Sadly, I did not hear back from the person I was in contact with at Bellis Music Camp with getting my hands on a picture from the camp circa 1990, the year Richard Bellis missed camp because he was home writing the music for the miniseries version of IT, for which he would go on to win an Emmy. Still, I’m not sure they have a picture of him the way I genuinely think of him first, standing in line in the front of the dining hall for having lost his nametag, waiting to be told to do a dying cockroach. (Lying on your back, waving your arms and legs in the air.) Though if we’d all had digital cameras and cell phones in those days, that picture would be incredibly easy to find.
Yes, for the first time ever, we’re not just covering someone I’ve met once but someone I know personally. Someone with whom I’ve shared a meal—someone whose wife I used to chat with pretty regularly. (If either of you read this, hi, Mrs. Bellis!) But that’s not why we’re writing about him, at least not quite. Probably I know about him well enough to think about writing about him because his dad formed a music camp lo, these many years ago, which he ran when I was of an age to attend it. But his actual career is definitely of the level we cover around here.
For starters, he apparently actually auditioned to be a Mouseketeer, which warms my dark little Disney-fan heart. However, one of his earliest appearances in his child actor days was in Them! He was one of the boys who ends up in the ants’ tunnels. He appeared on an episode of Lux Video Theatre—it appears to be billed alphabetically, meaning “Bellis” does come first, but it’s probably also the only time he was billed above someone who appeared in Night of the Hunter, in this case Billy Chapin. Still, he then attended John Muir High School—like my dad and aunt and huge numbers of my friends and also Jackie Robinson—and went on to be a composer.
Okay, so I was too old to watch the approximately eight billion Mary Kate & Ashley videos he composed for. Legit. And I’m not sure I’ve seen “The House of Quark,” the DS9 episode he wrote the music for. Certainly I haven’t seen any of the many, many made-for-TV movies he’s written for beyond the abovementioned IT. Still, there’s a reason he was a governor of the Television Academy, and there’s a reason he was a president of the Composers and Lyricists Guild of America. Mr. Bellis (I can’t not call him that) has done a lot of solid work and definitely—this I know from experience—is capable of speaking with authority. And if you can run a camp full of teenagers, composers are surely a piece of cake.
But aside from, you know, giving a rules speech on Sunday night with a ton of notes, a Maglite, and a thermos of coffee, Mr. Bellis is a major part of my life. More so than I realized, in fact, until I started to contemplate writing about him. I mentioned my dark little Disney-fan heart, and he warms that in another way—by writing for Disney. For the parks, in fact. He wrote the music for Star Tours and Temple of the Forbidden Eye. Extra Terrorestrial Alien Encounter, which admittedly I didn’t get to because it was in Florida. The Circle-Vision 360 “Reflection of China.” The Tower of Terror theme. It seems appropriate that one of his earliest credits is Huckleberry Finn, written by the Sherman Brothers, because Mr. Bellis is continuing their legacy in a way that brings me great joy.