My Two Cents
Thursday, 08 August 2013 15:28

Take a Virtual Tour of Bob Burns' Basement!

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Here at The Bits, we’ve been so fortunate and honored to meet and befriend the legendary keepers of Hollywood’s attic, Bob and Kathy Burns.  Hell, the truth is, we love them dearly – they’re like family to us by now, and we’re certainly not alone in feeling that way.

Anyone who read Starlog magazine back in the day knew of Bob and Kathy, but we first met them through our old friend Paul Prischman and the folks at Dave’s Video in Burbank.  Paul worked on one of the last Halloween Extravaganza shows – based on the classic sci-fi/horror film The Thing from Another World – that Bob and Kathy held back in 2002.  [...]

As it happens, Bob and I have also been communicating by e-mail for many years.  In fact, Bob’s been a devoted Digital Bits reader since we first launched the site way back in 1997 – something Kathy reminds us of every time we meet.  “The Bits is one of Bob’s first stops on the Internet each morning – he can’t wait to get on and read you guys!”  Which, of course, is enormously humbling and warms our hearts through and through.

As such, we’ve had the great privilege of visiting Bob’s Basement on a couple of occasions.  The way it usually works for us feels really special (but we wouldn’t be surprised if lots of people have had the exact same feeling – that’s just a measure of how wonderful Bob and Kathy are).  We walk in and are immediately greeted with hugs by Bob and Kathy.  (Last time, Kathy even had fresh cookies waiting!)  Then Bob sits back and invites us to walk all around his storehouse of treasures, delighting in our every shocked reaction as one by one we each spot something amazing and cry out in surprise, “Oh my God, is that the—?”  To which the answer, of course is, “Yep!”  And then Bob launches into one amazing story after another about the prop, how he got it, the creative talent that made it, how it was actually made and the movie too – with Kathy chiming in whenever Bob stops to take a breath.  “Bob, tell them about—!”  thus sending Bob’s narrative in some new and unexpected direction.

At every point, Bob absolutely insists that you surely must pick up and hold that amazing thing you just spotted.  For me, it was a stunt pistol from Blade Runner, all kinds of stuff from the original Flash Gordon serials and the UFO from Hangar 18, which I found partially hidden in a display case.  (Bob said, “You’re the first person who’s ever spotted that!”)  For Doogan… well, let’s just say that when he got to hold the original cane head from The Wolf Man, it was a childhood dream come true.  Jahnke proudly picked up the one of the original Maltese Falcons, among other things.  Of course, we all thrilled to see the restored Time Machine from the 1960 film.  And not one of us could resist posing for a photo with Kong… after each holding it reverently for long minutes while Bob and Kathy told the story of how they helped rescue it from oblivion.  Finally, surrounded by wonders to dazzle even the most jaded film fanatic, we all sat together and talked… and Bob and Kathy regaled us with even more wonderful stories.  A typical visit for is usually two or three hours worth of pure joy.

Now... knowing that many of you live all over the the planet, and so haven’t had the pleasure of visiting The Basement yourselves, Bob and Kathy absolutely insisted that we share some of the photos we’ve taken there here on The Bits, so you can all partake in the experience.  You see… sharing these treasures is what Bob and Kathy are all about.

But before we do, for those of you who want to learn more about Bob and Kathy, we recommend a couple things.  First, check your own DVD and Blu-ray collections!  If you have Charles de Lauzirika’s excellent Alien Quadrilogy DVD set – or the even better Alien Anthology Blu-ray upgrade – you’ll find a fun 17-minute featurette on one of the discs called Aliens in the Basement: The Bob Burns Collection.  In it, Bob takes you on a tour of all the props and creatures he’s been given to preserve by Fox and the filmmakers from not just the original Alien, but all four films in the series.  Also, if you have either the DVD or Blu-ray release of the original 1933 King Kong, you may know that Bob is the keeper of the only known surviving Kong armature from the film.  He appears with his friend Peter Jackson in the documentary on the disc.  (Bob and Kathy also have cameos in Jackson’s 2005 remake, when Kong comes to New York City.)  Back in the day, Bob was also a “gorilla man” as they say – he’s played numerous gorilla and other monster characters in TV and film over the years.  Most notably, he was “Tracy the Gorilla” on the 1975 live action Saturday morning show The Ghost Busters (which is available on DVD).  There’s also an excellent and recent DVD documentary called Beast Wishes: The Fantastic World of Bob and Kathy Burns (which we’ve just reviewed here at The Bits).  And Bob has written two books about his life growing up in Hollywood – It Came from Bob’s Basement and the newly-revised Monster Kid MemoriesHere’s also a link to Bob and Kathy’s official website.

With that, and with Bob and Kathy’s wholehearted blessing, here’s a gallery of some of the pictures we’ve taken in Bob’s Basement – a whopping 150 images worth of sheer awesome!  We sure hope you’ll enjoy this virtual tour of their delightful world.  Remember – as you browse, if you find yourself asking, “Oh my God, is that the—?” the answer is probably, “Yep!”  (Bob does have a few replicas and reproductions in his collection, but most of what you’re about to see are 100% original and vintage items made for your favorite films.)

And to Bob and Kathy – Thank you, dear friends.  We can’t wait until next time!

- Bill Hunt

(© All images copyright Bob Burns & The Digital Bits. All Rights Reserved. Do not use without permission.)

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