I-Team: Man who detailed UFO secrets decades ago helped launch Area 51 stampede

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — On May 15, 1989,  KLAS-TV aired a live interview with a shadowy man who didn’t use his real name. The story he told was pretty outrageous, but 30 years later, it is still causing waves.

Bob Lazar’s allegations about alien technology being tested in the Nevada desert ignited worldwide interest and put the then-secret military base known as Area 51 on the map. The I-Team has a look at how far the story has spread in the three decades since that interview.

For the live interview, Lazar didn’t want his real name used. So, he was referred to as “Dennis” during the interview. That turned out to be the name of his boss at a place called S-4, a facility built into the side of a mountain, disguised to look like natural terrain. It would be another seven months before the world learned the guy’s real name was Bob Lazar, but the public didn’t wait. The race to Area 51 was on, and the cultural ripples are still being felt.

The line of people waiting to see the premiere of the documentary, “Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers,” in downtown Los Angeles last December stretched around a city block. Around 1,600 enthusiastic fans jammed into an historic theater to see the film and hob nob with its director and Lazar himself.

It all started 30 years earlier with an anonymous interview on KLAS-TV, Channel 8 and turned Area 51 into a Hollywood staple.

Area 51 has been referred to in numerous movies including “National Treasure,” “Da Vinci Code” and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

It would probably take an Indiana Jones-sized warehouse to stash all pop culture references to Area 51. The oh so secret facility, the place that did not officially exist for decades, is the rock star of military bases, literally. There’s a rock band named Area 51, and another named Element 115 which is supposedly the fuel for flying saucers. There’s an Area 51 video game, an Area 51 bar, lots of Area 51 gifts shops, jerky stores, a dance troupe and fireworks company.

Almost weekly, new lines of Lazar-themed merchandise pop up online. Posters and tee-shirts and other goodies. There’s Groom Lake red wine, an alien-themed legal brothel and a Bob Lazar song.

How many classified military bases have been the namesakes of a triple A baseball franchise? One with a space alien mascot?

Of course the X-Files television show featured Area 51 in several episodes. It’s a highlight of more than a dozen books and countless magazine articles, along with reams of editorial cartoons in the Review-Journal and other newspapers, some of which poke fun at saucer chasing reporters.

Lazar’s tale set off a stampede to the area around Groom Lake. In nearby Rachel, the bar and grill became the Little A’Le’Inn and its owners have capitalized on the public fascination with all things ET.

“We sell tee-shirts, ashtrays, bumperstickers, etc.,” said Pat Travis, co-owner of the Little A’Le’Inn.

Miles to the east, near Hiko, there’s a rival alien research center which has its own line of otherworldly merchandise. The businesses are bookends on the world’s only Extraterrestrial Highway, dedicated back in 1996 by savvy Governor Bob Miller who combined his marketing event with the unveiling of the blockbuster film “Independence Day,” wherein Area 51 saves the world from an ET invasion.

Filmmaker Jeremy Corbell says his documentary about Lazar personalizes the mythology that has sprouted from Lazar’s claims.

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As for Lazar, for most of the last 30 years, he’s tried to avoid the UFO spotlight.

“There’s no big dump truck dropping off money at my house every Thursday night. I have better things to do. Generally, people have to twist my arm to come out and do things like that, as you know, you’re the arm twister,” said former scientist Bob Lazar, during an interview with the I-Team in 2014.

For most of the last 30 years, Lazar has tried to keep a low profile. He made two public appearances on behalf of the documentary and is making a third this weekend at a UFO fest in Oregon. He declined any payment for the film, not a cent.

So, how does Lazar’s story match up with recent admission by the Pentagon that it has been secretly studying UFO’s after all and has been trying to figure out the technology? Go here to find out.

SIDENOTE: George Knapp’s name also appears in the credits of the Bob Lazar documentary because he was interviewed for the film.

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