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PLAY THINGS

EDITED BY MARY McNAMARA

Thirty thousand dead flies. In gallon glass jars.

Such is the quest of Steven R. Kutcher, founder of Pasadena-based Bugs Are My Business. And he’s a third of the way there.

“Nobody can compete with me in terms of bugs,” Kutcher says. “It’s an adventure going to my house.”

He isn’t exaggerating. In addition to a huge specimen collection and butterfly garden--furnished with plants that attract winged beauties--Kutcher maintains an in-home insect zoo, where (by appointment) one can view hundreds of live bugs, many quite rare--Chilean tarantulas, African praying mantises, New Zealand spiders.

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“Some people just refuse to come in,” he says.

Formally speaking, Kutcher, 47, is an entomologist. In practice, he’s a teacher (at West Los Angeles College), consultant (he advised the county on its 1988 landfill study), speaker (he’s “The Bug Man” to kids at L.A. schools and summer camps), artist (he sells bug-themed greeting cards and photos) and entertainer (he has released 1,000 butterflies at weddings).

But Kutcher is probably best known for his work as a movie and TV “bug wrangler.” He was spider-meister for “Arachnophobia,” orchestrated the cockroaches in “Pacific Heights” and arranged for a wasp to fly into Roddy McDowall’s mouth in the TV movie “An Inconvenient Woman.”

“Most people just sort of step on bugs,” Kutcher says, “but insects represent life, and I love life. Some people decide when they’re young that they want to be football players. I always wanted to be involved with bugs. If I lived near elephants and zebras, I’m sure I’d love them, too. But it’s hard to find elephants and zebras in the city.”

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