Apollo 11 flight
to the moon was
a triumph for the
A close encounter with
the man on the moon
COURTESY OF NASA
By Ivor Davis
RECENTLY I WENT to
a book launch party in a
Beverly Hills apartment.
Half an hour into the
party I found myself
standing next to a bouncy
fellow who looked to be
in his late 70s. He had
thinning silver hair and
wore a trendy brown
leather jacket, black
pants, moccasins, a red
striped shirt and a crazy,
wildly colored, floral tie
that assaulted the eyes.
COUR TES Y OF THE ALDRIN COLLEC TION
He told me his name was Buzz Aldrin.
“Are you the Buzz Aldrin?” I said—as if there
were more than one. He smiled back indulgently.
I quickly regained my composure, and my journalistic instincts kicked in. I mean, how often do you
get the chance to hang out with the Lunar Module
pilot who nursed the Apollo 11 spacecraft onto the
moon surface 40 years ago? After Buzz “parked the
car,” fellow astronaut Neil Armstrong took the first-ever stroll on the moon’s surface. Then Aldrin
stepped outside to check the weather and became the
second man ever to walk on the lunar terrain.
I steered him to a nearby couch, intent on learning more firsthand from this American legend. As
we chatted, a slender, immaculately dressed blonde
joined us. Lois Aldrin, I later learned, is Aldrin’s
third wife. He married her on Valentine’s Day 1988.
“Until she came along I was a real mess,” he
informed me. “She saved my life.”
Politely I requested more information from the
man who has led a varied existence since he shook
the moon dust off his space boots.
“After the moon landing,” he said, warming to
his subject, “I crisscrossed the world telling people
about the trip. But I’m a hopeless businessman. One
day I woke up battling depression, which was a family thing, addicted to booze—and dead broke.”
His wife, he insists, gets all the credit for keeping
him grounded. “She pulled me together. I gave up
the booze for good, and she took control of my life,”
said the man who may have had trouble navigating
the contours of the real world but found nursing
Apollo 11 to the moon kid stuff.
Born in Montclair, New Jersey, Aldrin had
always been considered a bit offbeat for the line of
work he chose. Before he took his round trip to the
moon he had graduated from West Point and flown
66 bombing missions during the Korean War.
After the moon journey he popped up on talk
shows, wrote several books, including novels, and
got some flack for publicly declaring he had seen a
UFO and then saying he had been misquoted.
He says he enjoys show business, and he
appeared on television’s The Simpsons, poking fun at
himself. He even has his own star on the Hollywood
Walk of Fame. He says he was happy with Cliff
Robertson’s portrayal of him in the 1976 television
movie Return to Earth, based on his memoir. But
he’s not a great fan of every movie that has been
made about the astronauts. He enjoyed reading the
book The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe, which was
turned into a movie in 1983. But he is less enthusiastic about the actual film. “It is hard for me to
watch, because the actors didn’t look like the real
astronauts,” he protests. “And the movie skipped
over the dull routine stuff that goes into the job. But
I guess that’s the Hollywood way.”
Ivor Davis, a former correspondent for the London Daily Express, is co-author of Five to Die: The Book That Helped Convict Manson. Reprinted with permission of Featurewell.com.
Now, just in time for the 40th anniversary of the
historic space voyage, Aldrin has penned a new
memoir, Magnificent Desolation. The title comes
from his first words upon landing on the moon.
Describing the alien world he was walking upon, he
uttered the words “Beautiful. Beautiful. Magnificent
“As the tenth anniversary
of the Apollo 11 moon
landing approached, I was
experiencing a reawakening in my own life.
... I had once been known
as the “best scientific
mind in space,” according
to Life magazine.
... But the ten years since
my moonwalk were not
filled with achievements,
bold accomplishments, and
grand acclamations. It had
been my decade of personal hell.”—Buzz Aldrin
Costco members can find
Magnificent Desolation at
Costco.com. Buzz Aldrin is
scheduled to sign copies at
the Culver City, California,
Costco on December 19, 2009.
COURTESY OF NASA