Tuesday, July 20, 2010
My Life With Comic Books: Part # 128
The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 44
Mal Howley: my wife
Adam Howley: my son, age 18
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 14
Kevin Burns: a friend and a vice president of Twentieth Century Fox Studios
MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP-Part 128
“The California Trip Part Three”
As a requirement for his high school graduation, my son Adam, needed to “intern” at a job related to his future career. Adam contacted my friend, Kevin Burns, who was now a vice president at Twentieth Century Fox Studios in California. Since Adam was too young to rent a hotel room or a rental car, I decided that I had to go there with him. Although Adam worked as an employee during the day, Kevin arranged lots of entertainment for us for “after hours.”
The first Saturday we were in Los Angeles, Kevin took us to the home of Bob Burns (no relation of Kevin), the world famous collector of Hollywood science fiction and horror movie props. Bob Burns met us the door and gave us a short tour through his museum/home full of original motion picture props including a full-sized “Queen Alien” model from the movie of “Aliens,” the original feet from “The Creature of the Black Lagoon,” the working model from “Mighty Joe Young,” the fully-restored original 1960’s Time Machine from George Pal’s “The Time Machine,” and the actual “ball and socket” model from the 1930’s movie of “King Kong.” This model was used to create the stop-motion action of King Kong. It was originally covered in a fake fur but it now had deteriorated so much that there was only one small bit of fur left on it! There were also hundreds of other rare items displayed and stacked up all around the room. It was a delight for me since I was such a big collector of memorabilia. Adam enjoyed it too, even though he wasn’t much of a collector.
Bob Burns brought us upstairs into his residence and introduced us to a few of his friends who were visiting him for the day. One of the guests was Dan Roebuck who had just finished a regular co-starring role on the popular television show “Matlock” starring Andy Griffith. Dan played Ben Matlock’s assistant, Cliff Lewis, and I was happy to meet him, as Matlock was one of my favorite TV shows. We sat around with this interesting group of people, discussing old movies and television shows.
Later that evening, Kevin Burns treated Adam and me to dinner at the restaurant where one of Adam’s favorite movies, “Swingers,” was filmed. We were joined by Forrest J Ackerman, one of the creators of the most popular magazine about classic horror movies, “Famous Monsters of Filmland.” Mr. Ackerman wrote, edited and managed this publication from the late 1950’s to the 1970’s. He was also the owner of the world-famous “Ackermansion.” This was actually his seventeen-room home filled with some truly amazing science fiction and horror collectibles. Forry (as he was called) was a true fan of these genres and he was quite a “pack-rat.” He had thousands of rare pulp magazines from the 1930’s, vintage science fiction paperback books and lots of original artwork from these publications and he enjoyed sharing his collection with other fans. Unfortunately, Forry was too trusting and several unscrupulous people took advantage of his kindness and actually stole many of his prized collectibles over a period of several years. Although Forry was in his very late seventies, he was “sharp as a tack” and an entertaining dinner companion.
During the next business week Kevin closed his office for the day and took his assistant, his secretary, Adam and me to Disneyland for the day. Adam was thrilled because although he had been to Disney World many times and he’d been to Disneyland Paris, he had never been to Disneyland. We had a great time together.
The next weekend, as we were driving around Los Angeles with Kevin, Adam and I mentioned that we had been searching the local McDonald’s restaurants looking for the newest release of the “Teeny Beanie Babies” animals. My wife, Mal, and my daughter, Cassy, were collecting these as part of their “Beanie Babies” collection and we didn’t have any McDonald’s near where we lived in Massachusetts so Adam and I thought we’d find these in California for them. Kevin remembered that his friend, Bill Mumy, the actor who portrayed Will Robinson on “Lost In Space,” was also looking for these Beanie Babies for his wife’s collection. Kevin called Bill and told him that we had found a few that he might want and Bill invited us to stop by his home. I had met Bill Mumy several years previously when he appeared at my store as a guest but I was surprised that he remembered me.
Bill introduced us to his family and gave us a “guided tour” of his collection of golden-age comic books. He also showed us his impressive collection of rare “Pez” dispensers. We talked about his long career in Hollywood, including his roles in “The Twilight Zone,” “Bewitched,” “Lost In Space,” and “Babylon 5.” After a very pleasant visit, as we were leaving we noticed his young son excitedly playing with vintage G. I. Joe dolls that were from Bill’s childhood. I told Bill that there were great reproductions of these G.I. Joe’s available at my store and I promised him that I’d send him one so that his son could enjoy it without worrying about the “collector’s value” of Bill’s originals. Bill expressed his “thanks” and we left. On the way back to Kevin’s home, Kevin called Jonathan Harris on his car speakerphone. Jonathan was the actor who portrayed Dr. Zachary Smith on the TV show of “Lost In Space” and he was one of Kevin’s good friends. We all laughed when Jonathan expressed his brutally honest opinion of the recent theatrical remake of “Lost In Space” that starred William Hurt. He certainly didn’t like it!
Later that evening, we were all invited to dinner at the home of Dan Roebuck and his family. After a delicious home-cooked turkey dinner, Dan gave us a tour of his fantastic collection of monster collectibles, including lots of rare Dracula, Creature of the Black Lagoon, and Planet of the Apes items. We visited with him long into the evening, and just before we left, he asked us if we’d be interested in seeing one of the original seersucker suits worn by Andy Griffith in the TV show “Matlock.” Adam actually asked if he could try on the suit and Dan allowed both Adam and me to do just that!
For all of the years since our visit, I have followed Dan Roebuck’s career with great interest. He has had dozens of movie roles and played in several television series including “The Fugitive” with Harrison Ford, “U.S. Marshals” with Tommy Lee Jones, “Nash Bridges” with Don Johnson, “A Minute With Stan Hooper” with Norm MacDonald, “ER,” “Cold Case,” “Becker,” “NYPD Blue,” “Boston Public,” “Judging Amy,” “Malcolm In The Middle,” “The Drew Carey Show,” “The Pretender,” “The King of Queens,” and “Monk.” Dan has also been seen in three episodes of ABC-TV’s hit series “Lost” and is currently in a recurring role on the huge hit “Desperate Housewives.” He’s such a nice guy and deserves all of the success that he’s had in Hollywood.
Next chapter: The conclusion to our California trip.
Pictures: Adam and I wearing the actual suit that Andy Griffith wore on "Matlock"
Adam with Dan Roebuck, co-star of Matlock.