Sixty years of happy string-pulling: Bob Baker Marionette Theater in museum exhibit

Theater · Visual arts
Bob Baker, Wizard of Fantasy, c. 1970. Hand-crafted marionette (vac-u-form plastic, felt, and string),
50 x 20 x 10 inches. Courtesy of Bob Baker Marionette Theater

Bob Baker Marionette Theater: 60 Years of Joy & Wonder is a retrospective exhibition that examines the beauty and history of a beloved Los Angeles institution. Approximately 100 artifacts belonging to the theater and its founder are included in the exhibit, including udes hand-crafted marionettes, original concept art, archival photographs, an animatronic band, and more.
Bob Baker began creating puppets as a child in the 1930s, and he opened his permanent marionette theater in 1963. The exhibition begins with a look at Baker’s early years as a puppeteering prodigy, and it follows his career and the development of the theater over the course of several decades. Bob Baker passed away in 2014 at the age of 90, but the organization continues to thrive. The exhibition concludes with a look at Baker’s enduring legacy and recent creations from the Bob Baker Puppet Workshop.

The theater, which has entertained generations of Angelenos, will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2023. There’s an opening event that includes free exhibition tours, complimentary drinks and hors d’oeuvres, and marionette performances. Musical guest, Timothy Nordwind of OK Go, will play vintage records from the Bob Baker Music Library.

Bob Baker Marionette Theater: 60 Years of Joy & Wonder | Forest Lawn Museum | opening, Oct 20 5 – 7 pm | rsvp:

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‘People-wearing-color’ honor composer Allee Willis @ ‘Night of Wonders’

Fashion · Music

It was all kinds of people, of all kinds of colors, wearing all kinds of colors — notably hot pink, fiery orange, neon chartreuse, and Princely purple — mixed into the same outfit. This passel of arty party people wended their way to Valentine in the Los Angeles arts district on September 21, for a wild-and-wacky, highly liquid party dedicated to the memory of an iconoclastic creative spirit, Allee Willis. Famously the composer of “Boogie Wonderland” and the theme from “Friends,” Willis died, way too young, in December 2019 just prior to COVID.

The fundraiser, a splashy launch party for the newly formed Willis Wonderland Foundation offered all kinds of distractions from the attributes of the modern age; you know, depression, isolation, loneliness, angst, the gamut. You could peruse Ms. Willis’s objets d’art; pick from fishbowls of her favorite dime candy; bid on her marvelously kooky fashion straight from her closet; drink mango margaritas till you were blotto; snack on teensy little hamburgers so petite it removes the guilt. But hey, it was also really good people watching. Mixing in were several celebs — Lily Tomlin, RuPaul, and Luenell. But the main cadre comprised Angelenos who, like Allee Willis, just. want. to. let. their. freak. flag. fly.

With a passion for mentoring diverse songwriters and multimedia artists, Willis wanted to ensure a future for them, especially given the persistent decline in funding for the arts. After her sudden death on Christmas Eve 2019, her longtime partner Prudence Fenton (photo below) formed the foundation to preserve Willis’ legacy by continuing to support her passions. The foundation will offer mentorships, seminars, lectures and podcasts, as well as Artist-in-Residence programs at Willis Wonderland, Allee’s home in North Hollywood purchased from her first “Boogie Wonderland” royalty check. The 1937 Art Deco Streamline Moderne house holds one of the world’s largest collections of pop-culture kitsch memorabilia.

It was a night to sip, chew, schmooze, meet-up, network, and pay homage to an exceptional, generous woman of the arts who lived in our city. As you see in the photo below, very large shoes to fill.

photo(s) credit: Serena Beggs

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