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Renowned puppeteer Bob Baker dies at age 90

Puppeteer Bob Baker, co-founder of the oldest and longest-running children’s theater company in Los Angeles history, died today at age 90.

Baker died of natural causes, according to his publicist.

Baker and his partner, Alton Wood, created the Bob Baker Marinette Theater in 1963, a production that in 2009 was designated a Los Angeles historical cultural monument.

In addition to theater work, Baker and his company performed puppet shows around the world. His puppetry was featured in the movies “Bedknobs and Broomsticks,” “Close Encounters of The Third Kind” and the 1954 version of “A Star is Born” with Judy Garland.

His work also appeared in a long list of television shows and commercials.

Baker, a Hollywood High School graduate who lived in the same Los Angeles house his entire life, served in the Army Air Corps during World War II.

Following the war, Baker became a TV pioneer, producing the puppet show “Adventures of Bobo,” beginning in 1947.

His studio gave a start to Bob Clampett, who later created the popular animated network TV show “Beany and Cecil.”

Baker was animation adviser to a number of film studios, including Disney.

It was at a performance at the home of Ronald Reagan, then president of the Screen Actors Guild, that Baker convinced Reagan that puppeteers belonged in the performers’ union.

In recent years, however, with interest in puppetry declining and high- tech special effects dominating Hollywood, Baker struggled to keep his theater at First Street and Glendale Boulevard near downtown Los Angeles operating. The theater managed to keep operating in 2008 after a series of donations, but the building went back on the market in 2012. According to the Los Angeles Times, Baker owed about $150,000 in back taxes. The theatre was sold last year, but performances continued.

The puppeteers plan to continue the shows at least until the company’s lease runs out in March, The Times reported.

Services for Baker are pending.

Donations to support the Bob Baker Marionette Theater can be made at www.gofundme.com/ho3vo0

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