Many people know Bob and yet they have never seen him. Many people will have seen Bob but never realised that he played the robot in the cult classic, Lost in Space. Either way, Bob May’s history as stuntman and actor is a smorgasbord of interesting characters spread over many decades and many mediums. Bob began as a child actor on the stage playing Vaudeville, appeared in nightclubs from The Latin Quarter to Chez Paris, made films and TV and is now a highly popular star at various movie and sci fi conventions across America.
In fact, Bob’s grandfather was Chick Johnson, who performed with Ole Olsen both on stage and in films like Hellzapoppin. In between he has fitted in simply dozens of USO shows, commercials, industrial shows, stage plays, TV specials and celebrity roasts. Bob’s also been a producer, director, writer, dialogue director, stuntman and stunt co-ordinator and dance director.
So when you see an old episode of Lost in Space on your DVD player and you hear the Robot warning Will Robinson to be careful or crossing swords with the nefarious Dr Smith just remember that you will have also seen him making nine films with Jerry Lewis, not to mentions guesting on shows as varied as The Red Skelton Show, Dr Kildare, McHales Navy and Cheyenne. He also danced in several Elvis Presley films and at the age of two replaced a midget in a show called, Sons-a-Fun in 1942.
These days Bob appears at a lot of great memorabilia shows or you can catch up with him at his great website at: http://www.robot-b9.com So feel free to drop Bob a line with your favourite LIS question and see if you can put him on the spot or perhaps organise a signed photo. Meanwhile enjoy some of the questions I recently put to Bob about his great career.
David: You began your fulltime TV career in a series called, The Interns, but before that you had been acting since the age of two. You also did numerous USO shows for Uncle Sam. What was one of your funniest moments from one of these shows and who do you enjoy working with the most?
Bob: I really enjoyed working with my family the most.
David: Were you asked for your first autograph when you were doing stage shows like Hellzapoppin with your Grandad Chic Johnson or later on at the USO shows or on TV.
Bob: No, not until I started making films.
David: You credit Jerry Lewis for his encouraging you to make it in the movies and then TV. What are a couple of your funniest moments you remember from the nine films you made with Jerry? Did you ever sign any photos with Jerry or other actors you worked with in your early films?
Bob: Oh, the funniest moments came every day just working on the set working with Jerry.
David: What were the events that led you to becoming the memorable Robot on Lost in Space?
Bob: I had a meeting with Irwin Allen and the rest, as they say, is history.
David: What are two of your favourite stories from making LIS?
Bob: Fans can come and hear these yarns at my Q & As at various shows.
David: You’ve done many conventions over the years and many of them with your LIS co-stars. What has been a highlight from these shows? And what do you enjoy most doing signings?
Bob: Meeting the fans one-on-one is the highlight for me.
David: Have you ever seen forgeries of your signature? If so, how did you deal with this problem?
Bob: Yes, I have, and I had my attorney handle the matter for me.
David: Do you collect autographs yourself? If so what are some of your prized possessions?
Bob: No, I’ve never been a collector.
David: A question I always ask for a bit of fun is, if anyone in history could sign their photo for you, who would you ask to sign and what would you have them say in their dedication?
Bob: That’s a good question, but I really don’t know.
David: Are you surprised by how strong LIS has been around the world since its release? Do you think that getting the series onto DVD would be a good thing for the series?
Bob: Absolutely and I'm thrilled about it.
David: Given that we have lost the great Jonathan Harris, whose role as Dr Smith became an iconographic TV character could you share a favourite story involving Jonathan?
Bob: The stories are too precious to give a capsule version, but I really enjoy telling the stories at various conventions.
David: Do you recall who coined the term, “Never fear Smith is here” or your own immortal catch-phrase, “Danger, Will Robinson, danger.” Was it the writers or one of the actors? What remains your favourite episode?
Bob: Well, Jonathan Harris coined the first term, but one of the writers came up with my line. My favourite episode is War of the Robots, which featured Robbie the Robot, from Forbidden Planet. He was designed by Robert Kinoshita who was also one of the art directors on our series.
David Are there any messages or advice you would like to pass on to your many fans around the world? Thank you Bob for all the great shows and the fun of seeing LIS…
Bob: To all the fans out there – “Please do not leave us – and that does compute.”
Interview article (c) David Priol 2003
Photos copyrighted to their various owners.