The Drex Files: Hangin' With Mr. Wezmo

By Doug Drexler - February 03, 2011

I'm hip deep in prep right now with legendary Trek VXF supervisor Gary Hutzel. Why, you ask? Galactica returns to basics, and Blood and Chrome is fully upon us. Would anyone like some toast?

But, just because I'm intensely busy, that doesn't mean I forgot you guys! No way! Not a chance! The phone rings... and it’s my friends at startrek.com calling to remind me that another DrexTV segment is due on the tarmac. I needed a show, I needed it now and I needed making it to be like falling off a log. I checked the Drex Files Operations Manual and it plainly stated: Step 1 - Grab camera. Step 2 - Grab Jack Marshall to work it. Step 3 - Visit with one of the most interesting men in the world. Step 4 – Tah-dah!

So in this edition of DrexTV we hang out with Mike Westmore, himself a Star Trek legend (makeup division, of course). This isn't an interview, really -- it's a conversation between two friends.

First some history: This kid – that’d be me -- was in heaven. I was working TNG for Michael Westmore. I was working thoroughbred Star Trek. I was working Gene (Roddenberry) and Bob (Justman) Star Trek. I’m working STAR TREK- STAR TREK. I had just headed makeup on one of the biggest shows in Hollywood, that being Dick Tracy. The TNG cast and crew were pleased that I was there. “But shouldn’t you be off doing features?” they would ask. “Are you kidding?” came my answer. “This is it! Ground Zero! Challenge Central -- and no place I’d rather be!” I meant it. I loved that cast and crew, and it was without a doubt some of the most fun set time I’d ever spent. We worked hard, we had some ungodly late nights, and the later it went, the funnier and sillier it got.

Aside from the best cast I ever worked with, Mike Westmore made working on TNG sheer fun. He always wears a smile, and is just a delight. He is a dear, dear man. If you know anything about the Westmores of Hollywood, you know that the family practically invented the movie makeup game. At one time there was a Westmore as head of makeup at every major studio in town. During the golden age, most big stars would not do a film without a Westmore. It’s a fascinating story, and if you are interested, find a book called “The Westmores of Hollywood.”

Mike told me a funny anecdote about his uncle, Bud.  Bud was apprenticing on a very early Tarzan movie, and on that particular film Cheetah the chimp was played by a male ape. Bud’s job was to take a wet sponge and burnt cork, and use it to black out the chimp’s “water works” so that they would not show up on the big screen. After about a week of that, whenever Bud walked on stage, Cheetah would scamper over excitedly, take the cork and sponge out of Bud’s pocket and hand it to him.

The early TNG makeup lab was a hole in the wall. It wasn’t even in the wall. It was a shack cobbled together on the stage behind 8 and 9. You know that footage of Persis Khambatta getting her raven locks shorn by Fred Phillips for TMP? That’s the shack… and I loved it. Who would ever guess? Big TV production… the makeup lab would have to be in a flashy setup on the Paramount lot… wouldn’t it? Nope… makeup artists are an interesting breed. Life is a cross between the army and the circus. You go where the job is, and you set up your camp… wherever that may be. I’ve made people up using the toilet as a makeup chair and with light coming from a single un-shaded bulb. I’ve made actors up in the middle of the woods, in a speeding car, in an airplane, a swamp, and a kitchen… so making molds, sculpting, and running foam latex in a shack could be seen as a step up in some cases. You got out, and you got under, and if there are no amenities, like electricity, you made electricity. No water? Bring it with you. You learned to be self-contained and self-sufficient. You thought ahead and you thought on your feet. A shack? I love it!

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