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And When The Last String Is Cut: A Tribute To Bob Baker and His Marionettes

Discussion in 'Storytelling and Puppets' started by tim, Dec 17, 2014.

  1. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel

    Something should be said here to commemorate the passing of a noted fan of the circus.

    Following the 2013 CFA (Circus Fans Association of America) convention in San Diego, I returned to L.A. for a brief visit, and sought out unique theater. I found the Bob Baker Marionette Theater.

    Performing the classic shows of its heyday which still last and stand up as inspiration today, it was a highlight of my trip.

    More over, after the show everyone gets ice cream! As I enjoyed my treat, I walked the room viewing historic pictures and news articles which lined the walls.

    "Bob is here today," we were told. So I went up and introduced myself. He was happy to have another family entertainer in the audience and sat to chat. Bob began to relegate me with his history of practicing the art: something which started at a very young age. As he went on (I mostly listened and just asked an occasional question) I quickly wished I had been recording the conversation. Bob brought to life the vibrancy of his native city in a way which was so real, so true. Unlike the veneer which much of this "tinsel town", "lipstick city" is known for; here was a real Angelino.

    From the department store downtown where he did early shows as a youngster, to the Great Depression (which, he noted, didn't hit the west coast until a couple years later than it affected much of the country), to the Olympic games (and what was happening with the football teams that have historically played in the stadium.... a brutal sport, which he didn't like.) Bob spoke of his theater, in its 50th anniversary year then, the difficulties they faced, then even experienced the thrill of learning that someone bought a puppet they crafted (of some value) that day. He didn't quite hear at first when one of his puppeteers came by with a box filled with new found curtain ropes, as the old ones required replacement, and mentioned it to him. But I saw genuine joy emerge when I repeated the happy information for him.

    I asked Bob a question of specific interest, based upon seeing the articles all around. "What about your circus show?" And his eyes lit. The circus, it turns out, was a great love of his. He knew famous performers from back in the day, and most notably some of the clowns, like Bobby Kaye. In fact, a marionette he chose to represent himself (and has often been pictured holding) was a clown.

    He explained that the show was developed before the film Jumbo. People often saw similarities. They were due, he noted, to some of the same creative input which devised his show and the eventual movie.

    When the stage show "Barnum" was on tour, he attended often. Near the end, when some might be tricked into thinking it is over, before the final production number, he would see people walking out. "WAIT. Come back! You're about the miss the best part!" Bob would yell to them.

    The theater faces difficulties, and can use your assistance. His professional partners hope to carry on, as was Baker's wish and desire. Bob even communicated to me in our hour long chat (we would have continued longer, but his ride was double parked outside waiting to drive him home, the meter already having run out shortly before) his intent on offering the circus show again soon. His life's work is a treasure which, indeed, ought to continue and envelop the imaginations of as many young people (of all ages) as it did over his nine decades on earth.





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  2. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel

  3. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel

    And, I'm working on a personal performance tribute to him, by way of marionettes and classic song! Just as was his style.
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2015
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  4. Donuts

    Donuts Active Member

    Tim That is so cool You actually met Bob I've only read about him, his life, and the theatre! I'm so envious now. And I did see the ncis episode not long ago. Too bad like you said you forgot your recorder that would have been something to cherish.
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  5. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel

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