Glasgow has had some cool themed bars and restaurants over the years. There was the ‘Muscular Arms’ superhero themed bar, ‘The Trading Post’ Wild West themed restaurant and the very popular Star Wars-themed ‘Jedi Bar’ (before litigation crossed over the pond).

But perhaps the most legendary one of them all was the near mythical ‘Buck Rogers Burger Station’. This place is tucked away in the recesses of many a Glaswegian’s brain and has achieved almost legendary status. It really was an incredible place. I went there once when I was about 7 years old and I just have fleeting memories of it, so I have thoroughly enjoyed doing some research to write a blog post about it. I’ve looked on forums, on Facebook and in old news articles. I’m hoping this post will be the most informative article on the internet about the place. If you have any info to add or correct then please do let me know in the comments.

It has been known colloquially as The Buck Rogers Bar and also The Buck Rogers Cafe, but the official title was ‘Buck Rogers Burger Station’ when it opened around September – November 1982 (one source says it was opened by the Lord Provost in November 1982), not long after the TV show finished in 1981. The staff, and regulars, just called it ‘Bucks’. Apparently the restaurant was a pilot trial for what was going to be a franchise across the UK. The next one was set to be in Liverpool in the disc at the top of the Radio City tower. Sadly it never happened. I understand that the Glasgow restaurant lost the licence to the name during 1983 (May I think) and subsequently changed the name to Buck’s Burger Station (by just cleverly removing the ‘Rogers’ on the sign). It sadly had to close down after there was a fire on the floor above, which had housed a carpet shop (I’ve heard different reports that there might have been a wedding shop involved in the fire too). I’ve also heard different reports about when the fire occurred and therefore when the restaurant had to shut down. Some say it was later in 1983 and others say it was open for at least two years, so it might have shut down in 1984.

The restaurant was located in Queen Street, right next to the iconic Tam Shepherds Trick Shop which is a Glasgow institution. It’s a magic and fancy dress shop that has been there, unchanged, and run by the same family, for over 100 years! Amazing place and a shop that has a very warm place in Glasgwegians’ hearts. Sadly they were affected by water damage from the fire being put out in the carpet/wedding shop above too, although not quite as much damage as the restaurant had. They were kind of enough to talk to me about the restaurant and confirm just how bad the water damage was from the fire being put out above them.

Apparently the Evening Times newspaper produced a comic strip to promote the restaurant for a few weeks. I’ve looked online but sadly I can’t find the strips anywhere. I’d love to see them. Someone also remembers still having a branded mug from the place too. That would be a great memento to have. I’ve acquired a few images of flyers and posters which I have pasted at the bottom of this post. Many of these were sourced from Steven MacDonald’s posts on Facebook, so full credit and thanks go to Steven.

So what was so good about the place? Basically it was a burger restaurant that was done up to look like a Buck Rogers spaceship, and the staff were all dressed up as aliens and characters from the TV show. That already sounds pretty cool, right? But there was more. It was quite dark in places and had lights on the floor and smoke effects for atmosphere. The decor was grey/silver fibreglass panels with buttons from fruit machines. The ‘flight deck’ area had buttons that the kids loved pressing, and the moulded fibreglass tables and chairs were very slippy. The menus were black backgrounds with white text and laminated. Everything was pretty expensive, but the food was decent quality. This is before the days of McDonald’s or Burgerking remember. Wimpy, and maybe Pizza Hut or Pizzaland, were the main chains.

TV monitors were dotted about the place. When they still had the Buck Rogers licence, they showed the Buck Rogers TV show on the monitors and on a projector that you could watch while you ate. After losing the licence, I believe they showed old music videos.

Now we come on to one of the really good parts. Upstairs there was what was essentially a film studio, where the staff recorded ‘movies’ that could be displayed on the TVs in the restaurant. There was a Sick Bay, Command Deck, Engineering etc. They also had a cockpit that they used for bits and pieces. There was basically a virtual spaceship where customers could be recorded flying the ship and then superimposed onto a Buck Rogers episode (which is pretty damn awesome). You entered the video studio via one of the fire exits. The set for the spaceship was hardboard that had been painted and was perched on milk crates. The designer was called Paul McG and went on to do set design for the BBC in London. “Red D” was either the show or his nickname. He came from Kings Park. I’ve heard they also filmed one of their sketches on an aircraft at Glasgow Airport, and that shoot cost about £500 for 2 hours filming one morning.

One great example of how the studio in the restaurant was used was for birthday parties where the staff would often film a special birthday message for the birthday child to take home. What an amazing memory that would be. I believe this service was quite expensive though, possibly about £200 (back in the early 80s) and I think they stopped offering it after about 6 months, either because it wasn’t financially viable any more or because the two AV guys who made the videos had to move on.

During my research I found a post on a forum by Susan Le May who had uploaded a home video of her brother’s birthday that had been held at the burger bar, but the link was no longer live. I managed to track her down on Facebook and she was hugely helpful and extremely kind enough to dig out the video and send it to me and let me upload it here. Massive thanks to Susan for being willing to share this video with a wider audience. We think the video was from just after the restaurant opened, around Sep-Nov 1982. Our understanding is that the video was produced by the staff as part of the birthday party deal. I think that is extremely cool and very ahead of its time. I’d love to have been a fly on the wall when the staff were churning out VHS tapes and packaging them up for customers. I wonder how often they accidentally taped over children’s parties or had VHS tapes break. I’m sure that must have happened with the technology back in the day.

Feast your eyes below on this amazing video from Susan. Watch out for the bit at 2:30 where the young boy asks the alien (a wee guy called Alan) what planet he’s from and the alien replies right away “Maarz!” in a broad Glasgow accent. I’m not sure what the young lad asks at 2:47 but the reply is “Naw, naw. It’s just my hand”. And if 3:04 isn’t the stuff of nightmares I don’t know what is. Awesome robot dancing at 4:18, and extremely Star Trekky make-up and costumes (and especially hand gestures) at 5:34. And to top it all off, some absolutely pure dead brilliant acting and special effects at 5:58.

Also, for more shots of the waiters, waitresses and this time Alan dressed as Twiki, check out this fantastic video from STV. Full copyright is owned by STV here, so you have to view it on their site. It also doesn’t work in all browsers. I couldn’t get it working in Chrome on a Mac by the way but it worked ok in Firefox, so you may have to try a different browser. But it’s worth the effort. I’m not going to try to embed the video in this post, as it is property of STV but I urge you to go and watch the clip over on the STV site now and come right back. It’s worth it. I love the bit at 0:38 where Twiki just walks up to a kid and says “Hullo”.

Apparently the restaurant was owned by a gentleman called Brian Waldman. Some of the other staff were as follows…

STAFF

  • Robot dancers – one of the main thing that people will remember was the staff who walked around doing robotics. I interview one of them below, but you can see them in the videos above too. Apparently the waiting staff got paid £1.60 an hour, but the robotics dancers got paid £2 an hour!
  • Waitresses / hostesses – the female waiting staff, who also sometimes greeted customers as they came in often wore pretty revealing outfits. Lycra gold and silver. One waitress, on Facebook, recalls, “I worked there as a hostess. Had to wear an almost see through space suit!!”
  • Waiters – I think waiters normally wore red jumpsuits and robotic dancers normally wore blue jumpsuits but I don’t think it was too strict.
  • Twiki / Alan the Alien – Alan from Milton. A wee man in a silver jumpsuit and rubbish rubber mask (probably from Tam’s). At one stage he also had the Twiki costume, which is probably one of the main things that people remember from the restaurant. That’s certainly my abiding memory. Apparently you could see his moustache through the Twiki helmet! He didn’t try to make beep beep noises or say ‘Bidi bidi’ or anything like that either. He just spoke in his broad Glasgow accent, as mentioned above. Apparently Alan didn’t have much love for children, but did have a lot of love for the female waiting staff!
  • Gorilla – There was a gorilla costume as well, probably also bought from Tam Shepherd’s downstairs. The staff used to take turns wearing it, and said it got extremely stinky and smelly. “The mask was rank”
  • Actors – Various people in make-up and costumes who starred in the videos.
  • David Thompson – pink hair guy in this picture
  • Stuart Johnstone – On Facebook he wrote “Also used to film the crew members reading news articles. I appeared in a couple of videos in the medical bay as space gorilla, lol, for some kids birthday parties”
  • Peter O’Rourke – I believe Peter was one of the SFX guys who made the videos. I think some of the pictures of the staff here are from Peter on the Facebook group. I think Peter is the one in the brown shirt in the picture below. Peter on Facebook said, “I remember that (gorilla) suit when it was used. Shared by many, many people and smelled like a locker room after a few weeks. Never ever washed if memory serves me correct.”
  • Apparently one of the actors was a guy from America called Rocky!
  • Kevin Devine – I heard that apparently one of the staff, Kevin went on to become a presenter on “That’s Life” with Esther Rantzen! So I did a bit of research and discovered that it must be Kevin Devine. I contacted him and asked him if he was indeed the Kevin who worked at Bucks in the early 80s and he said “Yes, it was the best job I ever had!” See more information from my chat to Kevin below.

I had a great chat with Kevin Devine on the phone. Lovely guy and a true gent. It was very kind of him to give me almost an hour on the phone to ask him inane questions about a restaurant he worked in over 35 years ago! Kevin was walking down Queen Street one day when he saw the sign for the restaurant and what caught his eye was the part that mentioned robotic dancers. Kevin who was about 21 years old was part of a robotic dancing double act called Alpha & Omega (pretty cool, I know). He walked upstairs, asked around about the robotics and walked out with a job! He believes he started working there four months after it opened, so probably early 1983. He thinks he worked there for two years, but as I said before I’m not quite sure when the fire happened. He remembers getting the phone call from the manager one morning saying “Don’t come in today, there’s been a fire” and he never worked there again.

Kevin was a robotic dancer there and didn’t get involved in waiting tables or anything like that. The dancers were just there to look cool and give it that space vibe. He didn’t even have to talk to the kids like Alan/Twiki had to do. If asked annoying questions by any children he could just pivot, swivel and slide on out. The main thing that Kevin kept reiterating was that it was such a fun place to work and that everyone got on so well. The staff also got on great with some of the regular clientele and they often used to all go drinking after the restaurant shut for the night. One night they slept in the restaurant and of course had burgers for breakfast! Kevin recalls that there were regular teen crowds and Gary Numan fans (Numanoids) frequenting the restaurants. He said he remembers hearing Human League in the videos in the restaurant a lot. Here are two great pics of Kevin. The first one in the blue jumpsuit is Kevin working at Buck Rogers Burger Station. The second one is another one of Kevin’s robotics gigs.

Kevin went on to present That’s Life, replacing Adrian Mills, and since then has had various radio and presenting jobs amongst other things. He is now also a Tai Chi instructor, so I wonder if his robotic dancing skills came in handy for that! You can find more information about Kevin at http://www.kevindevine.co.uk/

Here are some quotes from other people who went to Buck’s or worked there. I don’t have names for everybody unfortunately but these are mostly taken from the Hidden Glasgow forum or the Buck Rogers Burger Station Facebook Group (yep it exists). Links to these sites are at the bottom of the post.

“One of my most vivid memories as a wee boy was being taken to the Buck Rogers Burger Station. Was so excited when Twiki came up to our table, but instead of his normal Beedie Beedie Beedie chat, a Glesga (Glasgow) dwarf in a silver suit just said “how’s it gaun wee man?” My jaw dropped, spilling out chips n burger before in despair I said to my mum and dad “that’s no Twiki!!!” 34 years later and that’s still raw! Nowadays I’m wishing I could remember the waitresses. Good times.”

“I used to get taken there when I was very little – it was basically a theme-restaurant based upon the Buck Rogers sci-fi TV show. It had a mock-up “spaceship control panel”, which in memory was simply an area of wall on a raised stage with some arcade-machine buttons attached. I got into trouble once for playing with the better-looking controls… The controls for the wall of video screens showing the TV show!”

“The guy in the mask was a dwarf called Alan and he was the randiest little stoat that I’ve ever come across in my life. He was regularly dating these gorgeous girls that were about a foot and a half taller than him. In the kitchen he used to bite the girls a*s*s. Well, he was about 2’5”!”

The Burger Station was in the building that became Archaos nightclub which I used to go to regularly while at university in the 90s, and I had no idea at the time that I was drinking and dancing in the place that used to be the Buck Rogers Bar! Here are some pictures of an empty Archaos now, which I believe is being turned into office space. For anyone who knows Archaos, apparently it was the main bit that you walked into first, with the big long bar, that was the main part of the restaurant. Not the round dance hall that was through the far doors. It also went upstairs to the bit where the stairs in Archaos led to above the big long bar. That was where they filmed the bits in the studio I believe.

Here are the posters and flyers for the restaurant. Big thanks to Steve MacDonald on Facebook for most of these. I think he might have worked there, not sure.

So there you have it. A true Glasgow legend. Fair play to the people involved in getting this off the ground. You have given many people some very cool memories and we’re still talking about it 35 years later. I wonder how long it would have lasted if the fire hadn’t happened.

I’ve actually got another contact who used to work there that I’m chasing down, but I didn’t want to wait any longer before making the post live, so if I get any more interesting tidbits of information I’ll be sure to update this post in the comings days or weeks.

If anyone has any other information or can correct any details in this post then please do let me know.

SOURCES AND FURTHER READING

Facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/buckrogersburgerstation/about/

STV – http://stvfootagesales.tv/record/332 (not in Chrome browser on Mac)

This was a very useful article about the restaurant but the link just went dead a week or two ago! I’ll still cite it though, in case it becomes live again – http://fromthesublime.com/2017/08/to-food-that-was-out-of-this-world/

Archaos nightclub – https://stv.tv/news/features/1384774-last-look-inside-former-legendary-glasgow-nightclub-archaos/

Foundation 3D forum – http://www.foundation3d.com/forums/showthread.php?t=8029