chris. Ray took the very first pictures of my daughter Lily there, in his conservatory. Im biased, but theyre the best pictures of a chick hes ever taken. God bless, mate.” - JON HOTTEN (former Kerrang! staffer)

Lisa Dominique, as photographed by Ray
“Notwithstanding Lisa Dominque attempting to sue the Big K! after a scathing gig review, I was always a staunch supporter of Ray's Ladykillers series. *Takes out treasured photo of Maryann Scandiffio from wallet and gazes at it wistfully.* Of course, you frequently had to fend off unfair accusations (particularly from those politically correct Sounds types in the next office) that many of the Ladykiller kandidates (oops, old habits die hard) were, in fact, "dogs". I apologise for using such a distasteful term, but it does recall the day when we did actually ask Ray to photograph some dogs - but strictly of the canine variety! For reasons that escape me, some time in the mid- to late 1980s we decided to produce a Kerrang! Kerristmas kard (here we go again) featuring my blundering Old English Sheepdog, Richie, and Krusher's menacing mutt, Bullseye. We asked Ray to shoot the cover of the card and he took it all in his customary laid-back-but-enthusiastic stride, needlessly pulling out all the stops and decorating his studio in wildly festive fashion. After much coercion, Ray got the dogs to perch their paws on a table lovingly adorned with empty Jack Daniel's bottles intertwined with tinsel - and the end result was a treat. Richie was depicted peeking out of his Dulux dog fringe looking suitably bemused, while Bullseye bared his teeth and glared threatening at the camera, like something out of Gremlins! Ray devoted a helluva lot of time and effort into making an inconsequential Xmas card look simply brilliant. Typical of the man. And, you know, I don't think we ever paid him for it...” - GEOFF BARTON (former Kerrang! editor)

“I first met Ray in 1985, when I was a keen young pup just started writing for Sounds magazine and he was working for Kerrang. Our respective offices were side by side, so I'd often see him - always smiling, laughing, joking about. We never actually worked together being on different mags, but I always remember one act of kindness.
I'd broken up with a girlfriend and being young and foolish, spent several weeks in an alcoholic stupor, usually in the pub near the office. One day Ray took me aside, bought me a hot lunch, and repeated the act over the next few days, generally making sure I was OK. I was touched and always, always had time for Mr Palmer after that. It was always good to know he was still out there somewhere doing his thing.  Ray was one of the world's good guys.” - NEIL PERRY

“Despite working with Ray at Kerrang! for over five years, my overriding memory of him has nothing to do with rock 'n' roll excess or tales from the road. Instead, it was his ever-present smile which lodged itself in my memory banks. Ray always seemed genuinely pleased to see you or hear you at the end of the phone - even if you were asking him to go and photograph a band he'd never heard of in a place where no sane person would venture after 6pm! He wouldn't go, of course, but he'd decline ever so politely (darling).
However, when he did click that shutter, the photographs were tremendous. Ray's images were always a little bit special, and his talent and love for his work shone out of Kerrang!'s pages week after week.” - ALISON RYE, nee JOY (former Kerrang! reviews editor)

Russia's Red Square, yesterday
“I remember Ray for two things. Firstly, when I began writing for Kerrang! and started going into the office (then above Covent Garden Tube station), Ray was one of a couple of people who always had a smile, a chirlpy, friendly hello and a few words of encouragement, and generally always helped me as a 'newie' to feel part of things in those early days. It probably didn't seem much to him, but I always remembered and appreciated it.
Secondly for one of the most memorable trips I went on with Ray, which was a week in Moscow with Uriah Heep. It was December, and we'd been warned by Heep's manager that the temperature in Moscow would be in the minus-20s, so to make sure we took warm clothing.
On the second or third day, when we all met up in the hotel foyer to walk to Red Square to spend a couple of hours doing a photoshoot, it was around minus 28 outside. I was wearing two T-shirts, a thick wool sailing sweater, wool-lined leather coat, scarf, wool hat, sheepskin gloves, ski socks and Doc Martens. I looked at Ray, who was wearing the kind of rig he might wear in June in London - pointed boots, thin jeans, thin cotton shirt wide open at the neck, and a thin leather blouson (no hat, no gloves, no scarf). I looked at him with a mixture of concern and mockery, and laughed: ‘Ray, you are gonna freeze your bloody nuts of out there in seconds! You must be mad!’
He took a swig from a bottle of Russian champagne he was holding, turned to me with what can only be described as that particular smile of his, and with a Palmerish flouncy wave of the hand said: ‘Oh, don't worry, dear boy. I am wearing two pairs of socks, you know.’” - PAUL HENDERSON

“I first met Ray when I worked in management and he was shooting one of our bands. His lack of ego, friendliness and helpful suggestions to ensure he got the right pix were a welcome change from the stroppier members of his ilk!
Once I became a journalist, although I worked for a 'rival' publication and did not work with him directly, we would often bump into each other on trips and at gigs. I can only agree with what everyone else has said. His warmth, wit and wealth of stories meant that I was always pleased to see him. He was someone you'd actually WANT to sit next to on a flight to America, because he was always entertaining, while his ability to charm his way out of sticky situations left me breathless!
However, my most enduring memory of him was a day when I was moaning about looking old and ugly - probably while looking at one of his Lady Killers pix! - and he immediately cheered me up by telling me that he found laughter lines incredibly sexy on a woman! Ray, I've worn mine with pride ever since!
He will be much missed by all of us who knew him” - VALERIE POTTER

“I did my first American trip for Kerrang! with Ray, to New York and then on to Florida. He showed me the ropes, introduced me to strippers and helped me overcome my twenty two year old unease. And like everyone else who worked with him, got me so hideously drunk (while he remained upright, grinning like an inscrutable chimp) that the very next day I threw up in the middle of a shopping mall and was almost clubbed to death by two security guards (big, burly fellows who looked as though they'd married their respective sisters) who dragged me in to the toilet to have a word with me. Ray, sensibly, was out driving along Tampa's freeways with the convertible the band had rented us while all this was going on.
He was special and funny and talented.  I'll miss him.” - PHIL WILDING (former K! journo)

Ray Palmer (pic Tony Mottram)
“Ill always remember Ray as Uncle Ray, because he was like an uncle to me when I first met him, showing me the ropes as I started out at Kerrang! back in 1981. For some reason (I think it was called Ross Halfin) when Ray and I went on trips together, it was always the B-list bands in far away exotic places such as Austria (for Nightwing), Holland (a very early Rockpalast) and, er, Buckley (I think, for the Red Dogs). Everyone says Ray’s a lovely man, because it’s true.  Our paths hadnt crossed for years but I was stunned when I heard of his death. As well as numerable memories far too salacious for a respectable tribute website such as this one, I keep recalling one of Ray at home watching with his then three-year-old son Ross play with his dads vast collection of matchbooks from all the places he visited. Ray explained to me that hed taught Ross a number of excellent naughty words, allowing him to repeat them when the two of them were together and on the express condition that he didnt do it in front of his mum and any other ladies. I drive by that house quite often now and always think of Ray. And I smile. God bless you, Uncle!” - NEIL JEFFRIES (former Kerrang! staffer)

“Ray made my time at Kerrang! truly great, he really looked after me like a big brother and kept me out of trouble on many occasions, plus he took the most amazing photos of me for which I will be eternally grateful. Ray had a great way for photographing the girls, he made you feel and look so glamorous (and he really could make anyone look good which is a real art). I have so many memories of him and they are all good, he would drive me home to my mum’s house in Hertfordshire after festivals to make sure I got home safely even though he lived miles away, one time we accidentally woke my mum up in the middle of the night and even she was completely charmed by him. My parents still have the pictures he took of me on their walls.
I will never forget his totally charismatic charm and protective manner to myself and all the young journalists when they started at Kerrang! Everyone he photographed loved working with him, it was always fun and never a chore. Ray was much loved and will not be forgotten.” - JANICE ISSITT

“I worked with Ray at Spotlight Publications.  A warm, very witty, very kind man. He taught me how to play backgammon down the local pub in Covent Garden. Always had a charming smile for everyone.” - KAREN

“I knew Ray through Kerrang!  I remember him sharing a fag with me on my first day at Kerrang! I thought he was lovely instantly because he a) was a smoker, b) called me darling, and c) reminded me of a kindly old uncle.  Ray became a good friend and was the only person I knew who had young kids when I had my first daughter. I always thought that if I could be half as calm and cool with my sprog as Ray was with his, then I wouldn't be doing too badly.” - SIMONE HOTTEN

"Yeah, that picture - the one tiled on the background of this site. That's him. That's the Ray I remember. That quiet smile that hid, well, all sorts of mischief. And wisdom. That's the other thing. Ray was someone you could have a drink with and get into a scrape with but who you could also have a great conversation with. I remember having quite a few 'girl talks' with Ray over the years - which maybe onereason, his skills with lighting and cameras aside, he did such a good job on those Ladykiller photos. (There were other Kerrang! photographers - yeah, you know who they are, but this being a tribute to Ray I won't name them - for whom such assignments were a whole different deal, and one requiring a very strong sheep-dip.) Anyway, Ray, you were great, and I'm just one of many who miss you" - SYLVIE SIMMONS (former Kerrang! journalist)

“A lot has been written and said about the time Ray Palmer and I went to Copenhagen to do a story on Mercyful Fate in 1983, when the band were still little known. The trip was so low-budget that we ended up staying at King Diamond’s flat, and we found him to be very hospitable. But let’s forget about the absence of electric lighting, the weird tape of ‘Stairway To Heaven’ played backwards, the Satanic altar, the line drawing of a nun pleasuring herself with a crucifix. No, what sticks in my mind was that Ray and I took on King and MF bassist Timi G Grabber at table football. We got royally trounced. So, in an effort to rectify matters, we challenged the duo to a game of darts and soundly thrashed them. Well, Ray did. He was a lot better than me.
The other amusing thing is that Ray was determined to expand his foreign vocabulary, so got King to inform him of the Danish words for various parts of the female anatomy. I’m sure that helped increase Ray’s stature in Wimbledon. Ah, Ray. Sadly missed.” - MALCOLM DOME (journalist, author and Total Rock DJ)

Ray's shot of Lita Ford
“It's hard to know what to say about Ray without sounding flowery. During our joint stint at Kerrang there was always two gangs, the bad guys and the good guys, with Ray way out in front in the latter group. I greatly admired his studio skills especially the 'Lady Killer' series. I got Venom while he got Lisa Dominique. Maybe Geoff [Barton, then Kerrang! editor] was trying to tell me something.
Tales from the trenches are part and parcel of what we do but Ray could outshine us all in that department especially in the way he refined the tales as time went by. A true natural.
One such tale comes from the Guitar Legends Festival in Saville in the early '90's. Having had to wade through the usual morass of PR's, managers and other assorted obstacles to getting a good photograph, we finally managed to get hold of a couple of production crew passes giving us access to the artists area where we set up a studio in one of the spare rooms and invited the artists to have their picture taken. Between the two of us we managed to get everybody that was there, from Steve Vai (brilliant shots from Ray) to Les Paul, to pose for us before the above mentioned got wise to what we were up to. The highlight of it all for me was Ray's straight-faced look when Vai's manager informed him that he could have the great privilege of two minutes with her star, not knowing that the pictures were already done. We had a wonderful few days circumventing the obstacles.
We talked of opening a studio together in the early '90s but it never happened and I'm sure I'm the poorer for it. A true one-off and a gentleman.” - FIN COSTELLO (photographer)

“I was his drinking partner all round buddy crossword partner. I remember his fantastic obscure sense of humour, his ready wit, his willingness at all times to help. He took the photos at my recent wedding to Louise. He was a unique individual. A great listener, a good friend, he will be greatly missed and I am thankful for having the chance to have known him. He lived with me for the last few years of his life and stimulated me with his great knowledge of words. I know that my two children, Harry and Josh miss him and remember him for the great stories he used to tell them. God Bless you Ray save a place for me wherever you may be and have a drink reserved.” - LEE KEELEY

Ray as photographed by Rogue Male

"We did several shoots with Ray.  When we toured the States we took him with us, some craic hey, a great guy with a wicked sense of humour, fondly remembered by all the lads in Rogue Male, R I P our man Ray." - JIM LYTTLE (ROGUE MALE)

“I remember Ray as a sweet, lovely and funny bloke. A true gent who really did live up to his "Charmer" nickname! Someone who clearly connected with the people he worked with and put them at their ease – the secret to capturing a true picture of them. RIP, Ray – sadly missed” - GWENNAN THOMAS (writer)

“I met Ray when I was a green-as-grass photographer: I worked with him on a photoshoot for a feature I was writing.  Ray was utterly without 'edge' which is a refreshing change in the music business. He taught me to allow myself to be 'looked after' because I was a professional (I didn't feel like one at the time!) and I should not be spending my fee buying large ones for Press Officers with expense accounts - sound advice Ray, never forgotten!
My abiding memory of Ray is his willingness to be nice to everyone, even when the pressure was on. No hissy fits, no temper, just a profesional guy with a really really nice approach to life, and the people he met and worked with.
So sorry Ray, you were sound as a bell.” - MIKE HUGHES (photographer)

Ray with a ludicrous moustache
“It was in the early 90’s and Ray was working in a studio in Kensal Rise (I think) and we met through 3rd party friends, recording engineers, other photographers, reggae artists, rock musos and a general collection of folk I wish I was still in touch with. I liked him immediately … because he was ‘immediately likeable’. To recall those days, when I put my mind to it, I spent hours in the local pub in Kensal Rise talking with Ray. And talking and talking. And laughing. We’d then go back over to the studio and carry on where we'd left off.
I had just completed my second tour of Bosnia and Ray, like many others, was intrigued by what was going on over there. He had a knack of asking the ‘right’ questions – a little deeper than most. “You got time for one more beer?” he’d ask as he moved towards the bar. With fresh drinks placed in front of us, he’d continue his cross examination. He was a joy to talk to and great, great fun to hang out with.
I shall miss him.
I wish I’d kept in touch.
I really do.” - ‘STUART M’

“Ray was my closest friend from about '79 to '86, but since I moved away from music to the entertainment industry we lost touch. A long time ago, but he was such a great friend at an important time in my life so his influence has gone on. He was such a great guy to talk to and, apart from the fact that he knew something interesting and funny about absolutely every subject you can think of, his take on situations and life generally was always right; he had a balanced and fair outlook, and I always sought his advice on anything. Also very generous, I'm sure he bought me more lunches than I bought him! I'm very shocked that he's no longer out there; he was so talented and so much fun, and v. clever; we talked books a lot, he was extremely well-read; I recall that Mervyn Peake and Tom Sharpe were particular favourites.” - HEIDI KIPLING

“Ray was one of the loveliest men I know - we always had a great laugh together - he was my best friend - I had a couple of photo sessions with him where he did his best to make me look 'good' but I spent most of the time laughing as he regaled me with so many funny stories from his early days - particularly those with Sunshine the donkey......!! I miss you Ray!” - JAYNE ANDREWS (manager, Judas Priest)

“I just remember Ray laughing, telling outrageous stories that may or may not have been true - nobody ever cared, the fun was in hearing him tell 'em! - and just being the least rock 'n roll person you ever met who just happened to be doing one of the most rock 'n roll jobs imaginable. Hadn't seen much of him in the last few years of his life, but whenever we did meet up, it was riotous! All of this would be too much for him, he would hate the attention...but he was a god amongst men. Bless you, mate...” - GEOFF GILLESPIE (press officer of rock)

“I have one especially vivid memory of Ray – that of going to a pre-Christmas dinner at Ozzy Osbourne's Buckinghamshire pile many years ago for a Kerrang! feature. Unbeknown to the hapless Ozzy, his wife Sharon had invited 20 competition winners over from America to have turkey and trimming chez Osbourne. She'd told him as much about 10 seconds before we arrived and he was in a foul mood, running around the house chasing American comp winners, Sharon trying to placate him... Ray retired to the Osbourne library, got himself a glass of good red wine, lit a fag & put his feet up.
There I found him, looking as if he hadn't a care in the world. I worried that our planned interview & photo session were going south. "Oh darling," he gently admonished. "It's only work - come and have some fun." 
That attitude never wavered or changed in my experience - and it was why I always enjoyed the times we worked together so much. He got me very, very drunk; he once undressed me and put me to bed (but that's another story); and I never saw him be anything less than charming.
He's much missed.” - PAUL REES (former editor of Kerrang! and Q)

“Ray was an all round diamond geezer, very professional when working but knew how to party when 'the shot was in the can'. Spent many a pleasant afternoon at his studio and I knew if Ray was 'doing the pictures' it wouldn't be the size of a postage stamp in Kerrang! Whenever I found out Ray was coming on a trip I was a happy bunny because I knew he'd get the job done without a hitch and we'd have plenty of fun time. A true gent. RIP Ray with all the good and great upstairs.” - MARTIN BIRLSON (former Polydor press officer)

“I met Ray in the Kerrang! office. He allowed me to tag along to his photo shoot of the band Vixen, when I was studying photography in college.  He was a very generous guy. Ray gave this aspiring Rock Photographer a lot of sound advice and offered me the use of his studio. He even asked me to pick the back drop for the shoot & made me feel welcome and involved. Down to earth & funny guy.” - IAN CATES (photographer)

Lord Lichfield
“I first met Ray in 1978. We became great friends and worked together prior to Ray's move to Kerrang! taking glamour shots for Keystone for a couple of years. I remember Samantha Bond calling us in one day after we had shot two or three of her models. "I've decided not to do glamour through the books anymore" she said. "Though I am letting three photographers remain on our approved list". Ray and I looked at each other and began to offer obtuse mumblings of "Well, thanks for letting us know, Samantha, it's been good while it lasted" etc. She then announced, "Yes, you two and Lord Lichfield". We both sported Cheshire cat grins as we thanked her and left the office. As we made our way down the stairs Ray turned to me and said ‘I didn't know Lichfield was that ****ing good’.
When too much time had passed one of us would track the other down to arrange a 'beer and news' session. In 1998 the phone rang and I was greeted with the familiar "Hello, darling". It was music to my ears! Ray always had a refreshing self-effacing attitude. Once I said that he must enjoy his new-found fame with Kerrang! and he immediately told me this in reply: He was in the press area at the front of the stage when suddenly this voice boomed out from behind him, "'Ere, you the photographer from Kerrang!?" Ray's chest puffed up a little and that smile spread across his face. "Yeah, that's right," he said. The lad turned to his mate and said "Told you, didn't I - it's Reg Parker from Kerrang!" Ray's smile turned into a grin.
We lost touch again over the last few years and it was my turn to track Ray down for the next get-together. He was my closest and dearest friend for many years, a brilliant photographer and a man I truly admired and respected. I miss him desperately and will now always remember the last great lesson he taught me: Treat every moment you share with those you love as if it were your last.  Mine's a pint, darling. I'll see you again soon.” - ANDY HART (photographer)

“I worked with Ray for nearly six years, when I was the Advertising Manager at Kerrang!  I remember many times both at Covent Garden and later at Greater London House getting mashed on a Friday lunchtime and then back in the office watching Steve Jewell knocking back the Jack and doing windmill impersonations on the desk while Ray and I cried with laughter. When I had a few personal problems it was Ray who sat and talked to me about it. He always seemed to have time for everybody - even if it meant he didn't have time for himself.” - DAVE OBERLE

“Durin' one flight…. or was it in a pub…or…was it in an airport bar… Ray admitted to me, that he wasn't too chuffed with my arrival at Kerrang!  Turns out, he liked bein' the only Ray. He said, he would grumble under his breath, when, in the office, someone called 'Ray', and he'd turn only to realise they were callin' for me. HA!
   Ray Palmer. Worrabloke. A true gent with a mischievous twinkle and the dissarmin' charm of a hairdresser. The intimate info I'd hear him bleed from, say, a press officer on a flight, was outrageous. And he'd do it with such nonchalance. Ray totally missed his true vocation as a TV chat show host. Michael Parkinson? Amateur.
   To me, though, always, Ray will be the bloke who showed me the ropes where international 'rock journalism' was concerned. I'd barely travelled, and suddenly I'm whizzin' all over the gaff. We were in a Heathrow airport bar, when the loud speaker near blew a fuse announcin' that our plane's departure was imminent. New to the game, I'm on the edge of my seat (or, bar stool), when Ray casually asked, "Would you like another, dear chap?". I politely protested that we really should be goin', because of the threatenin' PA announcement. But, he assured me that everythin' was fine. And, he was right. We ALWAYS made the plane. And, if anythin', it worked to our advantage, as, all the other passengers were neatly in their seats when we arrived, an' we could stroll on with no hassles.
   Even upon arrival at our destination, like everyone else, I'd make a mad scramble for my bag, but Ray'd put a calmin' hand on my shoulder an' say," No, wait. Leave them to it, no matter how fast they get up and get their bags - they can't get off any quicker". Years later, I'd be sagely sayin' the same, to young eager photographers…
   Ah, but, my favourite memory where Ray is concerned, is a simple tale. We arrived at the hotel, went up to our floor, where Ray's room was a few doors down from mine. As I watched him enter his room, he says, "Meet you outside in ten minutes, we'll go down to the bar?"
"Okay," I nod.
   I spend the next five minutes tryin' to get the hotel door open with the card key, and the next five tryin' to turn the toilet light on. I kept pressin' the big button outside it, but nothin' happened.
   Next thing, Ray's at the door. "You ready?"
"Erm. I can't turn the toilet light on."
   The big button I'd been impatiently pressin' again an' again, Ray just casually hits once an' waits. A second or so delay an' then it flickers on.
   Patience. If there's one thing I  tried to learn from the master, it was that. Chill. Relax.
Turns out, there really IS only one Ray - and it is he.
   Relax In Peace, sir.” - ‘RAY’ ZELL

If you knew Ray Palmer, or his work, and have a story or thoughts to share, please do so in Comments below.  You can also e-mail me here if you'd prefer to be added to the main body of this piece.

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