Never mind the hyper-realized Halloween celebrations taking place at amusement parks around SoCal this weekend with their silly rubber masks and gallons of smelly, fake blood. A far more inspired way to celebrate Halloween has to be the Bob Baker Marionette Theater on the edge of downtown. Ok, so the characters on a string are older than their black-clad operators, and the collection of retro tunes is pure camp. But it's marvelous, magical camp.
Mr. Baker is as much a legend as his theater-that-could is an institution. He's supplied puppets and advised on their animation on early Disney flicks to "Alien" and "Star Trek." It's kind of amazing how long he's kept at it, his passion for the art form and for actively entertaining week after week continuing into his 60s.
We took in last Saturday's performance of the month-long "Spooktacular," an ode to all things remotely and sort of remotely Halloween. My sister's Blanca fiance Michael is a former player there, having relocated from Chicago to L.A. a couple of years ago to hone his craft in marionettes, and it was on his prompting that the two of us couples and our mother-of-all-arts mom spent the afternoon show. Sitting there in the quasi-dark theater, with all its metallic tinsel and draped curtains, had a certain charm of lost innocence and handicraft, of the inherent beauty in lo-fi creativity in this super-tech world.
To that end, the custodian of all wonderfully wacky things Americana, Charles Phoenix, will play host tonight and tomorrow at the theater. Charles will take guests down memory lane for this quirkiest of Hollywoodland's theaters with a slide show and story of Mr. Baker's life and times with puppets since 1932. Book ahead for tickets, or just show up. Cake and ice cream follows the show in the candy-striped lounge.
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