You've seen Bob Burns. He may have been buried under pounds of Latex or skeins of ape hair, but odds are, if you've seen your fair share of cult movies, you've seen Bob at work. He sported one of those bulbous alien noggins in Invasion of the Saucer Men and made countless appearances as Kogar, the Gorilla. More importantly, he dedicated himself to scouring the studio trash bins, rescuing the props and costumes from vintage films that would doubtless have been lost to obscurity. This love for tradition and presence of mind make Bob a hero to cult-film fans. His collection of props and memorabilia is one of the largest there is and, Bob Burns, generous to a fault, shares it with the world. It's hard not to think of this garrulous, cuddly curator as the "Captain Kangaroo of Horror," as he played a large role in the fantasy-film education of a generation. For a closeup look at the man and his amazing collection, procure a copy of "Monster Kid Memories," a terrific tome co-authored with Tom Weaver. For a crash course in what makes Bob Burns tick, read on.

B MONSTER: You've spoken of actor Glenn Strange (who portrayed the Frankenstein Monster in Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein and Sam the bartender for 20 years on Gunsmoke) as a second father. Any special memories you'd care to share?

BOB BURNS: When the Gunsmoke TV show was on in the 1950s and 1960s, Glenn Strange really was like my adopted Dad. He played the Frankenstein monster in three of the Universal films. I used to take a few days' vacation from my job at CBS every year and spend some time on the Gunsmoke set with Glenn. Jim Arness never talked about his role in The Thing that much in those days. But one day, when we were sitting around on the Longbranch set between takes, Jim said, "You know Glenn, we're just a couple of old monsters. You were created by a mad scientist, and I was nearly saved by one." There I was, sitting with the Frankenstein monster and the Thing. How cool is that?

Q: Tell me how you got your start in pictures.

BOB: My wife, Kathy, and I went to a Sci-Fi club meeting to hear Ray Bradbury talk about his script for Moby Dick. During a break, we started talking to the folks sitting next to us. They turned out to be Paul and Jackie Blaisdell. Paul was just building the puppet for The Beast With a Million Eyes. He invited us to come up to his place and see what he was doing. We became friends right off the bat. We ending up going to their place almost every weekend after that. The first film I ever saw him do was Day the World Ended. Then, he did It Conquered the World. That's when I first got to help him and got my start in pictures. He and Jackie always built the monsters. I just assisted, helping him get into the monster suits, etc ...

Q: Do you have a favorite of all the films you've worked on?

BOB: My big break, so to speak, came with Invasion of the Saucer Men. Paul, Jackie, and I did all the special effects for that film in one day at the Howard Anderson effect stage. It was my face and neck that the Saucer Man jabs his needle fingers into. They used the little people as the Saucer Men for just three days on the set. In the closeup scenes where you see a Saucer Man, it was me wearing the head, or if it was two of the big brain guys, it was both Paul and me. We also did the flying saucer landing, the closeup fight with a Saucer Man and the bull, and the cut off Saucer Man hand crawling across the road and climbing up the back of the seat in the car trying to get the girl in the front seat. I doubled Steve Terrell along with the double for Gloria Castillo sitting in the front seat of the car, while Paul dressed all in black and puppeteered the cutoff hand climbing up the back of the seat. It was a long but real fun day for me. So, that's my favorite film that I worked on.

Q: Tell me your best Paul Blaisdell story.

BOB: I have so many wonderful memories about Paul. He was not only my mentor but also my best friend. He had a great sense of humor. When he finished building the She-Creature costume, I took pictures of it in 3-D. He lived in Topanga Canyon, which is in a very remote area. That night, we were outside shooting pictures. The road by his house was a real winding one. You could see a car coming a mile away because it was so dark, and there were very few streetlights. He spotted a car and said, "I'm going to run across the road and into those bushes just as the car gets close to see what the driver does." Here comes the car, and suddenly, the She-Creature darts in front of the car and disappears into the bushes on the other side of the road. The car goes for about another 20 feet and slams on its breaks. It slowly backs up to where Paul ran across the road and stops. It was pretty dark, but I could see that it was just one guy in the car. He slowly rolls his window down and tries to get a good look at what's out there. Suddenly, Paul rattles the bushes and this guy laid rubber all over the street trying to get out of there. We always wondered what story that guy must have told to people and if he ever drove that road again.

Q: What went into the making of that She-Creature costume, surely one of the most outlandish and memorable 1950s monsters?

BOB: It took Paul and Jackie eight weeks to build the costume. It was made out of foam rubber blocks -- the kind that they use to stuff a couch. They cut the rubber into a jigsaw-type pattern and glued it over a pair of longjohns with contact cement. The face was built on a rubber "blank" of Paul's face with thinner foam rubber and covered with coats of latex rubber. The "hair" was very thin plastic tubing. The claws were made out of white pine wood and covered with latex. The feet were built over a pair of swim fins with the foam rubber cut and glued on.

Q: Didn't the filming of It Conquered the World in Bronson Canyon turn out to be something of an embarrassing experience thanks in part to Roger Corman?

BOB: In It Conquered The World, the monster was originally supposed to stay inside the cave. So, Paul designed it that way, and it looked pretty spooky. For whatever reason, Roger Corman decided to bring "It" out of the cave for the end of the film. Paul told Roger that it wasn't designed to be seen that well, and it was on rollers so he could move it around while he was inside of the creature. But Roger prevailed and out "It" came. We were at a preview screening of the film. The audience was really with the film until "It" came out of the cave. They started laughing and yelling. At that point Paul said, "I knew that would happen," and we got up and left the theater. I didn't see the end of the movie until later when Kathy and I went to see it by ourselves.

Q: Do you have a favorite actor or movie personality you've known?

BOB: One of my favorite actors or personalities is Glenn Strange (for reasons I've already stated). But I would also have to include Jonathan Winters. He is my idol.

Q: Do you have a least favorite?

BOB: I really don't have a least favorite person. Fortunately, most all of the people I've met have been really nice folks.

What's the most embarrassing moment you recall in your career?

BOB: My most embarrassing moment was when I was doing a gig as Kogar, the gorilla, back in the early 1960s. I did the opening of the Hollywood Wax Museum. The press people were going to walk through the "Chamber of Horrors." I was supposed to be at the end after they got out of the "Chamber of Horrors" and entered the big room filled with wax figures of famous stars. I was there as Morticia Addams' [Carolyn Jones of TV's The Addams Family] pet gorilla. The owner of the museum didn't want me to really scare anyone, so he thought that would be the best way to handle it. The only place that they had for me to put on my gorilla suit was in a closet in the "Chamber of Horrors." I put the suit on and came out of the closet when I heard voices. The press people were already starting into the "Chamber of Horrors." I knew I wouldn't have time to get to the big room, so I thought I'd just hide in the closet until they walked by. I went to the closet and tried to open the door. Unfortunately, it had locked behind me when I came out. I could hear them getting closer. It was very dark in the "Chamber of Horrors," as the walls and everything were painted black. The exhibits were all on the righthand side as the people walked through, so I just scrunched as close as I could get to the left wall and hoped they would just walk on by me.

It worked just fine until one of the female press people happened to brush against me. I didn't breathe and was as still as I could be. She felt the fur and then touched my gorilla chest. She said something like, "Oh God! What is this?" She then put her hand up to my ape face. I didn't know what to do, so I just let out a big gorilla growl. She screamed and fainted dead away. They got the lights turned on as soon as possible, and I thought, "Great! Lawsuit City!" I told the owner what had happened, and he had forgotten that the closet door has an automatic lock when you close it. The woman came to and thought it was the funniest thing that ever happened to her. She said that the "Chamber of Horrors" sure scared the crap out of her and told the owner that he should keep this in "the act."

Who do consider your mentors or inspirations?

BOB: I would say that my mentor was definitely Paul Blaisdell. I was also inspired by Wah Chang. He designed the original weapons and things for the Star Trek TV series and many other creative things for movies and TV. Willis O'Brien, George Pal, and many other wonderful people were inspirational, as well.

Q: Do you have a favorite sci-fi or horror picture?

BOB: It's hard for me to pick just one film, as I have so many favorites. The same goes for horror films -- I have many favorites. One of my favorite sci-fi movies is Destination Moon. One reason is that it was one of the first movie sets I was on as a kid.

Q: Do you have a favorite sci-fi or horror film actor?

BOB: Here again, I have many favorites. Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., Vincent Price, to name just a few.

Q: What would you say is the main difference between contemporary horror films and the way they used to make 'em?

BOB: I think that the older horror films have more "charm" to them than most of the films today. They also conveyed much more of a mood. Curse of the Cat People doesn't really show any "monsters" or anything, but it still scares the hell out of you.

Q: What recent sci-fi or horror pictures have you enjoyed?

BOB: I liked Men In Black a lot.

Q: Can you imagine any modern-day picture -- other than the Star Wars oeuvre -- having the lasting impact of pictures such as King Kong, Frankenstein or The Thing?

BOB: I think that Alien will be remembered.

Q: What's your take on the graphic violence and bloodshed that's become so much a part of contemporary horror and sci-fi films?

BOB: I'm not into the blood and gore movies at all. Gross-out is not scary.

Q: What's the most valued piece in your memorabilia collection FINANCIALLY speaking?

BOB: I don't look at any of my memorabilia as being financially valuable. If I had to choose one that would be among the most valuable, it would probably be the King Kong armature.

Q: What's the most valued piece in your memorabilia collection SENTIMENTALLY speaking? (In other words, if you could only keep one piece ...)

BOB: The most valued piece sentimentally speaking would be The Time Machine. It is a beautiful prop, and recently my friend, Henry Alvarez, created a wonderful wax figure of Rod Taylor to sit in it. It is a fantastic thing to behold.

Q: What is it about science fiction that draws you to it, captures your imagination and inspires you?

BOB: I think the thing that attracts me to science fiction is the notion that you're only limited by your imagination -- and through the imagination of others who write, produce, and direct these wonderful films you can be transported to anywhere in the world -- anywhere in the universe. Pure escapism. That's what it's all about, and I think that's very cool.

Q: With the book coming out, you must be busier than ever. Any convention plans or book signings coming up?

BOB: I'm going to do a book signing at the Creature Features store in Burbank, Calif., sometime in April. June 22-24, I'll be at Monster Bash in Butler, Penn., and August 3-5, I'll be at the Imagine Nation Expo 2001 in Las Vegas.

"See disembodied hand that crawls!"
Invasion of the Saucer Men

"See earth attacked by flying saucers!"
Invasion of the Saucer Men

"Creeping horror from the depths of time and space!"
Invasion of the Saucer Men

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