Originally published November 28, 2014 at The Los Angeles Beat
Los Angeles sadly lost an offbeat legend today, Friday November 28th. Bob Baker, the magical maestro of the oldest puppet theater in the United States, passed away at age 90. Baker had been in hospice recently, so the news was not unexpected, but it is heartbreaking nonetheless.
With an inventory of over 3,000 puppets, The Bob Baker Marionette Theater, located near downtown L.A., has been an institution for 51 years. It has been casting spells of puppetry magic since it opened in 1963. A native Angeleno, Baker began studying the art of puppetry at age 8 and never looked back, investing his life performing, building marionettes and maintaining his theater. His film, TV and variety show credits listed on the theater’s webpage number nearly one hundred and include the movies Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Escape to Witch Mountain, Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind and Elvis Presley’s GI Blues. Although the building housing the theater was declared a historic-cultural landmark in 2009, it has been threatened with closure for several years. A Bob Baker memorial fund has been set up to save it and donations can be made.
The Bob Baker Marionette Theater is truly a wonderland of enchantment for all ages. It is a joyful and inspiring place where the world outside stops, worries are forgotten and a simple childlike wonder relaxes even the most cynical adult.
Please do your part to preserve this historic puppet theater by visiting! Currently you can celebrate the holidays by catching the whimsical puppetry version of The Nutcracker. This eclectic show uses over 100 Bob Baker-created marionettes. Performances are Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30pm with occasional weekday performances at 10:30am and are $20.
Bob Baker Marionette Theater: 1345 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90026; (213) 250-9995.
Also read the Offbeat L.A. piece about the incredible International Puppetry Museum in Pasadena.