Monday, January 31, 2011

Spotlight on Robert H. Justman


by David J. Schow

Bobby Justman, “Robert H.” in his onscreen credits, died 28 May 2008 at age 81 from complications due to Parkinson’s Disease.  From the elemental beginnings of The Outer Limits, Bob was there, Bob was involved, Bob was fundamental, Bob was everywhere, and everyone who worked so hard to make that show the classic it became never stinted on praise for Bob’s contributions, above and below the line.  Bob WAS the line.

Hence, Bob was essential to the assembly of The Outer Limits Companion — two versions, crossing decades of research and interviews.  Many interviews, quotes, contacts, scripts and production ephemera, all courtesy of Bob’s continued contact across many years.

Bob’s death, sadly for me, marked the point where The Outer Limits crossed over from memory to memorabilia.  His antic wit and dogged work ethic were second to none, and there was no way he could top off his own magnanimousness and generosity.  He was a lofty and courageous spirit.

And he and I shared the same birthday, July 13th.

Many people only knew Bob from his connection to assorted iterations of Star Trek.  To me, the period that brought him toward that first Roddenberry pilot was more fascinating, and proof positive that Star Trek would not have had half its bones, talent or longevity without Bob’s participation. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say there wouldn’t even BE a Star Trek without the seminal input of Justman, who ported all his Outer Limits know-how, connections, and rock-bottom practicality into a nascent new series whose pilot, “The Cage,” had just crashed and burned at NBC.

To this point, the book Bob wrote with Herb Solow, Inside STAR TREK: The Real Story (Pocket Books, 1996), is of necessity as much about The Outer Limits as Star Trek, and if my own book doesn’t provide an adequately accessible “round the corner” biography for Bob, perhaps people will seek its … companion book.  Bob told me he and Solow were working on a followup volume which I’m sure would be as equally immersive.  I wonder if it was ever completed.

At the Museum of Radio & Television’s Outer Limits tribute in in March, 2000, I shared the stage with Lou Morheim, Justman, Conrad Hall, Martin Landau and Joe Stefano.  Greg Nicotero and I got to the parking garage just as Justman parked right next to us.  When Bob got out of his car I noticed he had a copy of the Companion tucked under his arm.  It was brimming with Post-It notes.  I said, “Omigod, Bob – are those errors?”  Bob said, “No, this is just to remind me what the hell I think I’m talking about!”

We have some faces left — Martin Landau, Robert Duvall, David McCallum and Sally Kellerman are all still with us as Outer Limits stalwarts — and precious few surviving crew.  As of 2008 most of the show’s big guns had passed on, and for me Bob’s death definitively closed that particular book.  I was sorry to see him go, but delighted that I got to know him, if only within the constricted inquiry of my own little exercise in TV archeology.  I hope that my abundant references to Bob and his work within The Outer Limits Companion both demonstrate his grass-roots, sweat-equity devotion to a waking dream that captured my imagination and incited a similar fervor, and to serve as sufficient memorial to those perhaps curious about that phase of his career.

Much mention is made in the Companion of the often-hysterical shooting schedules compiled by Justman and his fellow conspirator, Lee H. Katzin.  Here in their entirety are Bob’s notes for “ZZZZZ.”  Have fun!


  1. "Schticklach?" "Tsouris?" "Mizpocha?" Am I gonna need a Zanti translator or is that Yiddish Justman is schpeiling? (how to schpell schpeiling?)

    Very entertaining, DJS. I'm glad he obviously enjoyed his work. Thanks for providing that document.

  2. Great, great, great!

  3. Dave,

    A delightful glimpse into TOL's activities during what would beecome a historic week in November, 1963. Thoroughly enjoyable and informative, providing us a "window" into Mr. Justman's warm and witty personality. I'm sure it was a pleasure get to know him as you did.

    (And boy, was Justman ever THOROUGH in his work: his "Livestock" notes even list the single-bee increase of the billion+ swarm during each day of shooting. Wow!)

    BIG THANKS for virtually donating this document to WACT--another reason that this blog (despite its occasional curious detours) is beecoming THE authoritative gathering place for all who cherish TOL and its accomplishments, warts and all.


  4. Amazing documentation, DJS. A genuine treasure to anyone who admires this series as seriously as many of us obviously do. Hollywoodaholic underscores an important truth: you can tell when someone is practically giddy with enthusiasm because they know they're engaged in good work.

  5. Really nice tribute, David, and reminder of how not-so-long ago so many of the OL team no-longer-with-us were indeed still with us.

  6. Thanks so much for this! I've read excerpts of Justman's breakdowns before (including in the original OUTER LIMITS COMPANION), but have never seen a full one. At the stage theatre where I work, I have popularized the term "effoe" or "F.O." (as seen on page 8 above) as the go-to term for exiting the stage for a few years now, and I'm pleased that it has taken root in our community -- A little tribute to Mr. Justman.

  7. Excellent and heartfelt post. I had never heard of Justman before reading your book in 86, and I was grateful then (and am now) that you are filling us in on these fascinating people behind the scenes. Thank you!

  8. Love looking at schedules because it paints a more complete picture of the business side of show making. Almost like we are flies on the wall during production. ZZZZZZZZ. Thanks David, for posting this stuff.

  9. Beautiful stuff, DJS, thanks. Justman's intelligence and devotion to his craft really shine through in Inside Star Trek; it's a great read even if you don't particularly love Trek, and makes an ideal companion to the Companion. Worth tracking down.

  10. INSIDE STAR TREK is worth it for Justman's tales of Byron Haskin, avoiding INCUBUS, James Goldstone, Wah Chang, Shatner's toupees, naked Nichelle Nichols, Leslie Stevens, Harlan Ellison (an entire chapter called "Waiting for Harlan"), budgets, Lucille Ball, Gerd Oswald, and the horrifically crippled marriages of Roddenberry and Coon, as well as reproducing many, many documents Justman authored in his own inimitable style.

    Herb Solow also presents a compelling argument that the renewal of STAR TREK had nothing to do with the bogus and manufactured letter-writing campaigns and protests (all of which Roddenberry was behind), but rather RCA's then-substantial investment in color TV technology, bridged to networks as a need for more colorful color shows. NBC became "the first all-color network" in 1965 so you can see how the timing worked out. Corporate need beats art every time.

    A fascinating read if you're interested in the inner workings of TV.

  11. One of my favourite books for the reasons you've cited above. Also excellent is Joel Engels biography of Rottenberry.

    Do you have any other recommendations on the original ST?

  12. Thanks David. Robert Justman is indeed an example of, and probably the one deserving the most credit for, the behind the scenes quality of OL. I've read quite a few Star Trek bios, and Inside Star trek has always been my favourite. It has an attention to detail that is a pleasure to read, and lots of personal anecdotes. Justman clearly was as much of a talent in making Star Trek work as in OL.


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