Tribute to Joe Lombardi

 
TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Joe Lombardi, founder of Special Effects Unlimited, Inc., was given the Award of Commendation on March 1, 1997 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences at their Technical Achievement Awards.

Lombardi -- a talented Construction Coordinator and gifted Special Effects Technician -- was the first person to receive such an award. A veteran of more than 50 years in the motion picture industry, Joe still remains incredibly active. He worked on the recently released (June 5) "Con Air" with Nicolas Cage and John Malkovich.


"We had 40 people on "Con Air" and ran a C123 plane into the Sands Hotel in Vegas before they blew it up last year," Lombardi said.

Joe's commendation reads, "His knowledge and leadership in the field of pyrotechnics and special effects, along with his uncompromising promotion of safety on the set, have established the standard for today's special effects technicians."

The skilled carpenter first joined the business in 1946 as a set erector before such a craft was absorbed into Local 44 as a prop maker. He worked contentedly for many years until Lucille Ball noticed his "limitless potential" while he was working with her on "I Love Lucy."

"She found out that I was rigging most of the gags for the series and she told me I was an 'Unlimited' person and should do more," recalled Joe. "I had always wanted to get into special effects but never caught a break until Lucy."

Inspired by her confidence, Lombardi started his own business -- Special Effects Unlimited -- which continues to flourish today.

Lombardi stayed with Desilu for a number of years, working on such shows as the original "Star Trek," "My Favorite Martian," and shows for such comedic legends as Danny Thomas and Red Skelton.

When Gulf Western bought Paramount and Desilu, Joe left to devote more time to his company and moved onto the big screen. In his own words, Lombardi did "nine Mafia movies," then became known as "the guy who does war movies."

Lombardi's Special Effects work has brought him recognition as a pioneer in the field of Special Effects.

In recent years, Lombardi has worked on such shows as "Clear & Present Danger" and "Courage Under Fire." Most recently, his Special Effects Unlimited, Inc., shop finished work on the high-budged mini-series "The Last Don."

"As long as I can walk, I'll keep working," Lombardi promised.

“Joe Lombardi was.”

Gabe Videla

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