The Losties

In this photo provided by "Larry King Live", author James Frey, with his mother Lynne, appears on "Larry King Live" to discuss allegations of fraud in the writing of his memoir, "A Million Little Pieces" on CNN Wednesday night Jan. 11, 2006.
Love makes you do strange things. Recently, 36-year-old John Rumbaugh visited a tattoo parlor in his Sterling Heights, Michigan, town to immortalize a special someone in six inches of color on his left arm. The indelible portrait isn't of a woman; its real-life equivalent doesn't even have a heartbeat. John Rumbaugh's special someone is the Lost In Space robot.

"The Robot has always been my favorite," says Rumbaugh, a maintenance worker. "It's got a classic design and a good personality."

Rumbaugh is not stranded in his own outer galaxy in this matter. While the Star Trek fanatics known as Trekkies may be greater in number and get more press, there is another breed of TV sci-fi fans out there just as passionate. They are the fans of Lost In Space. Let's call them The Losties.

Kevin Burns, a 42-year-old 20th Century Fox executive, might be considered a Lostie. He admired The Robot so much he rescued it from a trash heap. He restored it to working condition with his own money, and even helped build another one to endure the wear and tear of promotional appearances. What is it about LIS that drives him to such measures?

"When you capture the mind of a child, you capture them for life," he says. "Lost In Space is silly and strange and surrealistic, but it perfectly captures the point of view of a 10-year-old."

The program, which ran from 1965 to 1968, tracked the intergalactic meanderings of the Robinson family, who set out to colonize the stars in their spaceship, the Jupiter 2. Today, perhaps the most intriguing bit about the show, aside from those snazzy silver jumpsuits, is that it takes place in 1997 and 1998.

"I used to sit in my fifth-grade class and figure out that I would be about the same age as Guy Williams (who played Dr. John Robinson) in 1997," he recalls. "That made the show especially compelling."

For LIS fans, Burns leads one enviable life. In addition to housing the robot, he has become close friends with LIS star Billy Mumy, who played the freckle-faced boy, Will Robinson (as in, "Danger, Will Robinson!"). Talk about dreams come true.

Like Trekkies, LIS aficionados are known to go the distance to meet their idols. For the show's 25th anniversary in 1990, several thousand fans congregated in Boston to meet the cast at a collectibles extravaganza. The autographs were flying, and many devotees presented favorite cast members with homemade gifts, including fragile models of the Jupiter II.

From April 3-5, an estimated 10,000 LIS loyalists from as far away as Australia, Japan, and Europe will be able to meet Mumy and other idols in a final cast reunion. Boston collectibles dealer Gary Sohmers is organizing the event at the Hollywood Entertainment Museum. He has gathered surviving cast members Mumy, June Lockhart, Jonatan Harris, Marta Kristen, Mark Goddard, Angela Cartwright, Dick Tufeld (the voice of The Robot), Bob May (the man inside The Robot), and, of course, the actual robot, to commemorate the old show and welcome the new movie.

Aside from trivia-swapping and socializing, for the first time there's even a slate of programs for the true LIS fan. The upcoming event features panel discussions on "The Robot," "Behind the Scenes of Irwin Allen TV," and "The Fan Alliance." The piece de resistance, however, is the Saturday night concert: The Jenerators, featuring Bill Mumy.

The event promises to attract avid LIS memorabilia collectors. Sohmers reports that original LIS merchandise is rocketing in price, with a Rotojet gun fetching up to US$4,000, while LIS dolls can bring up to US$2,000. New items promoting the film version – cards, T-shirts and toys – are flooding the market.

"The demand for the vintage merchandise is so high," explains Sohmers. "And, because there just wasn't a lot of stuff licensed for Lost In Space in the '60s, the supply is very small."

Overall, Lost In Space fans are optimistic about the film adaptation of the show. They point out, though, that many of the show's thrills came from its time, the 1960s, an era before men had landed on the moon and computerized special effects became commonplace in Hollywood.

Still, Rumbaugh explains, the film will introduce a brand new generation to the wonders of Lost In Space. "I hope that it will encourage kids' imaginations and an interest in space travel," he says. "And then, one day, we'll have the world of Lost In Space in real life."

Back to 'Lost' Again

Interview With A Robot
The New Mission
Old 'Space'; New 'Space'

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Written by Alicia Potter with graphic design by Jerry Donnelly