Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Bob Baker Marionettes in Laguna Beach

 If you grew up in Southern California anytime in the last half-century, it's likely you have memories of Bob Baker's Marionettes. Baker was and is a Los Angeles guy and his theater there is a certified Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. But today's photos, taken by Doris I. Walker, were taken at a performance at the Festival of the Arts in Laguna Beach sometime around 1964. (My thanks to Doris' son, film historian Brent Walker, for scanning these images and letting me use them here.)
 Baker began putting on puppet shows about 70 years ago, founded The Bob Baker Marionette Theater with Alton Wood in 1963, and contributed to many television shows and movies. He began making and selling marionettes when he was a high school student, and he still sells them on his website today.

In case you were wondering, yes, you can still go see these shows. In fact, Brent saw the puppet shown above only a week or so ago -- About 50 years after his mother photographed it!
My own memories of the Bob Baker Marionettes go back to a Christmastime performance at one of the big department stores in South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. It was at the nice end of the mall (not the Sears end), and I remember having to get spiffed up so we could go to the store's tearoom for lunch afterward. Even in the late 1970s -- even to my first-grade sensibilities -- the show felt a little dated. The characters and stories were very pre-Muppets. But, looking back, it also had a lot of charm.

The show may be from a less jaded age, but that's actually a good argument in favor of driving to L.A. and seeing it. Charming, wholesome things seldom survive this long. And while there's no sign that the Theater is going anywhere, you still might want to go sooner rather than later -- Just to be on the safe side.


Anonymous said...

That would have been on the Broadway end of the mall.

Chris Jepsen said...

It was somewhere slightly swankier than The Broadway (although I do miss that store also). Maybe Bullock's?

Stephanie said...

Just FYI: There *is* an Orange County Puppetry Guild.


Sadly, their meeting, with master puppeteer James Ko was last night.

Tris Mast said...

This post brings back memories. Not only do I remember seeing Bob Baker's Marionettes at the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts in 1976, I also remember getting a red, ride-able, battery-powered Stutz Bearcat by Marx for Christmas 1965, exactly like the one that marionette is sitting in.

Anonymous said...

The original anchor stores at south coast plaza in 1967 were Sears and May Co. Later, 1978, the third wing was added with Bullock's, I. Magnin and Nordstrom's. The nice restaurant mentioned was upstairs in May Co.


Paul said...

Any word on the SAAAB building next to the ampitheatre at the OC Fairgrounds? I noticed lots of construction on the Ampithetre, building is still there. It would be a huge shame to see it go.

Anonymous said...

Cox Pilot: I retract my statment. It was indeed the May Co.