Born: September 4, 1939 in New York City, New York, USA
Died: January 18, 2009 (age 69) in Lancaster, California, USA
A personal message from Mr. May to our club:
As you already know, I cannot overstate my warm feelings for the B9
Builders Club. I could go on and on with memories, names, dates
and a great deal of fun; but you would you have to have 150
billion websites to cover it all. And that DOES compute! I
want to wish the B9 Builders Club so much good fortune with their
new web site and remember: make it as big as Jeff's Jupiter II and
as wonderful as Scott's B9 replica (Dewey...don't forget to
polish the spot where your robot got kicked) and give it the good
nature of Jeff's robot (I laugh as I remember how it would
say as a pretty girl walked by, "I really like your tunic--I
did not know that K-Mart carried such fashionable clothing.")
I could go on and on, but this website would have to be much
larger to hold all the stories I could tell.
all of you newcomers, fasten your safety belts and prepare for a
journey through cyberspace that you cannot enjoy anywhere else.
This robot and his inner-workings, Bob May, says to you all,
"Welcome, welcome!" And remember, your B9
memories may only be beginning but they are joining a lot of old
and good ones. Have fun!
Bob at his web site:www.robot-b9.com
following is an interview of Bob May conducted by ICONs back in
Robot Bob May Interview. An Interview with Robot Actor Bob
One of the most
lively, humorous and colorful original cast members of Lost In Space
was ironically never revealed on screen.
Bob May: The
man inside the Robot during all three seasons of the classic television
series. With a vaudevillian family lineage, a comedian's timing,
and an athlete's strength and endurance, May brought the Robot to
life. Just watch any episode and observe the Robot's carefully executed
moves and gestures. More than a pantomime artist or skilled puppeteer.
Bob instilled the Robot with a vibrant personality. Giving him life.
The Vault spoke to Bob during one of his continuos visits to Icons
inspecting the Lost In Space Icons B-9 Robot assembly line.
ICONS: How did
you get the part of the Robot?
BOB MAY: I was
visiting Fox for a casting call on the Sixties film Stage Coach.
While I was on the set, a call came down from one of the main casting
heads. He asked me if I had signed my contract and I said no. He
said good, because Irwin Allen would like to see you. So I turned
around to a good friend of mine, Red Buttons, who was also working
on Stage Coach, and I said, Red, what do I do? He said I've worked
for Irwin Allen for many years. Get out of here, I never want to
see you again. Sign with him no matter what. I said okay. So I went
over there and Irwin came to the door and he said, Well Bob haven't
you worked for me before? And I said yes I did a Voyage to the Bottom
of the Sea episode and Irwin said I thought so. Then he began to
tell me, We aregoing to do this show called Lost in Space. There
is a robot part. I don't know what we're going to do with the Robot;
I don't know what the Robot can do. If you want the part we would
love to have you. There's only one catch. You have to fit into the
Robot suit because it's almost alldone and we have sunk a lot of
money into it. So I said fine. Then he sent me down to the prop
shop and that's when I met Robert Kinoshita for the first time.
So I got into the Robot, fooled around with it a little. Then Irwin
showed up and asked Kinoshita, How's Bob doing? Kinoshita said,
He's fine. He'll work out just fine! So I get out of the Robot and
Irwin says, Bob, you've got the job. Now as I've said before I don't
know what we're going to do with it, but I want you to do one big
favor for me. Make something out of our robot. At that point he
gave me the greatest compliment any producer can give an actor.
And that is, he allowed me to develop the character as I saw it.
In turn, that's what I did. The writers caught on to what I was
doing. As a result they started adding business into the scripts
would you say are some of the classic Robot moves?
BOB: I'll tell
you only what I was able to tell everyone else. Firstly I could
never tell Irwin all simply because I was worried about my job.
Let's be honest I tell him all and then He'll get someone else.
we should rephrase that. In the show a startled expression would
often mean a bubble movement up and down.
BOB: At times
it could mean a double take as well. It could also be a combination
of both. You have to understand the essence of acting is first and
you ever thought of your work inside the suit as a form of mime?
BOB: It's not
a mime. I never thought of it that way. It may be in retrospect
but I never even thought of it that way because if you couldhave
taken an x-ray of the Robot you would have seen me going crazyinside.
What I was trying to do and I think to a greater degree I accomplished,
it was to take the actor inside and turn the costume intothat actor.
And in doing so you have to be reacting frenetically inside to make
all of the varied emotions come to life. With that, the costume
you are wearing truly becomes that character. My plan back then
was to give it that ultimate personality so that the other actors
would not look at it as, well here's the costume or worse still
here's the prop. Then characterization for the Robot was all important
to my fellow performers and how they reacted against it. Simply
because if they couldn't buy it, how could an audience be expected
to follow suit.
Bob we have just stepped out of a time machine and it's 1965. What
is your day like on the set?
BOB: It's still
dark outside. It's about quarter to six in the morning. Funny enough
there were lot of days where I was following an equally bleary-eyed
Jonathan Harris on the freeway. I report to my own dressing room
at the set.
did you get into as an undersuit?
BOB: I called
it kiddingly an Irwin Allen reject. That thing must have been (laughs)
geez somebody was cleaning floors with it or something. But it was
a blue denim type shirt and pants and these sneakers that I think
must have gone back to the days when sneakers werefirst invented.
was your favorite episode of the show?
BOB: That would
have to be the last a episode "Junkyard in Space", When
the Robot sacrifices himself to save the family by giving himself
to the alien junkman for scrap in exchange for their freedom. There
was a really touching scene in that episode . I'm heading for the
blast furnace to be melted down. Billy Mumy is standing above me
as I go down the conveyor belt. At that point, in what has to be
one of the most touching good-byes I found myself overcome and began
to cry. I could even see that Billy had been caught up in the moment.
And the funny thing is, at the end of the scene, the heart of the
Robot and his love for the family stopped him from being melted
down because even the blast furnace could not destroy a pure heart.
All in all, that was one of the Robot's finest hours. Love conquered
ICONS: Can you
remember any funny moments from the show?
BOB: Sure, Where
do I start? Billy Mumy and Mark Goddard both had a wicked sense
of humor. They got me a couple of times. One lunchtime they left
me locked inside the suit while they ate. Funny enough, I decided
to make the best of it by lighting up a cigarette, not a habit I
recommend to anybody. Anyhow I'm inside the suit puffing away and
Irwin Allen walks on stage sees the Robot smoking and thinks at
that point the suits on fire. He runs to get an extinguisher at
which point I scream "Irwin, Irwin it's okay. I'm in here smoking."
Well from that point onwards they used to issue me cigars whenever
the Robot had to do a smoke effect. In fact the effects boys even
installed an ash tray inside the suit for me.
was a time when an effect almost went bad?
BOB: No not
really. Although we did have a few problems at first with the suit.
In the pilot, when I had to move my legs before they where bolted
together, I got pretty cut up by all the metal edges. Irwin took
one look at me and said to the effects guys, We've got to stop that
from happening again. At that point the legs were bolted together
and I was pulled by a steel cable that was on a pulley that was
operated by hand by two guys.
ICONS: So was
the cable the main mode of transport for the Robot?
BOB: No. We
came up with a new lower portion to the suit which I called the
bermudas, mainly because they looked like bermuda shorts and it
attached to me by a parachute harness. Oh by the way we did have
one incident with the cable one day. I was being pulled up the ramp
into the Jupiter 2 set. At that point I was lucky enough to be able
to give most directors advice as to what the Robot could and couldn't
do. This time around, I told our director that it would be best
to use the bermudas for going up the ramp with all of the family
at the same time. But instead he wanted to use the cable. Well,
I tell you one thing lead to another and somebody stepped on that
cable and at that point the Robot is doing almost a 360 up in the
air. The next thing I know, I'm coming to, and June Lockhart is
looking down on me and asking if I'm alright. Well I was fine. My
major concern was how's the Robot suit? Because I sure didn't want
to be out of a job if the suit was out of commission. Needless to
say, the suit was fine and I worked the rest of that day.
powered the Robot?
BOB: Well, initially,
we had a real long cable coming out the back of the suit. In fact
there was one day Irwin Allen was up on a camera crane and he saw
me in the suit running across the stage. He yelled down what's up
with Bob? Well at that point I had practically 2,000 volts zapping
in my backside! Believe me you'd run too! Not long after that they
came up with a system of mounting two motorcycle batteries inside
the suit. One to run the neon and the other to run my head and chest
lights. Those batteries had to be recharged outside the suit at
least 3 or 4 times a day. Sometimes the neon battery would last
only a half day.
next for you?
BOB: Well after
57 years in the business, I feel lucky to say I'm getting paid to
do something that I love. And more importantly, for many of my roles,
I've made lifelong friends and fans. Both of which continue to be
a great joy to myself and my wife Judy. So the next time you hear
that Bob May, your favorite Robot is coming to a convention near
you, feel free to come on up and share some memories with your bubble-headed
1998 Space Productions. All rights reserved.