1933 - 1966
As a talented freefall photographer, Bob Buquor played a major role in the beginnings of star formation relative work. He was a mentor to the Arvin Good Guys, one of skydiving's original relative work teams. Bob Buquor moved to southern California from Texas and made his first jump at Elsinore, California in 1958. Demonstrating an early talent for freefall photography he began a career that would take him to the top as a commercial freefall cameraman.
Buquor worked on the TV series Ripcord and filmed numerous aerial stunts and commercials with such notables as Lyle Cameron, Doyle Fields, Jim Lizzio and Leigh Hunt. During 1962 and 1963, when he wasn't filming commercially, he was out at drop zones around southern California shooting movies and stills of fun jumpers. In those days, just about everything anyone could imagine was being performed in freefall...except orderly relative work.
According to Bill Newell, Bob Buquor began organizing and filming star formations at Arvin, California in 1964. Bill met Buquor in March of that year, just after he'd filmed Arvin's first four-man star with Mitch Poteet, Louie Paproski, Andy Keech and Don Henderson. A few weeks later, Bob filmed the first five-man star with Mitch Poteet, Louie Paproski, Leigh Hunt, Nels Lindebloom and Don Henderson. "One of the things I remember best about Bob," says Newell, "is that I was at a strange drop zone, with only about 50 jumps, and he was one of the first ones to ask me on a load. He had a zany, outgoing personality."
Bob Buquor gained quite a following of relative work enthusiasts over a three-year span of star attempts at the Arvin and Old River drop zones near Bakersfield where hard-core regular jumpers included Bob Thompson, Al Paradowski, Jim Dann, Brian Williams, Jerry Bird, Mitch Poteet, John Rinard, Joe McKinney, Lou Paproski, Bill Stage, Don Henderson, Terry Ward, Skratch Garrison, and of course, Bill Newell.
In August of 1964, ABC-TV sent Buquor to Germany to cover the World Parachuting Championships. He was back in time to organize and photograph the world's first six-man star over Arvin on September 6, 1964. The picture was on the cover of Skydiver magazine. On New Year's Day 1965, Buquor shot the stills of Rod Pack's famous chute less jump over Arvin. His photos were published in an exclusive feature article and on the cover of Life magazine. Buquor and Rod Pack were good friends and also pilots. They bought a couple of little Globe Swift two-seater sport airplanes with some of the earnings from the chute less jump stunt. Buquor spent a good part of 1965 flying to Arvin on the weekends from his home in the Los Angeles area to photograph the Arvin Jumpers in various relative work formations and star attempts.
After more than a year of filming six and seven man stars, constantly trying for the "big one," Buquor finally captured the elusive first eight-man star on film over Arvin, on October 17, 1965. While minuscule in comparison to today's group relative work feats, Buquor's spectacular freefall flicks of the period created quite a sensation in Parachutist magazine.
During 1966, Buquor continued filming many 8, 9, and not-quite-legal 10-way stars at the Old River drop zone. (By this time, women relative workers Clarice Garrison, Fritzie Cox, and Donna Wardean were jumping on Star attempts, and the "10-man" Star label became the "10-way.")
On July 27, 1966, Bob Buquor drowned in the ocean off Malibu Beach while filming a stunt sequence for a Hollywood movie. The MGM production, starring Tony Curtis and Sharon Tate, ironically was titled "Don't Make Waves."
The jump was an expensive re-shoot of a weeks worth of filming rejected by the studio. Leigh Hunt had contracted the skydiving sequences from MGM and decided to film it all without being able to watch the daily takes because the daily viewing rooms were full from the (Academy Award winning) Doctor Zhivago shooting. Bob was more concerned with saving the film, than he was for his own safety and drowned as a result. He was found with the camera in his hands and most of the footage was salvaged and used in the film. When he died Bob was 33, had been jumping for eight years, and had 990 jumps.
Bill Newell recalls why he established the Star Crest Program: "Bob was an excellent cameraman, but he had a tough time with some of the parachuting establishment because, I suppose, he was ahead of his time in areas that made them envious. When he died, I didn't think he'd been properly recognized for the good work he'd done up to that time. I decided to create a perpetual memorial in his honor to keep the brotherhood spirit alive by recording relative workers' accomplishments for the history of the sport."
Bill Newell describes the goals of the BBMSC: "We are striving to keep the original ideals on which we were founded alive for today's skydivers as well as for the pioneers of yesterday. It is to Bob Buquor's driving enthusiasm for relative work skydiving that the SCR membership is dedicated. We hope that recipients of our awards will carry on Bob Buquor's love for the art of flying by helping other jumpers, especially those less experienced, enjoy relative work skydiving as much as they do."
So that's what your STAR CREST number is all about. No matter how many digits it has, be proud of it. It's a time honored tradition, pass it on.
Free Fall Photographer
By Ron Simmons
I think that it was about 1961 when I first met Bob Buquor. I had been jumping in the Army at Ft. Bragg North Carolina, both as a paratrooper and in one of the base free fall clubs. I had moved back to Los Angeles after being discharged and started skydiving at Elsinore. Bob had dropped by the Paraventures loft in Hollywood to talk with Bob Sinclair about free fall photography. Sinclair was the free fall cameraman for the Ripcord TV series at that time. He and the Paraventures crew were operating out of the Elsinore drop zone. Bob Buquor had teamed up with Doyle Fields, with Bob shooting 35 mm stills and Doyle shooting 16 mm motion pictures. They were jumping mostly at Taft and Piru.
By 1962, I was working as a firefighter and had started publishing Parachute magazine. In early 1963, I invited the Bell helmet company management to Piru for an equipment test. Bell Toptex had developed radio helmets for the Indianapolis 500 and we thought they could be utilized for student jumping. Doyle Fields and I each put on a Bell radio helmet, Bob Buquor put on his 35mm camera helmet, and we jumped the radio helmets. Bob photographed the event and the radios worked very well! We had some static line students jump with the radio helmets, and were able to tell the students when and whereto steer their canopies for close in and safe landings. Leigh Hunt was also at Piru that day, and showed a lot of interest in what we were doing.
Bob Buquor had a passion for skydiving. He would take your picture in free fall if you paid for his jump and film expenses. Bob was getting the best free fall pictures available, and I started featuring many of them in Parachute magazine.
Leigh Hunt and Lyle Cameron managed to obtain the new contract for the Ripcord TV show. Bob was jumping in the TV series. Leigh and I shared an interest in equipment development. We had Bell helmets build a helmet with a built - in case for a 16 mm motion picture camera as well as a helmet with a flat front and a small shelf for attaching a 35 mm still camera. Now the free fall camera jumpers could take pictures and maneuver at the same time. The problem had been that with hand held cameras, when the skydiver brought his hands and arms forward to photograph the subject, his body attitude caused him to back slide. The person being photographed had to chase the photographer. An extra benefit was that by mounting the cameras on the front or the side of the helmet, we lowered the center of gravity for the jumper. I want to mention that we did not originate the concept of camera helmets. Bob Sinclair had already been jumping with a motion picture camera mounted on top of his football helmet. We only refined the concept. Bob Buquor might have been the first jumper to use a 35 mm helmet mounted camera in free fall. We featured a lot of equipment in the magazine in those days. We tested a bubble shield. It kept your face from distorting, but dulled the feeling of falling. Ken Sisler did an article on the KAP-3 automatic opener. We jumped the new Pioneer Para Commander; a product that hastened the end of modified surplus modified military parachutes.
On week-ends, Bob Buquor was working on three, four, etc. man star jumps with the "fun jumpers" over Taft, Lancaster, and Arvin. Bob also went to Fresno with us to cover the U.S. team training. We did a couple of commercials. And we were able to send Bob to Germany to cover the world parachuting championships for ABC Wide World of Sports.
Leigh Hunt secured a contract to do the skydiving stunt work and filming over Malibu beach for the MGM feature film, "Don't Make Waves" in July 1966. The script called for a jumper doubling as Tony Curtis (Leigh Hunt) and a jumper doubling as Sharon Tate (Ron Simmons for the first 5 jumps and Jim Dann for the second 5 jumps) to do an incredible stunt in ten sequences that were to be edited together. Leigh was to land in the ocean and I was to land on the beach. Bob filmed our exits from an AT-6 chase plane, spiraling down for further footage. The problem on our fist jump was that the wind came in from low over the ocean, hit the nearby mountains, curled over, and blew back out to sea at about the 1,000 to 2,000 foot altitude. We had one safety boat for two jumpers. With Leigh making intentional water landings, the boat picked Leigh up first.
I spent some anxious time in the water before the boat reached me and the guys pulled me on board. We corrected for the wind problem, and I was able to land on the beach during the second and third days of filming. With my part over, I was back on duty at the fire station on the day that Bob was killed. Bob, Jim, and Leigh all jumped on the fatal day. All three jumpers landed in the ocean. It appears that a wind situation similar to the one that we encountered the first day caught Bob unprepared. He entered the water much closer to the beach than I did. Perhaps Bob thought that he would make it to shore. We will never know. Bob had taken off his camera helmet and put it in a plastic bag, holding it in his hands. It was a tragic accident. The studio retrieved the camera and was able to process the film and use it the movie. Sharon Tate was murdered not long after that and Tony Curtis was at a point where his career was winding down. Jumping was no longer fun for me, and I took up skiing and flying. I retired as Fire Chief of Hermosa Beach, and am currently selling real estate in the Kansas City area.