Paul Burns Obituary

Paul Alan Burns

Obituary of Paul Alan Burns

Newcomer’s Floral Hills Funeral Home & Floral Hills Cemetery

Paul Alan Burns was born in Kansas City, Missouri on New Year’s Eve, 1959. He was our dad’s little tax deduction for the year. What an entrance! Parties everywhere, all over the world. He was the firstborn son of what would be just two of us Burns boys. Paul was small, and somewhat sickly to start, suffering from severe asthma and allergies to a host of things. He was in and out of hospitals in oxygen tents a time or three when he was still very young. The asthma attacks were terrible. He had to take regular allergy shots for years when he was a kid. Growing up in the early nineteen-sixties, this meant he was never going to be the captain of the team (except maybe the chess team), in a time when that meant a lot to dads who grew up in the forties and served in the Korean War. While Dad’s grades in high school were middling, Paul was a bright student, straight As. Too young to be drafted into the morass that was the Viet Nam conflict, our late-boomer generation reaped the only real “peace dividend” there ever really was. Paul was a true ‘Cold War Kid,’ and we enjoyed the benefits of at least some of that time, especially the raging “Space Race,” which gave form to the dreams of the science fiction writers churning out the fictional roadmap to the real world of space exploration. We were one of the first families on our block with a color TV, a huge altarpiece 27” RCA, with a turntable on one side that never seemed to work, and a radio tuner in the other, with the huge screen in the middle, right at floor level. Perfect for Paul and I to plop down in front of to watch the cavalcade of classic TV shows, including “Lost in Space,” “Batman,” “The Green Hornet,” and “Land of the Giants,” and of course, “Star Trek.” We watched the moon landing on this TV and Paul’s imagination was set on course to the stars. Paul continued his fascination with the world of science fiction and being the type to pay close attention, he soon realized you might be able to actually write stories like those he loved to watch on TV. Even better, he took note of every actor and director and producer and wondered about all those other names and roles listed on the opening and end credits of his favorite movies and television shows. Our mom enrolled us in a local theatre production being put on in the clubhouse of a neighborhood apartment complex. It was a little play about the old Helping Hand Institute in downtown Kansas City, Paul and I played some gangsters who were menacing it. Fedoras, button down shirts, shiny shoes and sportscoats. Maybe a fake mustache. It’s too far back now to remember much more. In high school, it was the drama class that hooked him. Grandview High School had a pretty impressive new theatre at the time, with a tech booth way up high in the back, and my brother got involved in the acting side of things: Lazar Wolf, in “Fiddler on the Roof,” was one of his favorite roles. For a while, he really wanted to be Jewish after that. He had parts, either in or behind the scenes on “Anything Goes,” and “The Fantastix,” and a host of other productions. His friend since second grade, who lived just around the corner in our neighborhood, Terry Magelssen, having shared a love of comics and science fiction and space exploration was a part of Paul’s journey into the world of the theatre, as he had a knack for the stagecraft and technical side of things. That helped solidify things for Paul. They were both members of the school’s Thespian Society. The Thespians traveled to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Paul experienced the famous Guthrie Theatre. He was on his way to professional career in the theatre. After graduating from GHS, Paul enrolled in the theatre program at Avila College, where he made connections with more influential professors and colleagues. Just like with elementary and secondary schools, Paul received good grades and sailed through the program. All through the early 1970s, even before graduating high school, Paul had established a link with the local science fiction community. Before the advent of the Internet, this took place via the local bookstores and fanzines. Paul even published a fanzine or two, which drew in new friends, who had picked up one of his issues in shops like the Grandview Book Gallery. He wrote, laid out, and ran off these ‘zines on the church mimeograph machine. His circle of friends who shared his interests in science fiction and films, and theatre, and all things entertainment-related continued to grow. Soon, he and some of these friends organized Kansas City’s first ever Star Trek conventions. The first one was held at the old President Hotel in downtown. He met DeForest Kelly (Dr. McCoy), and Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhuru), and eventually, at future conventions, James Doohan (Scotty), and ultimately, the show’s star, William Shatner (Captain Kirk). These conventions were a training ground for Paul’s indefatigable energy for show-running, and directing and coordinating, all traits that, for anyone who’s been on a show with him, knows were Paul’s passion. He entered the MFA program in Acting and Directing at UMKC, and graduated with his master’s degree, again, seemingly effortlessly. During his time at UMKC, he worked on many productions at the Missouri Rep, meeting influential actors and directors, both local actors as well as actors from around the world. He was particularly proud to have met and worked with Ying Ruocheng, Chinese star of Bernardo Bertolucci’s, “The Last Emperor”. Around this time, Paul had begun working with local theatre companies like Gorilla Theatre, and others, directing and acting in many shows that, while maybe not the lucrative fare of Hollywood and Broadway, were intense initiations into the world of professional and semi-professional theatre in Kansas City. He began working in the box office for The American Heartland Theatre, located in Crown Center, a job he stayed with for over a decade, again, meeting and working with hundreds of people in the local Kansas City theatre scene. One of the qualities people who knew Paul well will remember about him is his fierce loyalty to his friends and family. Because of his interest in the arts and his intelligence, he was an idealist, and saw and felt things deeply, from justice and injustice, to enjoying the skills and talents of artists of all stripes, as well as appreciating the art of a good quaff, and ‘the craic.’ Paul was proud of his Scot-Irish heritage, and leaned into it as a source of pride. He loved Celtic art and music and history. Many of you who loved Paul enjoyed more than a few sunsets, and sunrises (often in the same day!). He loved to travel around the country when he could, something he got from his parents, who took him on trips as a kid to Yellowstone, and the Tetons, Glacier National Park and to the Grand Canyon, California, and the Black Hills. Paul not only appreciated good drink or a good play or film, but he loved to laugh outrageously loudly, and enjoyed made up words like, “marfalicious.” From very early on, we referred to one another affectionately by our first names, but spelled backwards. He was Luap, pronounced LOO-app, and I was Yllib, pronounced ‘EE-lib.’ Even though we disagreed on so many things, especially later, we both still shared a love of films, like “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and I loved to share texts with him whenever the International Space Station was flying over on a clear night, early in the evening or knowing he’d likely be (still) awake, early in the morning. He’d be watching from wherever he was and would swear he could see things I knew were not visible from the ground. But oh, how he wished he could see those solar panels stretched out, flying by at literally faster than a speeding bullet! Later in life, one of Paul’s greatest qualities, his loyalty was on full display as he was called upon to help our mom as she was becoming frail after Dad’s passing in 2014. Paul faithfully stood his watch, helping our mother get to the eye doctor and helping her with meals and doctor visits, picking up her meds and just generally being her constant companion. He was her guardian and constant companion even as she and he were displaced in late 2020 due to her house needing significant repairs, sheltering with her in a motel room through the worst of the pandemic, only returning home after four months, until she finally passed in June 2021. And now, his watch is ended. We hope those of you who knew and loved Paul will come pay your respects at his committal this 12 Noon, Saturday, March 19, 2022 at Floral Hills Cemetery, located at 7000 Blue Ridge Blvd., Kansas City, Missouri. We’ll have time for speakers to share their memories, and some special music, which was so important to Paul, and then we plan to share a meal together, then repair to The Blarney Stone, located at 3801 Broadway St Kansas City, Missouri, one of Paul’s favorite establishments for fine libations to toast our friend and brother, at 3pm til…? In lieu of flowers, green plants are preferred.

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