Bob Barron: When I started in the CIA in 1968 I was working in their graphic arts department and that’s where we reproduced documents, and reproduced passports, and reproduced anything that you could imagine that you could reproduce we could. I became one of their senior forgers. So I wore several different hats. As a matter of fact, at the end of my career I had six passports with six different names and at times I’d have to get on the plane and look at the passport to see who I was that day.
After a few years later the last 15 years I was in the Disguised Department and the Disguised Department at first was just traditional disguises beards, mustaches, wigs, quick change clothing, that sort of thing. We found out that we could not penetrate as deep as we could and get the intelligence that we needed just with a beard and a mustache. So we started reproducing and looking into silicone and producing silicone masks for agents that depended upon the realism of that disguise to keep them alive. Their lives depended upon the realism and their lives were in jeopardy, if that disguise didn’t pass the closest scrutiny of six to 12 inches.
So Hollywood didn’t come out with it first. To put one of those masks on Tom Cruise it takes about three and a half to four hours for them to put that on and for him to take it off it takes like three seconds, but with our sit had to be put it on in three seconds and take it off in three seconds, and reuse it. So I became their Senior Disguise Specialist. Those sophisticated disguises would be worn by agents that would have to penetrate in areas where you would not even want to penetrate.
Bob Barron: Their lives depended upon that disguise to keep them alive. I am happy to say that I did not lose one agent at that time.
SPP: Well that’s a great accomplishment.
Bob Barron: It is. And I cannot tell you where those disguises were used. SPP: Okay.
Bob Barron: That’s the first thing that the CIA said when I retired “You will not talk about operations, but you can come out from undercover and use your talents in a humanitarian way.” That’s the only way that I was able to do what I’m doing. Now when the agency sent me to New York in 1983 they sent me to the Association of Biomedical Sculptures. The President of the Association of Biomedical Sculptures was John Chambers the man that designed the mask for the Planet of the Apes. He was the only person who knew who I was because I was still undercover.
The agency sent me to the Biomedical Sculptures Association to see if they had any materials that we could use to better our products. What I found out was that we were five years ahead of the commercial world. I also saw quite a few and various disfigurements, people without eyes, people without a face, people without a nose or an ear. I said “Bob, if you can change somebody’s identity then you can give that identity back to that person who needs your services, or if you can put someone in hiding then you can bring that person out of hiding.” These people are prisoners in their house for like 10, 15 years. They won’t come out.
Bob Barron: They don’t want people staring at them. So I knew 10 years before I retired from the CIA what my second career was going to be. There’s not a better high than I get coming to work knowing that I’m going to make a difference in someone’s life.
SPP: I think that’s definitely what everybody searches for, so to be able to find that that must feel really fulfilling.
Bob Barron: It definitely is. I mean to know that you’re going to give that person back the quality life they were used to before their differences is just tremendous. There have been at least 24 people that they have contemplated suicide and without my help they wouldn’t here today. I was given a talent. Now I thought that purpose of my life was keeping those agents alive, but I have found out that the good Lord was getting me ready for something far greater than that. I believe he’s going through me to help those who need their life back.
SPP: Absolutely. Well I do want to talk to you a little bit about your current business. I was wondering if there was anything you would be able to tell us about the operations you were doing or if you have an example of what you had created or how it was used or anything like that?
Bob Barron: Not at all. I cannot discuss that at all.
SPP: Okay. All right I respect that privacy just wondering if I could get something out of you.
Bob Barron: No because I’m still sworn under a securency agreement.
SPP: Right. Okay.
Bob Barron: If I break that agreement I’ll be wearing stripes for the rest of my life.
SPP: Right. Nobody’s asking.
Bob Barron: I like nice pinstriped suit not the ones that you can see from two miles away.
SPP: Absolutely. Why don’t you tell us about some of the stories or projects you’ve done for Custom Prosthetic Designs that stick with you?
Bob Barron: Well on Oprah there was a gentleman by the name of Tim Dunaway and he was in a serious boat accident and caved his face in and he almost died from it and I designed a nose for him. When he was on Oprah he was going to get married before the accident and he just didn’t want to get married after his face was all messed up. He came to me and he was also one who had contemplated suicide and if his sister had not seen me on TV on another program with Charles Gibson he wouldn’t be here today. So he called me and he came to me and I fabricated a prosthetic nose for him. He was on Oprah and his girlfriend was there as well. He proposed to her on the stage.
SPP: Oh wow!
Bob Barron: The other one gave a man a mid-face that had cancer, lost his cheeks, his nose, his upper lip, and he is a survivor, the only survivor out of six of the rare cancers in the world. So it’s just something that is just a very good thing. I received a Christmas card from Eric and he says “I’m in the third grade now. You made my ear when I was in first grade. My dad puts my ear on in the morning. I really like my ear. People used to say “What’s wrong with your ear”, but now they don’t. What I really like about it is that whenever I show it to a grownup they say “Whoever made that is really good.” Thank you for changing my life. I wanted to write to you earlier but I didn’t know how to write so good.”
SPP: Oh wow! That’s pretty funny.
Bob Barron: If that doesn’t bring your hair up on your arms nothing will. That’s what keeps me going.
SPP: I wanted to ask too does the agency still I guess have patents or rights to any of the processes or procedures or materials that you use. Bob Barron: I could use my talents I could use what I created. I think my forte was mastering the technique of making silicone look like skin. SPP: That’s what I was going wonder is the process of how you create these things.
Bob Barron: Well the process is there are various steps of creating an ear. There’s a 175 steps on creating an ear, but when you see the final composition, if you see the final ear, you’ll go oh yeah, okay that’s good. You don’t have any idea what goes into making that ear look like skin. I had one patient call me and he says “Mr. Barron, something funny just happened to me.” I said “What’s that sir?” He said “I just went to the barber and the barber cut the hair out of my prosthetic ear.” I said “Well that’s pretty good.” He said “What do you mean?” I said “He was that close and he cut the hair that I put in there in your prosthetic ear.” He said “Yeah but can you put the hair back in my ear for me.”
Realism is what it’s all about. Ear reconstructive surgery is the most awful thing that a doctor can put a child through the outcome always fall short of everyone’s expectations. Ear reconstructive surgery is just something that they should rethink before they start messing a child’s life up. They wouldn’t I’m sure practice on their own grandson and granddaughter. There are plastic surgeons out there that are great in certain things that they do but they’re not great in everything that they do, and one of them is trying to reconstruct and ear. It can’t be done. You can’t put the color in skin grafts; you can’t make all those very fine layers of tissue in an ear.
Feel your ear, feel how thin it is. Okay the skin will not live. So they take rib cartilage and carve it, put it out there and pull skin around it and say “Okay there’s your ear.” Somebody will say “Well it kind of looks like an ear.” Kind of is not going to work because in the agency when I designed a full face mask for an agent It had to pass my close scrutiny before I would issue it to that issue. I would say okay Bob, would you wear this? Is your life going to be in jeopardy? Is it going to attract attention more than distract attention?
Bob Barron: Or is going to do distract attention more than attention. Which is it going to be Bob? Because if you issue that to someone and you know you shouldn’t and that person doesn’t come back you got a lot riding on your shoulders man.
SPP: Exactly yeah.
Bob Barron: You’re going to have nightmares at night.
Bob Barron: You don’t hear about those agents that don’t come back. If they are caught the agency does not know you.
SPP: Right. Oh that’s true exactly.
Bob Barron: They do not know you. Who? No we don’t know him, we don’t know her.
Bob Barron: No. That’s why I had to be as professional as I am because I had to look at it that way. So if you would have anything else that you would like to mention.
SPP: No I think that about covers it. Can you tell our listeners what your Web site is and where they can find you and anything you’d like them to know?
Bob Barron: My Web site is www.prosthesis.com. I’m located in Ashburn, Virginia. I would appreciate if you know anyone out there that need my services it’s not for me so much it’s for that individual who I can make a difference in their life. So thanks Chris and Jon and Merry Christmas to you both.
SPP: Merry Christmas. Bye-bye. Bob Barron: Okay. Bye now.