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Bob May - "Robot" on TV's original "Lost In Space"
November 21, 2000 - Motor City Comic Con - Detroit, MI

It seems like robots are a major fascination with some people, don't ask me to explain, it just seems that way... especially if you are a science fiction fan. One of the most popular robots is the B-9 robot from the television series "Lost In Space." While growing up watching television, 'Lost In Space' was one of those shows I was fascinated by, and the robot and Dr. Smith were it seemed to me, the most interesting characters.

The fantasies I had of actually seeing or meeting a robot has come full circle in a way after I got to interview the man who played the robot from "Lost In Space," Mr. Bob May.

Bob is a very gregarious person and a joy to meet. He loves meeting his fans, talking with them, signing autographs, posing for pictures and telling yarns about the glory days of the television show. It is hard to walk away from Bob without feeling happy as he is a very likable person and has some great stories about the show.

I was able to conduct an interview with Bob at the Detroit Motor City Comic Con back on October 21, 2000. The fine people at the Motor City Comic Con were able to have Bob May as one of their featured guests and were very cooperative in getting me in the facility to conduct my interview. The Detroit Motor City Comic Con is one of the best comic cons in the country - I know because I've been to many of them - and for those contemplating on attending, I highly suggest you make it as it is well worth your time. The next Motor City Comic Con is in May on the 18th,19th and 20th of 2001. Thousands of people are expected in attendance, and a great time is guaranteed for all. For more info go to their website at: www.motorcityconventions.com. Be sure to tell them that Donrad and KAOS 2000 sent you in their direction.

Now it is time for you to get into the interview I conducted with Bob May and be forewarned that there will be no quips of [insert the robots voice here] "Danger, Will Robinson" this time around.

K2K: What can you tell me about Billy Mumy [Will Robinson].
BM: Bill Mumy is a very very talented young man and he was talented as a child. He is a member of ASCAP, he writes a lot of music and he has a musical group called the Generators. He plays the guitar better than a lot of musicians. He has several CD's out on the market, one has a number (song)on it about the 42-year-old Will Robinson. Bill Mumy was not only with "Lost In Space," he was also with "Babylon 5," he played Lanier... he appeared on Star Trek as well.

Bill Mumy is married, he's got two kids... did you see the movie "Three Whiskers?" there is a kid in that movie that walked away with the picture, that kid was Bill Mumy's kid Seth. I said to Bill, "What are you trying to do?", and he said "Protect my old age!"

K2K: Did you ever meet Gene Roddenberry?
BM: I was very dear friends with Gene Roddenberry, who was the producer/executive producer of Star Trek, because I did a series many years before called "The Lieutenant" with Gary Lockwood and Gene was a very fine gentleman who never forgot me. He called me and said, "Bob, I'd love to have you for this show I'm doing called Star Trek." I said, "That's nice Gene, but why didn't you call me two years ago because I'm doing Lost In Space." He said "You're kidding." and I said "No, I can't do it." He asked what part I was playing and I told him the robot. He said, "Oh my god, that's the one who walks away with the show!" I said, "Don't say that. We have a great cast." We did, and we still do. We are all still friends for over thirty-five years, except for Guy Williams who has passed away.

K2K: What can you tell me about Guy Williams [Professor John Robinson]?
BM: He was the class act of our show... he really was, and he was there for anybody at any time. His son Guy Williams Jr. is scary, I see him and I think Guy has come back, he has his dads' politeness, his wonderful personality, and his courtesy all rolled into one, so it's kind of nice. We almost didn't get Guy. He had starred in Zorro, he did some features for Disney, then he went over to a show called "Bonanza." They [Bonanza] wanted to keep him and if they had kept him we would not have had him for Lost In Space, aren't we lucky? We were so fortunate and lucky!

K2K: Tell me a little about June Lockhart [Maureen Robinson].
BM: June Lockhart was a Tony award winner on Broadway back in the 40's. June Lockhart I affectionately call our "den mother" because she has held us together. She is a doll. I love her very much and she is a wonderful lady.

K2K: How do you like doing conventions and meeting your fans?
BM: Keep one thing in mind - The robot never cancels! When he says, "I will be someplace." I am there because I know what it means to a fan. Fans will be very happy to hear that the first week in April there's a show called "Fright Vision." It's a new show, it's only three years old. The entire cast will be at that show in Cleveland, Ohio, so if you can make it please do. You'll see me in all my glory with a bunch of people called the "B-9 Builders," who have full size robots they've built. They and some fans have sent parts to my webmaster to make it possible for me to have my own robot. That will be at "Fright Vision," April 2001 in Cleveland Ohio.

K2K: Will Jonathan Harris be there at "Fright Vision?"
BM: Jonathan Harris, unless he's dead or he's doing a show that I should be doing, will be there. [Imitating Dr. Smiths voice] "Never fear, Smith will be there!"

K2K: Any other surprises at "Fright Vision?"
BM: Yes, Mr. Robert Kinoshita. He designed Robby the Robot and the B-9 robot. He is in his 80's [as Jonathan is] and he is very active in a new scheme that will help senior citizens bowl.

K2K: Tell me a little about Jonathan Harris [Dr. Zachary Smith].
BM: Jonathan Harris as I said is in his eighties. I'll put him up against any 22-year-old and the sucker will win. He still calls me names to this day and Jonathan cares about his fans. I think Jonathan Harris was the success of "Lost In Space" for the three years we were filming him because the man is great. "His Majesty" [Jonathan Harris]. I ask myself what can I say about him that has never been said before? There isn't anything, because he's done it all. When I first met him (imitates Dr. Smith's voice) "with the accent that he has" I said, "My God, he's from England." No, he's from Brooklyn, New York and speaks with an English accent.

K2K: Tell me a little about Marta Kristen [Judy Robinson).
BM: Marta Kristin, lovely gal. Easy guys, easy. She's a knockout-and-a-half and always has been. She's done a lot of things.

K2K: What was it like to work with Mark Goddard [Don West)?
BM: He worked with Robert Taylor on "The Detectives" and played Johnny Ringo. He is the one that I personally say was not given the credit he deserved on our show. He did a magnificent job on the picture "Lost In Space" as the General. But we all knew that, we of the cast knew that Mark would put in a performance that way because he is so good. After "Lost In Space" he also did a soap opera, he knows our business.

K2K: What can you share with me about Angela Cartwright [Penny Robinson)?
BM: Angela Cartwright got her training from Danny Thomas. If you can get training from a gentleman of that nature, you've got the best. Then she went into "The Sound Of Music" and she was brilliant in that, and we [the "Lost In Space" production] got her right after that.

K2K: What's your opinion of Irwin Allen?
BM: Irwin Allen was brilliant in surrounding himself with great talent and we all realized that we had something extra special we all consider ourselves very lucky. Very lucky and if no one else wants to admit it, I'll admit it, because I started out in 1941 on Broadway in a show that followed "Hell's A Poppin'" and I know you're too young to remember that. I started directing my grandfathers' Broadway shows when I was thirteen years old, and I was producing and working them by the age of sixteen.

K2K: Can you elaborate on the time the robot tripped on some cables and fell?
BM: There was a scene and Jerry Duran was our director. Everybody was on the Jupiter 2 platform going up the ramp, Jerry wanted me to go up on the ramp in the full outfit which was pulled by cables, and I said "Jerry it seems a little dangerous because there's so many people there and we've got the cable pulling and we're going up on an angle... it's dangerous."

Jerry said, "I'm the director, Do it anyway." I said, "OK" because I don't like others changing my direction when I'm directing, so I did what I was told. Unfortunately Mark [Goddard] was very innocent about the whole thing accidentally stepped on the cable and it took up slack. When he realized it he immediately took his foot off, but it worked like a slingshot and it shot me up in the air, I kid you not, I did a 360. Did you see the Olympics? My flip in Olympic terms was a ten!

I had perfect form going all the way up and around, I came crashing down - we had motorcycle batteries inside and they hit me in the back - and I was out like a light. I had to pull my arms in when I was going up and drop my neck down otherwise my neck would have been busted plus my arms, so I luckily pulled them in on time. They didn't use the sound because they couldn't, all you could hear was [raises voice] "OHHHHHHH SHIT!" and that's it, and I was in deep trouble. I had one of the best crews around and my crew was kind enough to be interviewed in my new video "Robot Memories Act III."

Johnny Burgazie and Bill Myatt were so good, they put this robot back together - and it was busted up pretty good - within thirty minutes and we were shooting again. June Lockhart was holding me in her lap, Zanich was there from 20th Century Fox, Irwin Allen was down there and they all wanted me to go home. Now I'm raised in the theater, whatever happens the show must go on routine. Why? I don't know, but that's the saying. We went back and finished out the entire day, but that's what happened, he didn't trip over the cable, he accidentally stepped on it... which was my fear when I talked to the director about it.

K2K: What was the weight of the B-9 robot?
BM: The full outfit was three hundred pounds. There's been different claims, but the full outfit was 300 pounds. The top section that I carried on my back with a mock-up parachute type harness was 250 pounds. Now try to act with 250 lbs. on your back. Man I was in shape. I didn't have this gut then. [Pointing to his stomach]

I was in such shape that I was offered by the producers of the Batman series - who knew me from Warner Brothers days - the part of Robin. At that time I had a 42-inch chest and a little 24-inch waist. I didn't get the part and Adam West said "Oh thank god!" I said, "Why Adam?", because we were dear friends. He said, "If you come in and put that outfit on, I would look so silly because I don't have muscles!" He added, "Robin outdoing Batman?" because I was rippling all over the place at the time.

K2K: What do you think of Billy Mumy's music?
BM: Loved it. Barnes & Barnes not as much, I really prefer the Generators, they're more well balanced. They're really tuned superbly and they now have so much fun on the stage because they're so relaxed and know what they're doing, but every one of them is a star in their own right.

K2K: Is it true that you're friends with Jerry Lewis?
BM: Jerry Lewis is a dear, dear friend. I've known him since I was two years old on Broadway. He auditioned for a show of my grandfathers, which happened to be my first show called "Sons of Fun." He didn't make it and later years go by and I'm in an interview for "The Nutty Professor" [the Jerry Lewis version] and he didn't pick me. Me being a New York actor I thought, "Hey, every part I go out for I should have." but that's not the case.

So I was standing outside the sound stage at Paramount studios and Jerry came out with his entourage and I said, "Jerry Lewis, you're a good friend of the family." He says, "Who's your family?" He walked over with his bottle of beer, I told him who my family was and he said "I have a great part for you, it's for a little guy. How tall are you?" I said "5'7"." He said "No, you don't understand, a little guy. How tall?" I said "5 foot and 1/4." He says, "You're hired!" I did nine pictures with Jerry Lewis, starting with "The Nutty Professor." Stella Stevens and that whole bunch was in it.

K2K: Can you tell me a little about your guest shot on "The Time Tunnel?"
BM: That was fun. Irwin Allen came up to me and said "I want you to do this guest shot on The Time Tunnel." I said "I'd love to, Irwin, but I've got a heavy script this week on "Lost In Space"." He said, "You have a heavy script every week, what are you talking about? Will you do it for me?" I said, "Yeah, sure."

What it was, was a part of Hitler. I came in in the morning, they put the Hitler make-up on and the outfit, then I go and get into the robot. Then I'd finish the scene, jump out of that and go next door and I'm Hitler. By the end of the day I was so exhausted the robot sounded like Hitler and Hitler sounded like the robot. But I worked with Lee Merriweather and James Darrin and Bob Colburn. Nice people. Michael Ansero was in that who also worked with "Lost In Space," so it was like a family reunion.

K2K: How many B-9 robots were built for the show?
BM: We had two. We had the one costume that I wore, that was the number one robot. Robot number two was what we called the "stunt robot" and that didn't have any features except for some lights. There's a prop man in Los Angeles called Greg Gore who owns that one. The original robot was sold. The robot that we are using for the special belongs to Kevin Burns, a producer at Twentieth Century Fox, who produced all our specials and it's locked up there due to the fact that it is too meaningful to just release.

Now there is a club called the "The Robot Builders Club." B-9 builder club that is all over the world and they are making robots for themselves and for their homes that are magnificent. Every year I judge these robots. These guys research very well and I've had to go to fine points. Number one, there's been one guy who's won two years in a row building a B-9 robot.

K2K: I've heard tales about an ashtray that was inside the B-9 robot, could you elaborate a little on it?
BM: Mark Goddard and Bill Mumy went to a crew this one day that took care of the robot and me and they said "don't unlock Bob for lunch, let him stay in there [the robot outfit]." So lunch came about and the work lights turned on and the set lights turned off and they all left and I'm stuck in the robot. At that time I was a smoker and I had nothing else to do so I lit a cigarette. I'm smoking this cigarette and for some strange reason Mr. Irwin Allen walked on our set during lunch. Why? I don't know. Well he saw smoke coming out of the top of the robot and he ran for a fire extinguisher. I was yelling at the top of my voice "NO, IT'S JUST ME!" He found out what happened [that Mark and Bill pulled a prank on me], got a hold of our special effects guy Stu Moody and said "Look, these are orders from the front office, if the robot has to have smoke coming out of it hand Bob a cigar." True story.

So the crew went out and got this ashtray that you find on patios that are different colors and such and found a silver one and put it inside the robot and where they put it I'm not telling because I haven't told anybody. I'm hoping that one of the 'B-9 Builders' finds out and puts one in just for laughs.

K2K: What about a "Lost In Space" special with the original cast, is that ever going to happen?
BM: The word I got (and it's right now in legal battle), is Kevin Burns may produce, as he did with "Fantasy World of Irwin Allen" and "Lost Forever," a two hour special on "Lost In Space," which would catapult a new series of of twenty-four episodes. If we get through the legal stuff then that will happen. The word I got was it's strictly the original cast.

K2K: What do you say to the people who call the robot a prop and that it didn't need an actor?
BM: The robot, it was a prop yes, but it was really my costume. What I did after a lot of consideration [because Mr. Allen was nice enough to give the rights away to Jonathan Harris and myself], was to create our own characterizations of our parts - which he never usually did. I decided I would take the actor inside and make the costume the actor. I alleviated the fact that my face wasn't seen, I made a lot of faces inside there I'll tell you, but that was to allow the robot to do double takes. I couldn't raise his eyebrows so I raised mine inside. That's the extent to what I went with it, to make it as if the costume was an actor. It worked out very well for me and the show, it worked out with scenes with Smith and the robot because we had so many together.

K2K: What did you think about New Line Cinema releasing the movie "Lost In Space?"
BM: I love 'em, I love 'em! Let me tell you the one thing New Line Cinema did with the movie, even though it was the dark side of "Lost In Space" that Bill Mumy and Jonathan Harris were not in the movie... big mistake, BIG MISTAKE! But even so, it brought all the fans and new fans back to the classic television show. Because of New Line Cinema with their picture "Lost In Space," we have more merchandise today than we had when we were originally filming "Lost In Space" the television series, so I'm proud of that.

K2K: What did you think of New Line Cinema's robot?
BM: Very good question, because I was doing a television show called "Vibe" and Sinbad was the emcee and 'Big Blue' (the robot from the "Lost In Space" movie) was a guest. I came on and I shook claw-to-hand with Sinbad, I waved at the audience and as I left here's 'Big Blue' on my shoulder here and I walked by him waving to my fans like this with my claw (does a robot type wave with his hand) and I looked at him and I went "EEEEECCCCCCHHHHH" and kept going.

K2K: Sounds like a war of the robots.
BM: I have said to the fans consistently, if I can beat Robbie... which I did twice in "War of the Robots" and another one, I could beat 'Big Blue' in a heartbeat. Big Blue is exciting but it's huge and it can't do a lot of things... it can't. I played chess, Big Blue couldn't do that, I played a guitar, Big Blue couldn't do that... what rock band would have him anyway?

K2K: Didn't the movie "Lost In Space" try to stay close to the original television show and its pilot episode?
BM: Well it tried to stay to it but it slipped away in the sense that it tried to get too damn serious. What they tried to do is Star Trek instead of "Lost In Space." "Lost In Space" [the television show] was fun and it was fun for the audience. The crowd didn't go out of the theater saying (imitating Jonathan Harris/Dr. Smiths voice) "Never fear Smith is here" because they couldn't, there's only one Jonathan Harris.

Now Gary Oldman an academy award winning actor... fantastic. Matt LeBlanc, he's a nice person and a good actor, but again how are you going to take Matt LeBlanc and make him Mark Goddard? You can't, it's impossible. You can't make any one of that cast what we had and what we still have. Sometimes Hollywood goes to this extent when they take a TV series or a Broadway show and they go too big and lose fans.

K2K: Why do you think the show has held up this long and why do people like it?
BM: Because it's a family show that comes into your home, does not lecture you but you have enjoyment and you can sit there and not have to worry about every other word. You can get disgusted with Jonathan Harris [Dr. Smith] like the rest of us.

K2K: What can you say about the show "Lost In Space Forever?"
BM: "Lost In Space Forever" was designed to honor Irwin Allen and his achievements, all of his different projects. Kevin Burns was the director and producer. It was thrilling because it was supposed to be emceed and hosted by June Lockhart and Bill Mumy... it turned out to be June Lockhart, Bill Mumy and the robot.

K2K: What can you tell me about your chair on the set, I've heard it was different than the rest of them?
BM: Irwin Allen did not give me a directors chair as he gave the rest of the cast, so my crew got mad. They went out and bought a chair, painted it silver, had my name put on it and put some porcelain tousles on the top and that was my chair. It's kind of nice because they've seen it all... the crews have.

K2K: Do you still have the chair?
BM: Yes I do and every so often when I think I'm bigger than God, I go out and I look at the chair and I realize that I didn't have one from Irwin, that the crew gave me one, so it brings me down to reality very quick.

K2K: Do you have any props from the sets or other memorabilia from the show?
BM: Yes, headaches! No, anything I have of "Lost In Space" was given to me by fans.

And with that it was time to let other fans have their turn meeting with Bob May aka The Robot.

Written by and photos © 2001 Donrad

Philip Anderson is a musician, in addition to being a writer/photographer. He has performed as a guitarist/vocalist, as well as songwriter, in several bands over the past 20 years. As a writer and photographer, he has been published by several magazines and in several books, and had his works appear on television.

All rights reserved © KAOS2000™. No portion contained herein, either text or graphics, may be reproduced anywhere or reposted on any other website for any purpose without the expressed permission of the publisher. All violations shall be punished as the law allows.

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