A 1975 Interview with
ROBERT "BIG BUCK" MAFFEI (Part 1)

By Bruce Fedow
February 25, 2006

Before you read this interview a little background information is in order. Around 1975 I was publishing a modest fanzine called Lost in Space Forever that had subscribers all over North America and a West coast member, Keith Atkinson, had the good fortune to somehow run into this gentleman, a true veteran of screen and television, Robert Maffei. Big Buck, as he liked to be called, was in films like Atlantis, the Lost Continent and television series like The Danny Thomas show, Bonanza, and even the original Star Trek series as the spear-throwing giant in "The Galileo Seven." He consented to sit down with Keith for a cassette-taped interview. Unfortunately the tape is long gone but my transcribed version was saved for posterity and the result is this very interesting, very unusual interview. What is true is that, however briefly, Maffei was cast as the one-eyed monster in the Lost in Space pilot film "No Place to Hide. " Anything else he says, from his assertions that he saved Irwin Allen from copyright infringement, had the scoop on the original fourth television network (run by Mickey Rooney!) and knew how all the pilot special effects scenes were done, I leave to your interpretation.

Remember that this was 1975 and no one in LIS fandom had ever seen the unaired pilot yet (this was before DVD and even VHS!) so the questions Keith asks can be forgiven. Whatever you decide, it's a great interview so let's activate the Time Tunnel and go back to 31 years ago for this fantastic Q and A session!

Q: Do you know what episode the cyclops was in?
BB: It was the pilot is what it was.

Q: They had done the pilot without Dr. Smith and the robot...
BB: Basically the story was they were on a lost planet and that they were out searching for an area because the area they landed in started to turn sub-zero and they wanted to get to a place where they could survive. And they came across me! I was considered fifty feet tall or better and I had one eye. I have a statue of it-I'm the only one who has a statue of it. Aurora started making him but for some reason the order was cancelled.


Atlantis, The Lost Continent


Star Trek

Q: Do you use the name Dawson Palmer?
BB: Who? No!

Q: I have the presskit to the TV show-it has a little on the pilot. Some parts of the pilot that were never shown-like there was a mid-air battle between the father and the one-eyed monster.
BB: No there was no mid-air battle-the scene was that the monster reached into a cave where the Major and Robinson was but couldn't reach 'em. Then out of nowhere came the young boy with the laser raygun and he hit me with the raygun which caused me to fall.

Q: According to this presskit there were three battles with giants.
BB: Well there were other giants in other episodes. You see they re-used the costume of the one-eyed monster in a normal size (The Keeper) but I was not involved with that. You see, Irwin Allen had the last say-so on who was hired for all the pictures-he was the creator, producer and director at 20th Century Fox.

Q: Our club did a lot of research on the pilot film that was filmed without Smith and the robot called Space Family Robinson.
BB: There was a comic book that came out called Space Family Robinson and because of this comic book-when I brought it into the office the next day-I was to be fitted for the costume (that day and) I showed it to Irwin and he just about flipped his lid-he says, "What the heck! I'm gonna call this Space Family Robinson now I gotta call it Lost in Space! They had to change the whole system all around. You see, they didn't want to get a lawsuit.

Q: From Gold Key Comics-
BB: Yeah that's right. But what he (Allen) didn't know was Gold Key was copying him...because they turned around then called (their comic) Lost in Space-because I have several books of that. In other words, Irwin Allen made a deal with Gold Key and they started to make Lost in Space comic books.

Q: I have here that the one-eyed giant was made from the bark of about thirty palm trees...
BB: More than thirty palm trees! I would say it was made first out of a union undersuit. Well they found it from one of their old pictures and they had to put it together. They had a zipper installed in the back of it and I slipped into it from my neck down to where my buttocks starts-that's where the zipper was installed. I had to stand there in the costume shop while they put this palm leaf stuff on me.
BB: There was another man who did the stunts out on location name of Lamar Lundy-a football player-but I did the original "dress-up-" I did all the make-up, body and the mask and everything and did a couple of scene shots. Then out on location Lamar took my place. I wouldn't do the falls or the stunts-I'm a motion picture actor not a stuntman.

Q: I have his name right here. He played for the L.A. Rams.
BB: That's right, he played football. So they had to (pad the suit) for Lamar 'cause he wasn't as big as me. See I was huge-I am still-well, I was huge but I've lost about sixty-five pounds. Well I never got credit for that Lost in Space (segment). It seems that Irwin Allen and I had a little-uh-'talk' and we had a 'little problem.'

Q: And you never did get credit at all.
BB: No I never did.

Q: About how much did you get paid for that part?
BB: That one part? I think it was close to one thousand dollars but I'm not sure because of what they call 'day pay-' how bit parts get paid. I was a pain in the neck.

Q: I see. Were you on any of Allen's other shows?
BB: No-but I was on the Voyage set where we took some publicity pictures. I walked in on Richard Basehart and David Hedison and they were sorta scared when they saw the costume-and I was wearing feet that looked like chicken feet! That really was a character! I've never had a picture of it but a friend of mine has a mde-up photo of it, and I have a statue of it (but) that's all I ever got. And I know that Fox has pictures of me and I've never been able to get 'em. Eventually they're gonna have to claim credit for the man who was fitted for the costume. It'll come out.

Q: In "Giants in the Earth," there was one scene where the Giant was with the Chariot.
BB: Oh yeah there was the Chariot in there-yeah like I said all the scenes on location were done with Lamar. What they had done was they had only filmed my still shots in the costume and they put me up high-and I'm afraid of heights-I always have been. I fell thirty feet one time flat on my back and I still have back troubles. But I did almost all of that-he threw the rocks (at the Chariot)-he did all that stuff in a place (in) California where it was 130 degrees in the shade.

Q: Red Rock Canyon?
BB: No no it wasn't done there the only place that looks like that planet is in Troma.

Q: When they shot you on the rocks with the Chariot did they use a smaller model of the Chariot?
BB: No, what they did was they took the pics of Lamar and I and they super-imposed them on a giant-like a drive-in movie screen and they spliced it together-that's how it was done.

Q: Now the flying belt sequence-I have some bubblegum cards showing Guy Williams flying-
BB: That is the original flying suit that was used in the Space Program-that was the flying unit-they loaned it to Irwin Allen but basically it was a man from NASA that did the flying-not the Major or Guy Williams doing it-that was a double-that flying belt is a secret-they don't let nobody really use it.

Q: And there were three encounters with the Cyclops-one with the flying belt?
BB: One was with Robinson and the Major and one was later when they were in the Chariot and they used the larger laser rifle-when they knocked him (the Cyclops) down cold.

Q: I got your name confused with a guy named Dawson Palmer because the "Giants in the Earth" credits list Dawson (not you!)
BB: I've never heard of the gentleman. It could've been Lamar's stage name. I have only seen the series on television once four or five months ago. They don't show Lost in Space here anymore.

Q: Irwin Allen is working on a couple of new projects.
BB: I will not work for him again. Not unless he gives me an airtight contract. No business deals with Irwin Allen unless it's cash in advance.

Q: Do you know any reason that the series should have changed ? It started out serious and then it turns into sort of a comedy.
BB: Well I can't understand why Irwin Allen ever put Jonathan Harris in there in the first place-he was more of a nemesis to them and I guess that's the way it was. He was sort of the agent for another country that was supposed to kill the ideal (family) because the other country was going to try to get out there first, and basically I guess the other country was Russia.


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