Stuntman and actor Bob May, the man inside the robot that regularly stole scenes from every member of the cast of TV's Lost in Space, died yesterday, January 18, 2009, at the age of 69.
May wasn't the voice of Robot B9, who warned "Danger, Will Robinson!" That was announcer Dick Tufeld. And the story is that May was cast because he happened to be on the lot one day and producer Irwin Allen told him that if the robot suit fit, he had a gig. But kids loved the robot, and when they grew up they loved May, who made regular appearances at memorabilia shows and sci-fi/autograph conventions. May's website, Robot B-9.com is here.
Robot B9 is sometimes referred to as "Robby," though May's suit wasn't the same design as the Robby the Robot from the classic sci-fi movie Forbidden Planet (1956). But the confusion is understandable: Both Robby and B9 were designed by veteran art director/producrtion designer Robert Kinoshita, and they look like cousins. Not Identical cousins, but cousins nonetheless; Robby even appeared on the Lost in Space episodes War of the Robots and Condemned of Space. Freaky, man!
Bob May's grandfather was vaudevillian Chic Johnson, of the Swedish-American comedy team Olsen and Johnson — their anarchic comedy Crazy House (1943) is a favorite of Quentin Taratino's. As a small child, May appeared in their comedy revue "Hellzapoppin," which was made into a film in 1941, its total unavailability on commercial video or DVD is a matter of ongoing dismay to many readers who wrote me during the years I did my Ask FlickChick (scroll past the first item) column for TVGuide.com.
May went on to appear in movies, cabaret and TV, apparently impressing everyone with whom he worked as a lovely man. He will be missed.