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Burb's Eye View: They're planting the seeds of imagination

April 24, 2012|By Bryan Mahoney
  • Bob and Kathy Burns gear up for their favorite time of year. If you guessed Easter you'd be wrong.
Bob and Kathy Burns gear up for their favorite time of year.… (Photo courtesy…)

At the end of “Return of the Jedi,” the light saber duel ends badly for Darth Vader when his own son slices his hand off. The appendage, still gripping Vader's weapon, tumbles freely through the Death Star's bowels, onward through the space station's core to eventually land safely in the Burbank basement of Bob and Kathy Burns.

There it joined the original set pieces from “Alien and Aliens” and the title monster from “An American Werewolf in London.” Perhaps the weightiest piece in the couple's collection is one of its smallest: the original metal ape skeleton of “King Kong.”

To understand the Burns' effect on movie history and their influence on the many Oscar-winning movie artists who recently gathered in L.A. to pay this couple a grand tribute, you must first understand Bob and Kathy Burns. At the center of the rubber-and-foam SciFi and Fantasy memorabilia bursting to the walls of their unassuming Burbank home is a grander story.

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Theirs is a love story.

Bob sat behind Kathy in class one summer at Burbank High School. He was taking classes to graduate early; she was there because she was bored. It was 1953.

Their first date was at Bob's Big Boy. Afterward they took in a movie, “The Charge at Feather River,” a 3-D western that Bob had already seen. When the big fight scene erupted between the cowboys and Indians, shooting arrows straight at the audience, one appeared to have hit Bob right in the chest. His prank caused such a ruckus in the theater that he had to hide the arrow back up his sleeve, and they left the movie early.

“The arrow was a make-or-break-the-date sort of thing,” Bob said.

That's why, once they escaped the screaming moviegoers and scuttled past the police officers who were called to the theater for a report of a man shot with an arrow, Kathy agreed to an eventual second date.

“I said, ‘That guy's got imagination,'” she recalled.

Bob and Kathy have a healthy respect for imagination. They try to plant it like a seed in the people they meet with that special spark. They've done it for guys like Dennis Muren, John Landis, and many more special effects artists responsible for much of Hollywood's movie magic over the past 50 years.

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