Thursday, January 08, 2009

Bob Wilkins 1932 - 2009

In the fall of 1977 we were living in Piedmont, CA, a tiny bedroom community next door to Oakland. I was in preschool.

One day, picking me up from school, my Old Man was chatting with one of the other dads who was in a big hurry, "We've got to hustle home in time for Captain Cosmic." His son was practically pulling him out of the room.

"What's Captain Cosmic?", the Old Man asked.

"Oh, Captain Cosmic," (cue full on where-HAVE-you-been inflection) the guy said. "It's this new kid show on channel 2 starring the same guy from Creature Features, Bob Wilkins. But instead of the glasses and cigar, he dresses up like one of the guys from Star Wars and shows these science fiction kids shows. It's on every day at 4 PM, we can't ever miss it."

So that afternoon at 3:59 PM, I tumbled down the stairs into our basement, which was our adapted playroom, complete with television set, record player, Star Wars posters, and crib for my baby sister.

This is what I watched:

Oh, it gets better.

In addition to having in-studio guests like Anthony Daniels (C3P0) and Nichelle Nichols (Uhura from Star Trek), the main content of the show was old Japanese tokusatsu ("special effects") shows from the 60's.

Ultraman was my favorite...

But Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot was right up there...

We even got to send away for official Captain Cosmic decoder cards. Just like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, I remember coming home every day asking if my decoder card had arrived. Finally one day it did:

It was sweet. It wasn't even laminated, but who cared? I wrote my name on the front and it had a unique serial number on the back. Every day there'd be a different code and we'd scribble it down. It was never quite as lame as "Don't forget to drink your Ovaltine", but it was usually something like "May the force be with you."

One day tragedy struck. The card got left in my pants pocket and it went through the wash. My Cosmic Crypto-Code Card was turned into a piece of mush.

The show was big part of my afternoons for at least a couple of years. It finally went off the air in 1979 in 1980.

After fighting Alzheimer's for many years, Bob Wilkins, the man behind the mask, died yesterday at 76.

I'm really sad. I never even met the man. But I guess anyone who's a part of your childhood memories is important. Especially a guy who wears a cape and a helmet and has a robot named 2T2.

The Colonel says, "At ease, Captain."


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