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LAist Interview: Bob Baker

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Los Angeles has many hidden treasures, but nothing in this town is as precious as the Bob Baker Marionette Theater. Located at the edge of Echo Park on Glendale Blvd, the theater has entertained several generations of Southern Californian children. You never forget seeing a Bob Baker Marionette show. Unfortunately, Bob doesn’t sell videotapes of the shows due to issues involving music clearance rights so seeing the show live is your only opportunity to taste the magic. In 1963, Bob Baker and his partner Alton Wood turned a run-down scenic shop near downtown Los Angeles into a family entertainment institution. Bob Baker’s marionette shows are a pop culture staple. The puppet troupe’s annual appearances at county fairs and amusements parks had already made it famous in Southern California, and millions more became familiar with Bob’s work, if not his name, through the puppets featured in motion pictures and TV shows like the Judy Garland version of “A Star is Born,” “Bewitched,” and “Star Trek.”

Still playful at 81, Bob continues to run the theater and train new generations of puppeteers. You can see his work at the 2005 Bubblegum Achievement Awards at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, scheduled for Friday, October 7 at 7 PM. You can order tickets here.

The awards show, organized by the editors of Scram Magazine, includes live performances by Ron Dante, The Bubblegum Queen, Canned Hamm and a marionette spectacular that Bob and his crew have created especially for the celebration. Ron Dante, Dr. Demento, Steve Barri and Joey Levine will be present to accept their Gummy Awards.

LAist recorded the following interview with Bob at his theater on September 18, 2005.

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Age and Occupation:
81, Professional puppeteer and puppet theater owner. I’m also a puppet master, which the puppet guilds classify as someone who can make a puppet from start to finish.

How long have you lived in Los Angeles, and which neighborhood do you live in?:
I’ve lived in Los Angeles all my life. I was born in the house that I still live in, near Echo Park.

Why do you choose to live in Los Angeles?
Well, one reason I suppose is that it was the heart of the entertainment industry. I always wanted to do movies. I’ve been to the Academy Awards, sold the business, sold to other people but it took 15 years to get it back the way it was. They did a lot of things I’d wanted to do originally, but didn’t do all of it. I still have a lot of ideas to do. We looked at other places. We’d been doing puppet theater shows all over town. But I haven’t retired so I just stayed here. I live 7 minutes from the theater, that’s why I haven’t moved.