Friday, September 12, 2008

David Baker: His props are a little more dangerous than martini glasses, these days

Last week, we ran some highlights from our phone interview with former "Santa Barbara" star Anthony De Longis, who's done a whole lot of other stuff in Hollywood over the years, much of it behind the scenes. The same day that we chatted with De Longis, we talked with David Baker, who not only lives near De Longis on the West Coast, but also has a post-"SB" career behind the scenes.

You might recall Baker on "SB," and then again, you might not. His role was not exactly high-profile, but he was there, alright. He was Dave the bartender at Eden Castillo's fabulous Orient Express restaurant and bar. And while he stood at his post, faithful and true, serving it up to our "SB" characters, he found a good way to get the bills paid.

"Basically, I was involved with the show over a six- or seven-month period," he tells us, though some of that was voiceover work. "I did voiceovers for 'The Young and the Restless,' too. I was the voice of the pilot on the plane, the voice of the bad guy on the other end of the phone ... the speaker at the police department, all that kind of stuff. Those are the best gigs. You get paid for a whole day, and you spend 15 minutes in a booth. Record your stuff and go home."

One of Baker's other screen creds was our beloved "The Colbys," where he was Angelo, the stable hand. But alas, his 1985 role on the primetime soap was short-lived.

"I was supposed to be Emma Samms' love interest," he says, "and after the second episode that I did, Emma did a forward flip off the horse she was riding and landed on the battery pack for her mike. They decided no more horses, at that point. My character went with the horses. Loaded me right on the trailer and sent me home," he jokes.

But it was not a bad thing, really. Because Baker has made a career for himself behind the camera. His business is related, on a certain level, to what his neighbor Anthony De Longis does. Where De Longis teaches actors the finer arts of, say, wielding the sword or the whip, Baker is the one who actually supplies that weaponry.

Baker's Hollywood Combat Center is a full-service prop fabrication company specializing in historical bladed weapons. Eastern swords, broadswords, knives, rapiers, sabers, cutlasses ... Baker supplies them all. How did he get into that kind of specialty business?

"I started that around 1990, making equipment," he says. "I flipped sides on the camera and started working behind the camera instead of in front of the camera. In the late '80s the CD-ROM video games became very popular. I did a lot of those, and all kinds of odd mechanical specialty props, science-fiction stuff. Then I just started branching out, doing set design, set building. The whole time, I'd been an addict for swords, teaching actors how to use them. Then it became lucrative to sell them for the actors to use. It's great when a passion turns into a way to make a living. I don't have too many complaints about it."

Very cool.

You can read our complete interview with David Baker in the next update to the "Send Me to Santa Barbara" reference e-book.

And look for more interviews here soon. We've got a couple other "SB" cast members in our sights ...

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