Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bob May, RIP

Bob May was at a convention I went to a few years ago. Unfortunately I ran out of money before I could get his autograph. Rest in peace Mr. May.

LOS ANGELES: Bob May, who won a cult following as The Robot in the hit 1960s television show "Lost in Space," died Sunday of congestive heart failure. He was 69.

May died at a hospital in Lancaster, his daughter, Deborah May, told The Associated Press.

His entertainment career spanned more than 65 years.

He was a veteran actor and stuntman who had appeared in movies, TV shows and on the vaudeville stage when he was tapped by "Lost in Space" creator Irwin Allen to play the Robinson family's loyal metal sidekick in the hit series that debuted in 1965.

"He always said he got the job because he fit in the robot suit," said June Lockhart, who played family matriarch Maureen Robinson. "It was one of those wonderful Hollywood stories. He just happened to be on the studio lot when someone saw him and sent him to see Irwin Allen about the part. Allen said, 'If you can fit in the suit you've got the job.'"

Although May didn't provide the robot's distinctive voice (that was done by announcer Dick Tufeld), he developed a devoted following of fans who sought him out at memorabilia shows.

"We gave them entertainment. We didn't try to lecture them. We just wanted to have fun with the family," he said at a 1995 reunion of the "Lost in Space" cast.

"Lost in Space" was a space-age retelling of "The Swiss Family Robinson" story in which Professor John Robinson, his wife and their children were on a space mission when their craft was knocked hopelessly off course by the evil Dr. Zachary Smith, who became trapped in space with them.

May's robot was the Robinson family's loyal sidekick, warning them of approaching disaster at every turn. His often-quoted expression to one of the children, "Danger, Will Robinson," became a national catch phrase.

The grandson of famed vaudeville comedian Chic Johnson, May was introduced to show business at age 2 when he began appearing in the "Hellzapoppin" comedy revue with Johnson and his partner, Ole Olsen.

He worked in vaudeville, nightclubs and theaters.

"My dad always ended his shows the same way his grandfather did, with a toast: 'May you live as long as you want to and may you laugh as long as you live,'" his daughter said.

He went on to appear in numerous films with Jerry Lewis and in such TV shows as "The Time Tunnel," "McHale's Navy and "The Red Skelton Show."

He was also a stuntman in such 1950s and '60s TV shows as "Cheyenne," "Surfside 6," "Hawaiian Eye," "The Roaring 20s" and "Stagecoach."

May and his wife lost their house in November when a wildfire destroyed their upscale mobile home park in the San Fernando Valley's Sylmar section. It was one of 484 homes destroyed.

Survivors include his wife of 48 years, Judith; his daughter; his son, Martin; and four grandchildren.

Funeral services are pending.