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L.A. to consider landmark status for puppet theater

Fans turn out at a commission meeting to voice support for the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, which is struggling to stay afloat.

February 06, 2009|Bob Pool

Pinocchio danced on the table and wise-cracking Fred Mingo sat on it Thursday as they helped convince Los Angeles officials to consider making a marionette theater near downtown an official city cultural site.

Fans of longtime puppeteer Bob Baker pleaded for his puppet stage and workshop at 1345 W. 1st St. to be protected with the landmark designation as they struggle to keep the Bob Baker Marionette Theater afloat.

Baker, who turns 85 on Monday, was at the Cultural Heritage Commission's City Hall hearing to support the idea. He showed up stringing Pinocchio along.

In 1961, Baker bought the building that in the 1950s housed a movie special effects workshop. He has used it since then for shows, parties and development of new marionettes and other puppets. It is said to be the longest-running puppet theater in the U.S.

"I love to see people laugh," Baker told officials in explaining what keeps him going. "It's certainly not the money."

Professional puppeteer Steve Meltzer, who operates the Santa Monica Puppetry Center, brought his fast-talking ventriloquist's dummy, Fred Mingo, to help him voice support for Baker and the 1st Street theater.

Mingo joked that he was speaking "on behalf of all wooden Americans."

The commission voted unanimously to consider the nomination.


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