Colorado movie gunman James Holmes sentenced to 12 lifetimes in prison

Condemning the movie massacre gunman to 12 life sentences and the maximum 3,318 years in prison for his rampage in a midnight screening of a Batman film, a Colorado judge on Wednesday said evil and mental illness were not mutually exclusive.

“It is the court's intention that the defendant never set foot in free society again … If there was ever a case that warranted the maximum sentences, this is the case,” Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour said

“The defendant does not deserve any sympathy.”

Survivors and relatives of those killed clapped and cheered as Samour then ordered deputies to remove James Holmes from his courtroom, and the gunman was led away in shackles.

The 27-year-old was found guilty by a jury last month of murdering 12 people and wounding 70 in his rampage inside the packed screening a multiplex in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

The jury did not reach a unanimous decision on whether Holmes should be executed. That meant the former neuroscience graduate student, who had pleaded insanity, got a dozen automatic life sentences with no possibility of parole.

Samour still had to sentence Holmes on attempted murder counts and an explosives charge.

Condemning the shooter to the longest term he could issue, the judge said Holmes decided to “quit” in life, and that he set out to kill “as many innocents as possible.”

Samour said whatever illness Holmes may have suffered, there was overwhelming evidence that a significant part of his conduct had been driven by “moral obliquity, mental depravity … anger, hatred, revenge, or similar evil conditions.”

He said “the $64 million question” that still lingered was whether the defendant was afflicted by a mental condition, disease or defect, and if so, to what extent.

“We tend to like simple answers, but maybe it's not so simple,” Samour said. “And maybe that's because we're not where we need to be in the fields of psychiatry and psychology.”


After two days of often tearful and sometimes angry testimony from victims, District Attorney George Brauchler had called on Tuesday for Holmes to be given every day of the longest possible sentence.

The lead prosecutor also said he wished the court could order that the defendant spend the rest of his days in solitary confinement, surrounded by photos of the people he killed, but that it could not.

Samour said he had heard some people bemoan that the gunman would luxuriate in prison.

But he said he thought one of the victims summed it up best when he said being behind bars would be no picnic.

The judge said people could focus on the free food and medical care Holmes will receive. Or, he said, they could see the glass as half-full and consider he will be locked up for the rest of his days with serious, dangerous criminals.

“That doesn't sound a like a four-star hotel to me,” Samour said.

Defense lawyers say they have no plans to appeal, and the judge said that meant they had “truly completed” the trial in a surprisingly short period of just over three years.

“That's unheard of time for a death penalty case, especially one of this magnitude,” Samour said.

And the judge praised the victims, who he said had shown tremendous courage and grit, some of whom were disappointed that Holmes was not sentenced to death.

“You know your healing is not tied to the defendant's fate,” Samour said.

“Even despite all the pain and suffering you've been through, you're not quitting, and you're hanging in there, and you're fighting. You have my admiration.”

Colorado movie gunman Holmes to be formally sentenced to life

Colorado movie massacre gunman James Holmes will be sentenced to life with no chance of parole at a three-day hearing that begins on Monday following his conviction last month for murdering 12 people and wounding 70 in his rampage.

While the murder convictions carry mandatory life sentences with no parole, Colorado law requires that Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour formally impose the penalties. Samour must also decide the punishment for the other charges Holmes was convicted of.

A jury found Holmes guilty of 165 counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder and explosive charges stemming from the July 20, 2012, mass shooting inside a Denver-area multiplex during a midnight screening of a Batman movie.

The 27-year-old onetime neuroscience graduate student had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and prosecutors had sought the death penalty.

The nine-woman, three-man jury could not unanimously agree to condemn Holmes to death during the trial's penalty phase. Under Colorado law, he must automatically serve 12 consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.

About 100 people are set to give victim impact statements at this week's hearing, the Arapahoe County District Attorney's Office said in a statement. The victims cannot address Holmes directly.

After the testimony from victims, lead prosecutor George Brauchler will present his sentencing argument, the statement said.

Defense lawyers can present mitigation evidence on the attempted murder convictions, but it is unclear if they will do so. It is also unknown whether Holmes will make a statement before he is sentenced. He declined to speak in his own defense throughout the earlier proceedings.

The California native could ultimately be sentenced to a maximum of 3,318 years in prison, in addition to the mandatory life sentences, prosecutors said.

Colorado judge accepts insanity plea from accused theater gunman

Accused Colorado theater gunman James Holmes, who could face execution if convicted of killing 12 moviegoers last summer, entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity on Tuesday, and a judge accepted his plea.

Holmes, 25, is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder. He is accused of killing 12 people and wounding dozens more in a gun rampage inside a suburban Denver cinema during a midnight screening of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” last July.

Holmes, seated with his lawyers, said little during the latest proceedings in Arapahoe County District Court, but he appeared attentive and answered “no” when the judge asked him whether he had any questions about the ramifications of his plea.

The judge, Carlos Samour Jr., had delayed ruling on whether to accept such an insanity plea until legal questions surrounding the matter were resolved.

Among those issues was a challenge to the state's insanity-defense law by public defenders. They argued that a provision of the statute that requires a defendant mounting an insanity defense to submit to an examination by court-appointed psychiatrists is unconstitutional.

Compelling a defendant to divulge information that could be used against him at trial and at sentencing violates his right against self-incrimination, they argued. But Samour upheld the law last week, setting the stage for Tuesday's hearing.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the former University of Colorado-Denver graduate student if he is convicted.

Public defender Daniel King said in court last month that defense psychiatrists had obtained a complete diagnosis on Holmes' mental illness.

Twice since his arrest, Holmes has been hospitalized, his lawyers said, once for apparent self-inflicted head injuries and again when he was held in restraints in a psychiatric ward.

At a preliminary hearing in January, before a judge ordered the defendant to stand trial, investigators testified that Holmes spent months amassing firearms and bomb making materials in preparation for committing mass murder.

At the same time he was assembling his arsenal, Holmes failed his oral examinations and was told by a university professor that perhaps he was not a good fit for his neuroscience doctoral program, prosecutors said.

Also expected to be decided at Tuesday's hearing is the issue surrounding a package Holmes sent to a university psychiatrist who treated him that was delivered to a university mail room two days after the killings.

A notebook included in the package sent to Dr. Lynne Fenton reportedly contained details of a planned massacre. Holmes' lawyers have argued that the package is protected by physician-patient privilege and should not be turned over to prosecutors.

Defense attorneys submitted numerous pre-trial pleadings that were made public on Tuesday, including a notice to the judge that they plan to seek a change of venue for the trial on grounds that pretrial publicity could prejudice the jury. They also asked the judge to sequester the jury.

Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Steve Gorman, Cynthia Johnston and Grant McCool

Kippa Man settles lawsuits over Spider-Man and Batman

A Jerusalem shop settled out of court with two comic book companies that charged it sells unlicensed kippahs bearing the images of Superman and Spider-Man.

Avi Binyamin, owner of the Kippa Man store on Ben Yehuda Street in central Jerusalem, will pay Marvel Comics and Warner Brothers $17,000 each for the unauthorized use of their superheroes' images. The companies had sued for about $27,000 in damages.

Numerous shops along Ben Yehuda sell merchandise featuring Batman, Spider-Man and other characters, as well as college mascots and professional sports teams.

“They make them in China, I just bring them,” Binyamin told The Jerusalem Post in September after the Marvel Comics lawsuit was filed, adding, “There are 20 stores on this street, they all sell the same thing.”

Lawyers for the two companies told the Israeli daily Maariv that they will file lawsuits against other small stores in Israel that sell their characters' images without authorization.

L.A. camp gets unwanted attention in wake of Colorado shooting

Colorado shooting suspect James Holmes’ reported ties to Camp Max Straus have led to unwanted attention for Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles and its camp, its director said.

“I think the attention is unfortunate,” Randy Schwab, CEO of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles and Camp Max Straus, said during a July 23 phone interview.

Following last week’s shooting rampage in Aurora, Colo., media reported that Holmes, 24, worked as a counselor at Glendale-based Camp Max Straus during summer 2008. The camp and its parent organization have found themselves trying to avoid negative attention while coming to terms with the knowledge that Holmes — who is suspected of killing 12 people and injuring 58 — was once responsible for a group of approximately 10 children.

On July 20, Holmes allegedly walked into a movie theater during a midnight screening of the Batman finale, “The Dark Knight Rises,” and, armed with multiple weapons, began shooting. He was arrested immediately following the incident and is currently being held in a Colorado detention facility. Holmes made his first court appearance on July 23.

Holmes grew up in the upscale northwest San Diego neighborhood of Rancho Peñasquitos and attended a local Presbyterian church with his family, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Holmes’ connection to Camp Max Straus was discovered through a resume found on employment Web site following the shooting.

Situated on 100-plus scenic acres in the Verdugo Mountains and at the end of a cul-de-sac in a quiet residential neighborhood, Max Straus serves a primarily non-Jewish population of low-income and disadvantaged youth ages 7-12. Mentoring organization Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles owns and operates the nonsectarian camp.

Director Schwab has resisted being interviewed, instead referring reporters to a written statement confirming Holmes was a cabin counselor at Camp Max Straus for eight weeks during the summer of 2008.

“Camp Max Straus is accredited and adheres to rigorous standards to ensure the safety and security of its campers and staff,” the statement says. “All employees of the camp are subjected to a thorough screening process.”

On July 23, NBC Channel 4 News shot footage for a live segment from outside of Max Straus. The news station’s van had been parked outside the camp for approximately five hours, said NBC general assignment reporter Cary Berglund, who was on the scene.

[Related: Former Jewish camp staffer worked closely with James Holmes]

Berglund arrived at the camp hoping to interview camp staff, but counselors declined interview requests and Schwab did not speak to reporters. Two security guards patrolled the entrance, forbidding reporters from walking onto the property, and handed out copies of Schwab’s written statement.

The camp is currently in session, and young children could be seen walking amid the cabins.

Speaking to The Journal, Berglund said that Max Straus doesn’t deserve negative attention, even though it’s “chilling that somebody like [Holmes] was actually a counselor at a kids camp.”

“Somebody like that could be anywhere at any time,” Berglund said. “I don’t think it reflects badly on the camp. It’s just kind of an eerie addition to what the story is.”

A man who worked with Holmes at Max Straus told CNN that he was a “nice guy” who worked well with children.

“He was a little isolated, but he was, you know, a nice guy,” Gabriel Menchaca said.

The attention that the camp has received is surprising and undesirable, according to a former camp staff member who had worked with Holmes.

“I’m looking at us all over TMZ,” the former camp staff member said on July 22, speaking to The Journal on condition of anonymity. “There’s my picture, it’s crazy.” 

“We had a great summer in 2008, and we don’t want this backlash to spoil it,” the former staffer added. “It’s unfortunate that they’re screaming about the camp all over the news.”

Denver-area Jews mourn, seek to help massacre victims

As Colorado and the nation tried to absorb the tragic massacre in a suburban Denver movie theater, local synagogues conducted special prayers and the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado launched a response fund for the victims and their families.

Early Friday morning, James Eagen Holmes allegedly walked into a movie theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora presenting a midnight showing of the new “Batman” movie, “Dark Knight Rises,” and shot to death 12 people, wounding 58 others. Among the dead was a 6-year-old girl.

Holmes, 24, appeared in court Monday for arraignment on murder charges. He reportedly worked one year at a summer camp operated by the Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Times. He is not Jewish.

Doug Seserman, president and CEO of the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado, said a fund for the victims would be launched by Wednesday. The federation also is planning a blood drive at the Bonfils Blood Center, the main facility for blood donations in Denver, he said.

[Related: Former Jewish camp staffer worked closely with James Holmes]

“As Jews, especially with our relationship with Israel, we understand terrorism very directly, and this is a way for us to show others that we understand the tragic nature of this event and want to do whatever we can to help provide some level of comfort,” Seserman told JTA.

Seserman said that after the state’s recent wildfires, the federation received about 500 donations worth about $75,000, He said 25 percent of the money came from outside the state.

“We now know that we will have the same kind of support from the Jewish world,” Seserman said. “We as a Jewish community mobilize well in times of crisis whether it is a war in Israel, Hurricane Katrina or a tsunami in Southeast Asia or a wildfire in Colorado. We have this demonstrated ability to mobilize in times of crisis, and here is another one we face and will overcome.”

Rabbi Bruce Dollin, president of the Rocky Mountain Rabbinical Council and senior rabbi at the Congregation Hebrew Educational Alliance in Denver, said that on Shabbat many area congregations recited prayers for the victims.

“It was an incredible shocking and stunning tragedy,” he said. “Everyone in the Jewish community is feeling like the rest of the community; we can’t believe it happened. Life is so fragile and can end in a split second.”

On Sunday, Congregation Beth haMedrosh Hagagdol-Beth Joseph, a Modern Orthodox synagogue in Denver, plans a moment of silence for the victims to coincide with the observance of Tisha b’Av, the date on the Hebrew calendar associated with some of Jewish history’s greatest calamities.

“The message of Tisha B’av is that despite all the tragedies, the persecutions, despite all the suffering we still look forward to a brighter future and a better tomorrow,” said Rabbi Ben Greenberg, the congregation’s spiritual leader. “We see that there can be a future despite all the darkness.”

Ruth Cohen, executive director of Temple Sinai, a Reform congregation, said that in addition to having a discussion about the massacre on Friday night, parents were handed a sheet on how to speak about the incident with their younger children.

“It was emotional,” Cohen said. “There was also the bombing of the Israeli tourists and this hit home for me. I have kids who certainly have gone out to midnight movies.”

Dollin said that many people are participating in communitywide events such as donating to blood banks or attending vigils.

“I don’t think we’ve come together as a Jewish community, but as a general community,” Dollin said. “Many of us have gone to the same theater, and so we are feeling the connection to the general neighborhood. We are not just Jews here; we are fully members of our general community.” 

Greenberg attended the prayer vigil Sunday at the Aurora Municipal Center to honor the victims of the massacre.

“It was really powerful to be with crowds of people directing their anxiety, frustration and confusion to God,” Greenberg said. “As a Jewish member of society and as a rabbi, it is critical to say that we hurt also and that the loss of a life of a 6-year-old child tears our heart as much as it tears anyone’s heart.”

Former Jewish camp staffer worked closely with James Holmes

In the summer of 2008, when James Holmes was 20, he was known as a quiet counselor at Camp Max Straus in Los Angeles County, liked by his campers.

As details have emerged about the background of the now 24-year-old suspected shooter at the midnight massacre at an Aurora, Colo. showing of a Batman sequel on July 20, an unwanted media spotlight has fallen on the 110 acre camp in the Verdugo Mountains run by Jewish Big Brothers and sisters of Los Angeles.

“I’m looking at us all over TMZ,” said one former staff member contacted by The Jewish Journal. “There’s my picture, it’s crazy.”

In an exclusive interview with The Jewish Journal, the staff member, who asked not to be named, confirmed what many friends, colleagues and former neighbors of Holmes have said: He was decent and unremarkable.

“He was a quiet guy,” said the former staffer, who was in close contact with Holmes. “I never would have suspected a thing. He just kept to himself.”

At Camp Max Straus, Holmes was in charge of a group of 10 boys, ages 7 to 10.

“He never got in trouble,” recalled the staffer, who added that there were never any complaints about him from his campers.  While Camp Max Straus activities do not include shooting sports, Holmes did engage in archery with his campers.

The former staffer said Holmes did not seem to hang out with other counselors his age, however.

“It’s not that they didn’t like him,” the staffer said. “It’s just that he wasn’t very social.”

Holmes, the staffer said, was not Jewish.  During the summer, Camp Max Straus serves a primarily non-Jewish population of low-income and disadvantaged youths through ” title=”Chanuka Camp” target=”_blank”>Chanuka Camp.

Since the connection to the camp was revealed on Saturday, July 21, staffers and volunteers have been fielding numerous calls about their now-infamous former counselor, and the group has been working to avoid any implication that the long-running camp is not a safe and secure place. It has had a long track record of improving children’s lives.

The former staffer stressed to The Jewish Journal that nothing in Holmes recent past, even his most recent days, tipped off authorities to imminent danger.

“We had a great summer in 2008,” the staffer told The Jewish Journal, “and we don’t want this backlash to spoil it. It’s unfortunate that they’re screaming about the camp all over the news.”

Comic book artist Gene Colan dies at 84

Comic book artist Gene Colan, a “towering figure” and “one of the giants of the comic book industry,” who drew characters from Batman to Dracula to Howard the Duck for nearly seven decades, died June 23 at 84.

Colan drew for the two mainstays of the North American comic book industry, Marvel and DC, as well as others, and worked closely with Marvel’s legendary Stan Lee on characters such as Daredevil; Falcon, one of the first black superheroes; the aforementioned Howard the Duck; and others. Over his long career Colan also worked at various times on Batman, Wonder Woman, Iron Man and others.

Colan’s work was described as different from most comic artists, for he “preferred a realistic look that emphasized texture and fluidity: the drape of a hero’s cape, tilt of a head, the arc of an oncoming fist.”

Comic artist and writer J.M. DeMatteis said Colan’s Howard the Duck and Tomb of Dracula were “two of the greatest comics of the 70’s… Colan at his finest: radiant with mood, texture, humanity and a reality all its own. Gene was totally unlike any other artist working in comics at the time—he was a genre unto himself; in the mainstream but with one foot always outside of it—and there’s still no one who can touch him.” Click here for a lengthy comics fan’s retrospective of Colan’s work, with many images of his art.

Tom Field, co-author of the book “Secrets in the Shadows: The Art & Life of Gene Colan,” said “he was referred to as a painter with a pencil.”

Colan was born Eugene Jules Cohen in New York and raised in Manhattan. He studied at the Art Students League of New York and served in the Philippines with the Army Air Forces in World War II. He joined Timely Comics, the precursor to Marvel, after the war, where he drew Captain America, Captain Marvel, Iron Man and Sub-Mariner.

Writer Mark Evanier said fans consider Colan’s work in the 1960s and 1970s on Daredevil, Howard the Duck, Tomb of Dracula, Doctor Strange, Iron Man and others as “the defining versions” of those characters.

Evanier said that Colan was “a charming, self-effacing gentleman who was genuinely moved when fans tried to tell him how good he was and how much joy his work had given them.” In recent years, Colan had glaucoma, and was nearly blind in one eye and limited vision in the other, but continued to work.

Comic book writer Clifford Meth, who helped Colan with his finances and personal affairs in the last few years after the death of Colan’s second wife, offered an emotional elegy to him in a recent blog post: “Gene taught by example the importance of being happy for happy sake. He was what Pirke Avos characterized as a rich man. He was happy with his lot.”

Before Colan’s death, Meth posted excerpts from a conversation he had with Colan at his hospice: “I’m not beyond fear. I’m fearful about death. Everything that you ever wanted to do just goes up in smoke. The idea of being put in the ground or put under the ground is frightening. Most people don’t want to talk about it… But I’ve decided to change my way of thinking. What they’re telling me is not acceptable to me. I’ve got a tumor and it’s cancer. And that’s it. But I’m thinking that whatever you are thinking can come true. If it’s not a selfish thought. I lean heavily on G-d now. I wasn’t always like this. There isn’t anything I have to be afraid of. Love is the answer. And the way to get there is by trying to find good in someone you don’t necessarily like. Prayer can’t be selfish. You don’t pray for a yacht or money—you work hard if you want those things. But if you pray for unselfish things… And if you’re looking for an answer, just ask. You’ll get the answer if the question is worthy of an answer.”

Why the Museum of Modern Art’s curators wanted to meet my husband

When the curators from Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) came calling two years ago, my husband, Ron Magid, had prepared for them a veritable smorgasbord of art by the gothic filmmaker Tim Burton. Among the fare sprawled across our dining room table was a pointy-eared cowl from “Batman,” Jack Skellington storyboards from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and puppets from “The Corpse Bride,” whose ghoulishly charming heroine sprouts a maggot from her eye. 

At the time, the MoMA curators, Ron Magliozzi and Jenny He, were on a global treasure hunt for work to include in “Tim Burton,” a career retrospective that would become the third-most-attended show ever at the museum — and is now on display, through Halloween, in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s (LACMA) new Resnick Pavilion.

Magliozzi and He had tracked down my husband through an archivist at Warner Bros. who knew Ron as a collector and purveyor of high-end movie memorabilia, specializing in horror and science fiction. To us, the prospect of entertaining curators from one of the world’s most prestigious museums sounded daunting, especially since, as Ron put it, “We’re not exactly Norton Simon.” 

Yet Magliozzi and He — who arrived with another museum colleague — did not prove to be art snobs. Rather, with the enthusiasm of youngsters in a macabre kind of candy store, they admired Ron’s Burton memorabilia, as well as the grisly décor in his office. They even made a faux-horrified remark or two about the 1933 “King Kong” shield that was carelessly stashed in a corner. 

But, to our surprise, they bypassed the cowls and the corpse puppets and began snapping photographs of a rather unobtrusive (or so we thought) prop from Burton’s 2001 remake of “Planet of the Apes,” that was sandwiched between some looming “Apes” warrior manikins. The “scarecrow head,” as Magliozzi calls it, is an approximately 3-foot-tall rustic structure, whose skeletal, simian visage sprouts shocks of twiglike hair. 

Entrance to MoMA’s Special Exhibition Gallery. Entrance designed by TwoSeven Inc.. Photo by Michael Locassiano

“That wonderful scarecrow head is very ‘Burtonesque,’ Magliozzi told me recently on the phone from London, where he is now researching an exhibition on the stop-motion animators, the Brothers Quay. “It’s almost like a fright, but it’s also appealing at the same time. It ties in with Tim’s visual theme of the carnivalesque: a liberating mix of the grotesque with the humorous in defiance of the status quo.” 

As it turns out,  we are one of only a few private collectors represented in the exhibition; the more than 700 items on display reflect not only Burton’s films but also his non-cinematic artwork. The curators had intended to focus the show on his movies, props and such, but decided to spotlight his two-dimensional work when they discovered Burton had already catalogued thousands of his drawings, dating from childhood and including numerous personal projects, in his archives in London.

Ron’s scarecrow head is one of relatively few props in the exhibition; he came to own it in a fashion anomalous for one in his profession, and it was, essentially, a gift. Actually, the head at one time had been for sale at a price of several thousand dollars, but hadn’t sold, and the owner, a friend of Ron’s, didn’t want to bother with picking up the enormous artifact at the auction house’s remote warehouse. He told Ron to feel free to take the piece — and so Ron did — although he was disappointed he would have to leave the work’s 20-foot-high base behind because he had no room to store it.

At LACMA, visitors enter the show through the mouth of a giant monster, which also sprouts twiggy hair, inspired by a film project Burton hasn’t yet brought to life. A lolling red-carpet tongue leads into the galleries, which display drawings, cartoons, short films, props, sketchbooks, ephemera and storyboards organized in three sections: work Burton created in response to his alienated childhood in Burbank; pieces he rendered while attending CalArts and as an animator at Walt Disney Studios; and works completed after his first cinematic success, “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” which in 1985 launched his career as Hollywood’s reigning morbid auteur.

Tim Burton “Untitled” (Edward Scissorhands), 1990 Private Collection. Edward Scissorhands © Twentieth Century Fox. © 2011 Tim Burton

Burton’s inspiration often returns to what Magliozzi calls “the Burbank muse,” the suburb as a mind-numbing place the young artist “hated and acted against and survived through his creativity.” Likewise, Burton’s protagonists, like Burton himself, tend to be sensitive misfits and misunderstood youths battling a repressive, cookie-cutter world, from the sad-eyed Edward Scissorhands to characters in his 1997 book, “The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories.”

“[Burton’s] attention to the creaturelike qualities of his characters is a way for him to access their humanity,” Magliozzi wrote in his catalog essay. “The cartoon concept art for Batman and the Joker emphasizes their damaged psyches; the drawings of Edward Scissorhands’ sinister bondage gear and Jack Skellington’s freakish emaciation translates to their soulfulness on screen.”

My husband — who is a movie journalist as well as an entrepreneur — identifies with Burton’s characters, as well as with Burton’s disaffected childhood. “I felt pigeonholed as a nerd who liked monsters and hated sports,” Ron told me when I wrote about Ron’s love for the 1933 film “King Kong” in 2006. Ron views Frankenstein as an abused child; he also came to understand that there was something distinctly Jewish about his bond with monsters — Jews have also been reviled and accused of unspeakable crimes. “Planet of the Apes” — Burton’s version, as well as the original — could serve as a metaphor for the Third Reich: “When you have a master race enslaving people, what does that remind you of?” he asked, rhetorically. 

Actually, it was the original “Apes” that launched my husband’s career as a buyer and seller of memorabilia, in the nascent days of that profession. At 12, he once walked into downtown Long Beach wearing a gorilla mask and wielding a prop rifle from the film, both procured through friends at a science fiction convention. His mission on that hot summer day was to hand out fliers advertising “Apes” goods for sale. But when he became tired and chanced to sit down in front of a bank, he was stunned when police cars screeched up, cops drew guns and ordered him to take off his mask, mistaking the already 6-foot-tall preteen for a would-be bank robber.

“When they saw I was a kid, they laughed and drove me home,” recalled Ron, who was more embarrassed than frightened by the incident.

Fast forward to 2009, when Ron — like Burton — had parlayed his childhood obsessions into a career as well as a collection that was threatening to overtake our Westwood home.

The author’s scarecrow head from “Planet of the Apes.” Photo by Dan Kacvinski

“Actually, your house reminds me of Tim’s place,” Magliozzi told me when I complained about the mess. “Tim’s house [in London] is rather what you’d expect after seeing the exhibition — it’s like a big toy chest. I was more surprised by the fact that Ron has a whole exhibition going on in his office — that was intense.”

Magliozzi and He chose more than 500 pieces from Burton’s home and archives for the exhibition, which they organized with Rajendra Roy, MoMA’s chief curator of film. “We wanted to trace the current of Tim’s visual imagination from childhood to his feature films,” Magliozzi said. “In our gallery exhibitions, we tend to treat filmmakers as artists.” 

Not everyone has been so enthusiastic. A New York Times reviewer who lauded Burton’s films critiqued what he perceived as a “sameness to all Mr. Burton’ two- and three-dimensional output that makes for a monotonous viewing experience.” 

“That critic didn’t get it,” Magliozzi said of the review. “All artists have recurring themes in their work. And MoMA has been doing gallery exhibitions for cinema artists since the museum opened. I think the fact that Tim has created so much art that is not necessarily from his films has been more challenging for critics. But it’s art that speaks to a large audience and has influenced so many other artists, and that alone is enough to bring it into the museum. Our mandate is to put Burton next to Picasso, in the sense that viewers come for Burton and they go to see Picasso — that’s the kind of dynamic we want.”

Britt Salvesen, LACMA’s curator for the exhibition, agrees. “The show’s opening in New York was not only full, but undeniably all kinds of people were talking to each other,” she said. Salvesen has also organized a parallel exhibition, “Tim Burton Selects,” which consists of art from LACMA’s holdings that resonate with the filmmaker — it’s heavy on the Symbolists and German Expressionists.

In an e-mail, she called the scarecrow head “a real highlight” of the main exhibition, which proved thrilling for Ron. And even more exciting was the possibility of meeting Burton at the opening reception.

“Back when I was a special effects journalist, I had hoped to write about Tim Burton’s movies, and finally got the chance with “Planet of the Apes,” even though I didn’t get to interview Burton himself,” Ron said.

“I had hoped that ‘Planet of the Apes’ would bring us together, and of course, now it has — it just took an additional 10 years.”

For more information about the exhibition and related events, and to purchase tickets, visit