Bob's Story

I was born in the Bronx, New York in 1939. Moved to Newark, N.J. in 1945, then to Lyndhurst, N.J. in '52. Like most kids, I loved old cars. My first was a '39 Packard 12 I bought for $200. Then came an assortment of Fords, Plymouths and Chevys. In '54, I got my '49 Ford in-line at the local hotrod shop to get my car pinstriped by the already famous Von Dutch. He "spider-webbed" my dashboard, complete with little black widows, and a tiny guy caught in the web. It blew me away.

I wanted to be a pinstriper! So, I practiced...practiced.....practiced!!! a coupla weeks later, when I thought I could do it, I tackled my first job....a nosed and decked '51 Packard. I didn't do half-bad, and got $10 for the effort! The next 15 yrs. was spent finishing school, joining the army, and an assortment of regular jobs, all while doing pinstriping on the side for fun.

In 1966 I moved to Phoenix, Arizona with my new wife, and settled into my third year with the American Brands Company (sales and marketing). I was really getting the itch to pinstripe full-time, but I was into the money and benefits of "corporate America", so I let my desires take a back seat to responsibilities.

Being an avid motorcyclist (spent 1969-1978 on the contributing staff of Road Rider magazine), I found out that Von Dutch was planning a move from L.A. to Bill's Motorcycle shop in north Phoenix. I verified this with long-time Von Dutch crony and itinerant painter, "Tweetie".

Soon after, Von Dutch arrived! I immediately became a "groupie", and started "learning" all over again. Through the next 5 years, Dutch not only re-taught me about the craft, but he chewed me up and spit me out "'till he got my "mind right"! Those of you who were subject to Dutch for any length of time, know exactly what I mean!

The most important thing he taught me was that even though pinstriping was my biggest desire, it was "signs" and "lettering" that would be the steady bill-payer. Dutch went back to L.A. in '75, and I was left to ponder my future. Should I remain with "corporate-mania" making lots of money and benefits, or should I do something that makes me happy? In 1978, the decision was easy....... a sign painter. So, since I was coming out of a divorce, the time seemed right. I quit my sales/marketing job of 16 years, and moved to Prescott, Arizona and set up shop. The business was called "The Sign Painter". Spent the next 5 years building the business, and also lots of "on the road" "snapping". By 1985, I had enough business at home, so I quit the road. I'd also re-married and had kids, so it was time to "stick around"!

Went to see Dutch as often as possible to get my "mind fix" and maybe learn a new trick or two. In 1988, he gave me two of my prize possesssions......a custom made knife with my name on it, and the copyright to his logo, the flyin' eyeball! Wow!!! About a year before he died, I became the owner (through Dutch's daughter, Lorna) of his KenFord truck, which now sits in a museum in L.A. After Dutch died, I kinda lost the desire to pinstripe.

Then computers happened! I found a whole new world of excitement in these blasted contraptions. The learning process was in action all over again!! At this point, I changed my business name to "Bob Burns Signs ". The name "The Sign Painter" didn't hold up any more due to the drift from paint to vinyl.

Then, the bottom fell out!

In Feb. 1996 I was diagnosed with a brain tumor....a big one!

I got through the surgery just fine, but got meningitis in the process! After a coupla months, all was relatively ok, but I'd lost some use of my left arm, all my hearing in my left ear and some in my right, and I couldn't use my left eye. Try to pinstripe with one eye and a bum left hand sometime! The eye thing was fixed 18 months later.

The computer saved my bacon! I could still work with one eye and one arm!

I'm recovered now, for the most part, thanks to the love and help of my kids Kathleen, Justin, Alanna and Eric.

Bob has written a book about VonDutch and you can purchase it at .... if you would like to contact Bob you can e-mail him


[ Letterville | Join Us | Bulletin Board | Events | Find A Letterhead | Find A Supplier | More Profiles ]


Copyright 1996 The Letterhead Website... May 1,1996