Robert A. Burns
1944 - 2004
I received the sad news that Robert A. Burns, legendary art director, production designer, actor,
makeup artist, director, writer, special effects coordinator and dear
friend, passed away on June 1st in his home.
Bob had apparently posted a farewell
message on his web site beforehand.
HERE to read that page.
The times that my wife and I spent
with him at appearances and the conversations by telephone were too few
and far between. He was wonderfully humorous and kind at all times.
He will be greatly missed by his family, friends and fans around the
My sincere condolences go to his
family. It's simply impossible to put into a few words the sum of
all of Bob Burns or the sadness we feel.
Here are a few personal photos of
Bob at home being, well, just being Bob!
A eulogy for Bob Burns was read
for him by a close friend of Bob's on Saturday, June 5th, 2004 in Bob's back yard to his
closest friends and family who could attend.
HERE to download the eulogy
in Microsoft Word format.
Here are a few thoughts about Bob from
Sequin Gazette did a write-up on the events of Bob's gathering at his house
and the eulogy that was delivered.
Here's a link to Bloody Disgusting.Com that has a few comments about Bob.
Here's the last interview of Bob done by
Jason Stewart of
|The following e-mail is one that I
received from a very close friend of Bob's. I think this person's
perspective helps to bring home to us the kind of person Bob was.
...Nice tribute page. Well done. I like
what you said about it being impossible to say in a few words all of what
Bob is. His executor, an attorney down in Seguin, is probably choking too
trying to write an obit as he tries to get his mind around all the things
that Bob was into and how many millions of lives he touched...Bob intended
mailing letters to those closest to him. I don't know if that means 12
letters or 200. He didn't tell me. They should begin arriving today. I was
the only one he told about the inoperable cancer and his intentions to
clock out before he started to suffer, so I had weeks to reminisce and
laugh with him and say my goodbyes. I was sworn to secrecy though so my
heart goes out to you and to others in the Bob network who are going to be
taken completely by surprise. If it's of any help, Bob was resolute and
content with his decision and was determined to be energized and happy to
the end. I was talking to him on the phone 3 to 5 times a day for the last
couple of weeks. Memorial Day afternoon we had a good time recalling our
favorite funniest movie moments, just a few hours before he made his
decision. I had hoped we had more weeks together to celebrate his life but
the last message he left me on the answering machine indicated that he had
wrapped up his affairs and had made the sudden decision that waiting
around further seemed pointless. He died content and at a time that he
chose and that suited him. That's to be envied. A loud, tacky, tasteless
celebratory party is probably in order, probably a costume party at that
or at least Hawaiian shirts obligatory. I hope someone in Austin will
Here's an article that appeared in the Seguin Gazette.
The following is copied from the Austin American
Statesman newspaper. June 3, 2004
'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' art director dead at 60
Robert Burns known for his on-screen mayhem, off-screen hijinks.
'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' art director, Robert Burns was known for his on-screen
mayhem, off-screen hijinks.
Wednesday, June 2, 2004
Robert Burns surely knew that the first paragraph of his obituary would mention
that he was the art director of the '70s horror movie classic "The Texas
But it would have irked him because there was so much more to him, though all of
it was quirky.
Burns, 60, was found dead at his home in Seguin on Tuesday morning by police,
who are investigating it as a suicide, Lt. Mike Watts said.
About a month ago, Burns, who lived most of his life in Austin, was diagnosed
with terminal cancer, his friend Jan Lewis said.
"He knew he didn't have long, and he did not want to go through or even attempt
horrible cancer treatment," Lewis said. She said Burns kept his illness a secret
from most people because "he wanted people around him to be happy."
Burns went out in the wry and irreverent style his friends had grown to expect.
On his Web site, www.Robert-A-Burns.com, he left a "Farewell Address to the
Troops," which includes a photo of himself stretched out in front of a mock
tombstone with the name "Burns" on it. Along with the photo, Burns left a
goodbye message to his friends.
"I've never understood why people would stay in the theater after it became
obvious that the rest of the movie would not be enjoyable," Burns wrote. "Due to
physical and psychological reasons too tedious to bore anyone with, it became
obvious that the rest of my movie would not be enjoyable, so I left the theater
(me and Elvis, you know.)"
Burns graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in drama. He did
special effects for several movies, including "The Howling," and worked as an
actor on occasion. He starred in "Confessions of a Serial Killer" and had lesser
parts in a Robert Duvall film, "The Stars Fell on Henrietta," and in a Farrah
Fawcett TV movie, "The Substitute Wife."
But Burns was best known for being a creative and likeable eccentric, a man who
helped make Austin weird before the expression became a cliché.
From the wacky Christmas cards to the outrageous Halloween costumes he created,
such as the one that made him look like a baby being carried around by a French
maid, you never knew what you would get from Burns, although you knew it would
be unique, like the send-up song he wrote to the tune of the '80s hit "Bette
Burns' version was called "She's Got Colonel Sanders Thighs."
"Her eyes are Big Mac brown; her hair is like French fries.
She's blown up like the clown. She's got Colonel Sanders thighs."
Burns would perform as the Burns Family Trio, a costume he made that consisted
of himself flanked by a couple of female mannequins.
"It was a couple of made-up sisters (Powder Burns and Heart Burns)," said Austin
freelance writer Ernest Sharpe Jr., a friend. "One of his jokes was that his
sisters, without him, they didn't have a leg to stand on."
"Somebody had to help him get into this thing; it was quite elaborate," said
Morris Burns of Midland, one of Burns' brothers. "He'd tell corny jokes and
pantomime to some old country and western songs. He took that to some nursing
homes and put on a show for 'em."
Burns requested that he be cremated and that his ashes be scattered over the
creek behind his house in Seguin. In his later years, Burns spent a great deal
of his time restoring an old river walk that had been built on Walnut Branch in
Burns once lived in South Austin in a house he decorated with some of the props
he built for "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Perhaps the most famous was "The Arm
Chair," a chair with prosthetic arms attached to the chair's regular arms.
Burns was also talented with tools and could remodel just about anything.
"He could build anything just out of wood and wire and stuff that he scrounged,"
said Pete Szilagyi of Fort Davis, who put out a publication called Free & Easy
with Burns in Austin in the '70s. "He was a brilliant writer. He used to crank
out movie scripts like crazy. None of 'em ever really got produced.
"When he joked, it was usually in the form of a pun, and it was usually a
masterful pun," Sharpe recalled. "He had this enormous facility of the language.
"I was carrying a rug out of the house to the cleaners, and Bob passed me, and
he said, 'Stop that man. He's trying to hook a rug.' I've only known two
original people in my life, and Bob was one of them."
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Burns' home at 206 S.
Travis St. in Seguin.
Burns is survived by three brothers, Morris, Ross Burns of Alpine and Fred Burns
of Calgary, Alberta; and his father, Ed Burns of Austin.
firstname.lastname@example.org; (512) 445-3606
Here's an article that appeared in the Austin Chronicle on Bob.
© 2004 Tim Harden email@example.com