As the above pictures suggest, Howard “Buddy” Gray — or “H.G. Ray,” to borrow his frequent professional pseudonym — did not crave the limelight. He was happier behind the scenes and out of camera range, folding his Ichabod Crane frame over a computer keyboard or crouching beside a performer. Perhaps he might be called upon to adjust a special-effects rig of his own devising, to enable a blast of air to propel a funnel’s worth of oatmeal-and-Karo “brains” from point A (head) to point B (wall), to enhance an onscreen shooting death, as in the scene at top, which finds Gray preparing the violent fate of an antisocial ruffian portrayed by Emmy Collins in Mike McCarthy’s pulp dystopia, “Cigarette Girl.”
Gray, 44, was a genius with a mouse, creating digital animation and effects for music videos and commercials as well as shorts and feature films; but he was just as good with his hands and with old-fashioned tools. A prop coffin he built was one of his last projects to give a lot of joy to a lot of people. It was on display near the concession stand at the Malco Summer Drive-In on the night of Oct. 25, for the all-night throwback “horrorthon”; moviegoers could lie in state, so to speak, and have their pictures taken inside the tapered box — a premature non-burial. It’s nice to think that, somewhere, Buddy still is laughing about this bit of grim humor. His own services will be less ostentatious: The funeral will be private and, per his wishes, he will be cremated.
Gray died Sunday, Nov. 10, of cancer. Not wanting to cause a fuss off set or on, only his closest family members knew of his illness. A full obituary can be found here.