August 22, 2019

Meeting Tim Burton: From My House to His Art Show

At the opening of “Tim Burton,” the ghoulishly charming filmmaker’s retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Saturday, the wild-haired auteur held court at the Resnick Pavilion, where more than 700 pieces of his movie and personal artwork will be on display through Halloween.  My husband, Ron Magid, and I were eager to attend—not only for the chance to meet this master of the macabre but also because one of our own pieces is on display.  It’s a scarecrow head from Burton’s 2001 remake of “Planet of the Apes,” a three-foot-tall, skeletal visage that signals to Mark Wahlberg (in the film) he is entering forbidden yet sacred territory. 

Ron, a collector and purveyor or high-end movie memorabilia, essentially saved the head from the garbage (it hadn’t sold at auction and its owner didn’t want to shlep down to the company’s warehouse to pick it up), but the exhibition’s originating curators thought it was vintage Burton when they visited our home while preparing the show.  “The minute I saw that scarecrow head I knew it was going to be in the exhibition,” Ron Magliozzi, one of the show’s organizing curators, told me when I interviewed him for my story on the retrospective—which will grace the cover of The Journal’s summer preview on June 3. 

Those perusing the exhibition—and our scarecrow head—included Burton’s favorite film composer, Danny Elfman, who wrote the score for “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” among other Burton films such as “The Corpse Bride” (which, as I outlined in this 2005 story, was inspired by a 16th-century Jewish folk tale).  Elfman also penned music to accompany the exhibition.  Also on hand was Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction, Winona Ryder, who starred with Depp in “Edward Scissorhands” and was also in “Beetlejuice;” Crispin Glover and Martin Landau (who won an Oscar for portraying Bela Lugosi in “Ed Wood”).

Ron and I met the affable Magliozzi once more at the opening, along with organizing curators Jenny He and Rajendra Roy—and Burton himself.  He was far sunnier than one might expect of cinema’s reigning gothic director:  Ron told Burton how much he had admired the scene from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” in which the children finally enter Willy Wonka’s lair; as it turns out, that very sequence is the one that inspired Magliozzi to create the exhibition.  “I was watching ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ in the theater and there was just this magical moment when Willy Wonka opens the door, bringing the children into the chocolate factory for the first time,” Magliozzi said.  “Somehow I thought:  We should be doing an exhibition of Tim Burton.”

Ron’s reaction to the scene was perhaps even more dramatic—he actually teared up —and Burton seemed genuinely touched by that revelation, even putting his hand to his chest in response.  He thanked Ron for rescuing the scarecrow head from the garbage.  And then he was off to the performance by Jane’s Addiction in front of the pavilion, where a real topiary deer from “Edward Scissorhands” stood amidst other Burtonalia.

The show will be on display through October 31.

Check out my full story on the exhibition: