Thursday, August 5, 2010













MONSTER MAKE-UP MEMORIES

Once, a long time ago, in what seems now like a galaxy far, far away, I had aspirations of becoming a make-up artist. As a monsterkid, I had commandeered one of my Mom's unused cosmetics cases with the intention of duplicating the picture I had seen in FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine of Lon "Man of a Thousand Faces" Chaney, Sr. sitting in front of his make-up case, ready to get started on face one-thousand-and-one. For the next two Halloween's (as that time of year was the only time this stuff was generally available to a monsterkid with only a bicycle for transportation) I tried my darndest to fill that case up with all sorts of make-up goodies, including a mirror, mortician's wax, collodion, and the mind-numbing, instant high-inducing spirit gum. I had a bald head wig, pipe cleaners, cake and tube make-up, as well as the obligatory long plastic fingernails and "monster" teeth. Oh, and to complete the ensemble, I had a good sized jar of cold creme to take all the gunk and goop off that I slathered on my face and other body parts. I think I ruined more than one T-shirt experimenting with the various contents of my make-up case!

The second inspiration for all this was . . . you guessed it, FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND. When monsterkids were running rampant over the landscape in search of more monster goodies to spend their hard-earned allowance on, a certain Hollywood make-up artist by the name of Dick Smith created a "how-to" handbook that showed you how to create monster make-ups with everything from simple ingredients you could find in Mom's kitchen, to more sophisticated creations that required sending away for stuff to do according to the book. Entitled DO-IT-YOURSELF MONSTER MAKE-UP HANDBOOK, I believe Dick Smith ended up doing more for dime store make-up counters in 1965 than Max Factor! There were 100 pages of horrifying projects between its covers and I more than once created bedlam at breakfast by taking the eggs out of the plastic cartons to use the individual storage trays for "Weird-oh" martian eyes!

The first one I attempted was the simple "Vampire" make-up which was pretty much just greasepaint. I followed the instructions for the fangs, making them out of melted, molded yellow wax and a bent pipe cleaner. But after that, they got a tad bit more complicated . . . and messier for this 11-year old! All-in-all, I had a blast. Thank you Dick Smith . . . and thank you again James Warren, for providing this monster kid with hours 'o fun! (Pictured above right is an ad for Dick Smith's Make Up Course from MAKE-UP ARTIST MAGAZINE. He's still going strong!).

Years later, I was at it again, spurred on by a new acquaintance that I met through a mutual friend and who I jammed with on Friday and Saturday nights in a sort of makeshift mid-70s blues rock band. Some of you may know the name Tim Bruckner, who these days is busy sculpting some awesome creations for DC Comics and other clients, and has also published a book due out very soon on how to sculpt for the fantasy market.

Anyway, in this incarnation, I still had my trusty old make-up case, but I was now armed with the immortal Richard Corson's "Stage Make-Up", then a hard-t0-find hardback book that remains today one of the standards of make-up artistry guidebooks. I also had ordered through the mail some moulage products for casting. Over the course of the next year or two, Tim and I goofed around with some applications and appliances, and one day, armed with my trusty double-boiler found in a yard sale, I brought up the moulage and he did a life mask of me. I still have it somewhere in the bowels of the MYSTERIOUS MANSION, and if I ever unearth it, I'll have to share it with you, along with maybe a few more words about my monster make-up escapades.












DON'T STEP ON THAT SPIDER -- IT MIGHT BE
LON CHANEY!!!




2 comments:

rogue evolent said...

John, what a fun and informative post. Though me and my pals "horsed around" and made a couple of 8mm "monster movies) in the old days, are one (among legion) big failing was in lack of proper monster make-up. I wish we'd been more like you. :)

Mike Scott said...

I dabbled when I was a teenage monster fan. Just Halloween stick makeup and crepe hair. Wish I still had the photos, but I have no idea where they went to.

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