Staffer has surreal role in bringing sci-fi to Warren

“Surreal” is how Trumbull County Historical Society Executive Director Meghan Reed described the donation of some 500 science fiction movie props to her organization by Warren native John Zabrucky of Los Angeles.

I had a similar reaction several months ago when our newspaper’s entertainment writer, Andy Gray, spelled out to me his involvement in helping to facilitate the donation. The props, which can be spotted in hundreds of Hollywood productions, soon will be on display in a Warren science fiction history museum for all the world to see.

Entering retirement age, Zabrucky, a 1965 Warren G. Harding High School graduate, began pondering what would become of the enormous collection he designed and rented to film studios.

Rather than selling the collection piece by piece, he preferred it be cared for and preserved.

Despite relocating from the Mahoning Valley decades ago, the question he posed to Andy Gray should be a clear indication Zabrucky’s heart remains in Warren: “Why can’t there be a science-fiction museum in Warren, Ohio?”

Again, Surreal.

Gray’s first encounter with Zabrucky was a 2020 telephone interview for a newspaper article here.

Zabrucky never forgot Gray, and some three years later he reached out to pose that question. He was looking for help finding a recipient for his “Modern Props” collection that has appeared in Hollywood productions dating back to the 1980s.

They include movies like “Blade Runner,” “Escape from New York,” “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” “Total Recall,” “Back to the Future II,” “Ghostbusters II,” “Speed,” “Independence Day,” “Starship Troopers,” “Men in Black,” and “RoboCop,” along with TV shows like “24,” “JAG,” “Bones” and most “Star Trek” spinoffs.

Because Modern Props built pieces and rented them to film studios instead of selling them, nearly everything in the collection appeared in multiple projects.

At the company’s peak, some pieces were so in demand they would move immediately from one film studio to another without ever returning to Modern Props in between.

One piece, a large futuristic metal gadget with rolling blinking tubes (and no real life function), has appeared in so many movies, a social media post called it “The Most Important Device in the Universe.”

Gray immediately got to work on Zabrucky’s request. It wasn’t long until Reed’s head was spinning with the possibilities.

Gray connected the two, and now, a few months later, plans are being laid for fundraising and renovation of a Warren location just south of downtown on Main Avenue SW, expected to be the future home of the sci-fi props museum.

This month, semi trailer trucks hauling the collection across the country began arriving in Trumbull County, where the collection is being warehoused until its permanent home is ready.

Earlier this month, Gray was the only journalist who traveled with members of the historical society and Jim Fogarty, owner of locally based Two Ticks & the Dog Productions, on a four-day trip to California to finally meet Zabrucky in person, see the collection and make shipping arrangements.

Fogarty captured video footage and interviews to be used as a so-called “sizzle reel” to attract investors to the museum project and also to be featured with museum exhibits when it opens.

Like any good journalist, Gray prefers to remain behind the scenes, writing and photographing, humbly expecting any recognition to come only via a byline or photo credit. In describing his recent in-depth coverage of the whirlwind West Coast trip, he acknowledged he thought it would be awkward to insert himself into the story.

That isn’t a problem for me. I can easily heap praise and appreciation on staff members like Andy who don’t hesitate to become involved in a project of this magnitude, not seeking individual recognition, but simply doing it for the good of the community.


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