Okay, I see by my counts page that a LOT of people want to read anecdotes. On every project, you deal with a lot of creative people (read: "folks with ego problems, neuroses, and personality disorders") From time to time, a weird experience will generate an interesting story. Here are the ones that will expose me the LEAST to legal problems!

Select any picture to see a high-resolution version.
At the Saturn Awards Show...

Rick on Letterman, 4 kb (Full size 10 kb)

Gene Simmons...

Celebrities whose boats I have puked on...

Rick on Letterman, 4 kb (Full size 10 kb)

Dwight Yoakam and Charlie Sheen

Don't f*** these...

Rick on Letterman, 4 kb (Full size 10 kb)

Friday the thirteenth bodies

You just can't touch David Letterman...

Rick on Letterman, 4 kb (Full size 10 kb)

After appearing on Inside Edition and showing off our Waldo® system, Letterman's producers called me, asking if I could appear on his show. "You bet!", I exclaimed. We decided that I would make a jumbo animatronic head, which would be controlled by one of our Facial Waldoes®. I suggested a jumbo Letterman, but they said that would make him mad. I said, "Okay, I'll control a Paul Schaffer head." They said, "No, it'll be funnier if Dave controls the head." So I built an adjustable Waldo®, planning to fit it to Dave when I got there.

When I arrived at the studio on the day of the taping, I asked when I would get a chance to test the device with Dave.

"What?" was the reply. "You can't see Dave before the show, he doesn't like to do that."

"Well, then, we're gonna spend about ten long, boring minutes live while I calibrate this thing..."


"Uh, alright," they said, "but you have to make it quick!"

So they took me into this room where Letterman was. They introduced us, though he declined to shake my hand, and seemed to cringe away from me a bit. "Jeez, I thought to myself, "I'm not THAT repulsive!" Dave's makeup lady took me aside and gave me the following comforting advice: "Just so you know, Dave is VERY uncomfortable around strangers, and doesn't like ANYBODY to touch his face or his head. Or hair. Or his neck."

Great. "Those are only THE STINKING PARTS I NEED TO TOUCH SO I CAN CALIBRATE THIS @#$^* THING", I calmly thought to myself. So I took a deep breath, and dove into the following bizzare bit of intercourse:

Rick: "Okay, Dave, I just need to fit this on you..."

Dave: (reaches for the headgear) "That's alright, I'll do it"...(starts to put it on crookedly) "Okay, there." (starts to hand it back)

Rick: "Uh, no, that's not all there is. I need to adjust it properly so that I can capture your full range of expression..." (I start to fit it on him. His arms fly up to "protect" himself).

Dave: "Well, why can't I do it?" (he tries to bat my hands away)

Rick: "Because, with all due respect, I mean, you're a great talk show host and everything, but I'm the one who knows how to do this..."

(Rick attempts to adjust the sensors so he can get this over with quickly. By this time, Dave has hunched up his shoulders, taken the collar of his sweatshirt into his mouth and is gripping it with his teeth, giving him the maximum possible protection against my "strange" hands. He grunts and mumbles...)

Dave: (clearly protesting this disgusting violation) "Mmmph! Hnnnnnh!"

Rick: "Just about done...there!" (removes the headgear. Dave quickly turns around to sit down and read his paper. His makeup lady ushers me hurriedly out of the room.)

Rick: (as soon as they are beyond earshot)" That guy is a FREAK!"

Makeup Lady: "I know, I know, you don't have to tell me!" I have to struggle with it every night!"

I was told by other staffers that the whole reason why Letterman is so funny is that he's genuinely uncomfortable around people and the barely successful suppression of this conflict was what "made the show work."

So we went on with the show, and he was able to contain his repulsion and hostility, although at one point, after I had applied some adhesive and hair on his palm in a demonstration of our flocking machine, he wiped it on my back--on my new silk shirt I'd bought expressly for the show. "That's the only way it's coming off now, Dave," I muttered, a little pissed. He tried on the Waldo®, visibly uncomfortable with it, I unveiled the Paul head, and he made it move in a pretty mediocre manner. Paul wasn't exactly enthused with his likeness either, perhaps because many people had pointed out that it looked exactly like him. Hey, I made it look like Paul Schaffer, not Paul Newman.

At the end of the show, his makeup lady came up and said "You were great! You'll definitely be back on again!"

Lady, I won't be holding my breath!

I ain't no Carlo Rambaldi

Gorilla head, 5 kb (Full size 11 kb)

Earlier in my career, I was up for supervising the makeup effects on a vampire flick that was going to be directed by one of Francis Ford Coppola's sons. (Nepotism in Hollywood. Yeah!) The producer was a big Italian guy, one of those types who knows "how to make a pitcha!" but little about the process of filmmaking. He had worked with Carlo Rambaldi (an Oscar® winning special effects designer) on another project. My "in" on this film was a guy I'd gone to film school with, and who was working as this producer's assistant. He's the one who slipped my name in.

So an interview was arranged, and I prepared for it. I brought along a videotape of my work to date. One of the items on my reel was an unfinished animatronic gorilla head. A colleague of mine, Tom Woodruff, had sculpted and made a mold of a beautiful gorilla head. I proposed that I would make a core, foam skin, and mechanize the face. So I did, and a brief snippet of this unfinished piece (no hair on it, no back of the head, no body) was on the tape, snarling, baring its teeth, frowning, pursing its lips, etc. It looked pretty cool, considering. Very smooth and lifelike.

There was not the time to view my reel during the interview, so they asked that I leave it with them, which I did. I thought, "Hey, the Italian connection, my friend works there, my stuff is good, this looks like it's gonna happen!" A couple of days later, I called my friend to see what was up.

Friend: "You're not gonna believe this..."

Rick: "What?"

Friend: "He is PISSED at you!"

Rick: (downhearted, pleading, yet confused) "What did I do?"

Friend: "He took a look at your tape and saw that gorilla, and he just exploded! 'HE DIDN'T DO 'KING KONG!' was what he said! He thinks that you ripped off footage from Carlo Rambaldi!"

Rick: "Is that what he said?"

Friend: "Yeah! 'HE DIDN'T DO 'KING KONG!' It was HILARIOUS!"

Rick: "Well, can you tell him that it ISN'T "King Kong"! Not every ^%$#@ gorilla in the movies is King Kong, ya know! And besides, Carlo Rambaldi didn't even do the good King Kong on that film! All the stuff with facial expression was Rick Baker's!

Friend: "I know, I know. But it's too late. He thinks you're a liar now. He doesn't want to have anything to do with you. He's not the kind of guy you can tell that kind of stuff, ya know. I mean, I'm in hot water, now..."

Rick: "Yeah, okay...whatever."

After being dejected about it for a couple of days, I decided it wouldn't have been the most wonderful experiance working with that producer, anyway. So, just so everyone knows:


Smooth Move, Ex Lax!

This is one that I have been told third-hand, so it may not even be true. But it makes a great story, anyway...

A makeup guy - let's call him "Steve" - was doing a show starring Christopher Walken. One day they're shooting a desert scene, with Walken on horseback. The shot starts wide, showing him alone in a wide expanse of desert, and then moves in for a closeup. In between takes, "Steve" is supposed to spritz Walken with a spray bottle - to make him look "sweaty", of course - then duck down out of sight. Sounds simple enough, except they're shooting this at "magic hour" (movie-speak for that brief time just before sunset when the sky looks especially picturesque) so they need to get this shot quickly. The look of the sweat is somehow critical, so the pressure's on "Steve".

After a number of takes they haven't got the shot yet, it's starting to get dark, and people are getting tense. "Let's get another one, right away!" the A.D. yells. "Steve" pops up out of the bushes, sprints over to Walken, and starts to spritz...but the spritzer's pump is broken. He pumps and pumps and pumps spray. "Spritz him!," screams the A.D., "we gotta get this shot!"

Steve tries a few more times, but it's no use. He's at a critical point. He has to do something. Can he unscrew the cap, pour some in his hand, and flick it on the actor? No, the droplets would be too big. The water needs to be atomized....

"Come on!" he hears, yet again. "WE GOTTA GO!"

He makes his decision. He unscrews the top, puts the bottle to his mouth, takes a mouthful, and SPITS A SPRAY OF WATER INTO CHRISTOPHER WALKEN'S FACE! Walken screams, goes NUTS, and jumps off the horse after "Steve", chasing him into the desert, intending to beat the crap out of him!

I don't know if they ever got the shot....

Old Show Biz Jokes

Do you know these old jokes? They are a couple of my favorites; they just seem to hit the nail on the head, sometimes. . .

Ready when you are, C.B.!

The story is told that Cecil B. deMille, director of great epics, was preparing to shoot a massive battle scene. Multiple cameras had been place to capture the expensive sequence. It could only be done once, and they wanted to capture every conceivable angle for safety. On the yell of "ACTION!", all hell broke loose! Troops stormed across the field, guns blazing! Horses tripped and lost their riders as explosions went off around them! Thousands of blanks and pyrotechnic charges blew up! Towers toppled! Men fell dead! It was an amazing, ferocious battle! The biggest one ever shot!

"CUT!", yelled C.B., when he was satisfied. The smoke began to clear. "How did it look? Camera One?"

"Uh, we didn't get the shot, sir. The film broke."

"WHAT! The film broke, oh Jesus! Well, then, how about you, Camera Two?"

"Well, sir, a dirt clod got kicked into the lens by a horse's hoof and... we didn't get anything good, sir...."

"Christ! What a nightmare!" cried C.B. "Camera Three, did you get anything?....Well, did you?"

" Sorry to report, C.B., but one of the towers fell on our camera. It is kaput!"

"This can't be happening!" wailed C.B. "Camera Four! Camera Four! How are you?...Camera four?"

The operator at Camera Four popped his head up from his camera, smiled broadly, gave the "thumbs up" sign, and said:

"Ready when you are, C.B.!"

The glamour of it all....

Having viewed the last of the circus acts in a spectacular finale, a man sat in the bleachers long after the show and watched as the "carnies" came out to hustle equipment around, de-rig trapeze ropes, and move props. He noticed that one man had the detail of walking around with a shovel and a pail. He was picking up dung left behind by the animals.

The circus-goer walked down the steps to talk to the man. "Looks like you got picked for the bad chore today, eh?" he asked.

"Whattya mean, today?" replied the carny. "This is my job!"

"Don't you do anything else?" asked the curious man.

"Nope. I pick up elephant crap, that's my job! That's what I do!" said the carny.

"Well, how long have you been doing this?" the circus-goer wondered aloud.

"About 12 years..." replied the carny, as he dumped another lump into the bucket.

"Heavens, man!" exclaimed the curious fellow, "Why on Earth don't you find something else to do with your life!?"

The doot-digger stood up and turned to face the man. "What?", he asked incredulously, "and get out of show business?"

Em-Eye-See, Kay-Ee-OW!
Here's a true story: Ken Diaz is an excellent makeup artist, and a good friend of mine (he once told me "If you can't say something nice about someone; GO FOR THE THROAT!"). He used to work regularly as Mickey Rourke's makeup guy, and they sometimes got pretty rough with each other.

I visited the set of Barfly one day and watched Ken making up Mickey for a scene. Mickey would block Ken's way in the trailer with his legs, push him, and punch him. "God damn it, Mickey!" Ken would say, trying to continue his job. (Ken is a bear of a guy, so he wasn't really getting hurt.) But Mickey wouldn't let up. So after a few more slaps and punches, Ken stops what he's doing, goes to the other end of the trailer, starts flipping through the production schedule. He leans out the door, and calls to a P.A. "What's the next setup after this?" After a little chat, he saunters back over to Mickey's chair and BAM! He gives Mickey A SOLID RIGHT, A HUGE FREAKIN' CHARLEYHORSE IN HIS LEFT ARM!

"Take THAT!, A**HOLE!", Ken said, grinning like a demon...

"Ooooohhhh...that was a good one!"...gasped Mickey, holding his arm, doubled over in pain.

What Ken had done was scrutinized the schedule, looked over the shots in the next few days; made sure there were no shirtless scenes coming up, so that if he gave Mickey a hellacious bruise, it wouldn't show on camera, and he wouldn't get in trouble!

Even better was a couple of days after that. Mickey had kept it up, so Ken had another surprise for him. He got, you know, one of those big, round sheepskin auto body buffer things? He stapled it to a 1 x 4, emptied a huge canister of baby powder onto the "puff", and had someone go tell Mickey to come out of his trailer so Ken could "touch up his makeup." When Mickey came out of the trailer, Ken screamed "MAKE-UP!" and swung the "Puff o' Death" right at the guy! Mickey reacted, Ken missed his mark, and CRACKED the 1 x 4 in two over Mickey's shin! "YeeooOWW!" cried Mr. Rourke. Ken got in big trouble for that one, with Mickey's manager trying to fire him, and Mickey defending him!

Yee-HAW, what good natured, All-American, movie star fun, eh?


My favorite Jim Cameron quote:
I heard him yell this at someone while we were working on Aliens:

"No, no, NO! THAT's not what I'm thinking!"


Soothes and moisturizes cracked, dry skin . . .
For "Spaceballs", I had a "cameo" as an ape in a scene shot at Zuma Beach. Rick Stratton (a makeup artist of some fame himself - "Alien Nation" is one of his big credits) came to the location to apply my prosthetic, but when he tried to park next to the makeup trailer some transpo dude gave him a hard time. Rick was forced to park far away and walk all the way back.

Later in the day, the same Transpo Guy showed up at the makeup trailer asking if we had any hand lotion; his hands were chapped. Rick, without missing a beat, handed him a bottle of white liquid. The Transpo Guy drizzled it over his hands, started to work it in. "Hey, this is kinda sticky!" the guy exclaimed. "Here," said Rick, handing him a box of Kleenex. The Guy dabbed and wiped and discovered the tissues were sticking to his hands! "What IS this crap?" he demanded, picking at the solidly glued-on shreds of Kleenex.

"It's Pros-Aide; it's a makeup adhesive. It's really strong," Rick said, totally straight-faced. "Well, what the hell did you do THAT for?" said Mr. Transpo, incredulous, his hands now a mummified, clotted, gummy mess. "You made me walk." said Stratton. "Now I suggest you walk on outta here."

And he did!


John Candy. . .

John and Rick (4 kb)

Ken Diaz hired me to work on "Spaceballs" and do John Candy's animatronic ears. John, bless his heart, was the sweetest, funniest, kindest guy. He could just look at you and smile and you'd feel warm and happy and giggly all over.

While working on the show, I was trying to land this Dian Fossey rip-off project (some producers wanted to "beat" Gorillas in the Mist to the theaters.) John set it up so that it would seem like I was the big cheese on "Spaceballs." (I wasn't; Ben Nye Jr., Ken, and a couple of other makeup and hair people were senior to me on the project. But they all thought it would help my chances if they played along like I was in charge.)

So I had these people come in to our makeup room for a meeting. They were greasy, sleazy looking. And they completely ignored John, like they didn't know who he was (or were too dense to recognize him in his minimal makeup!) So John started to give them a hard time. He interrupted them, was short with them. "What the hell is he doing?", I thought to myself. "After all this major set-up?" As a result, the meeting didn't go very well at all.

When they left, John said, "Rick, you don't wanna work for those guys. They're bums." He had been trying to protect me. Rather than being disappointed, I was touched.

John also hated his agent at the time - a stereotypical "Hollywood" type who wore thousand-dollar pairs of shoes. John told Ken and I how much he loathed him, and asked what could we do to the guy? So the idea was hit upon; the man's shoes were fair game. So every time he would come to the makeup room to schmooze with Candy, John'd give us the high sign. Ken would be making up John and "accidentally" step on the guy's shoes. I would be mixing some makeup, and "Oops! Spilled a little there! Sorry!" Finally, one day, the agent said "Jesus Christ! Why is it everytime I come in here I get my feet stepped on!" We held it in until he'd stamped out the door and then broke up laughing. He never bothered John on set after that.

John had me over to his office one day. He was having a little Christmas party. He'd gotten a very cool John Deere riding tractor for his little boy, Chris. I put it together for him while we drank eggnog and cracked jokes, laughing. Just laughing. Not long after that, John had gotten sent a crate of lobsters, and was giving away the extras. He invited me to his house to pick a couple up. I'll never forget the last time I saw him, standing at the door of his house, beaming at me. Beaming. Feeling good about having been a kind soul yet again, happy to see me happy, yet not knowing how much he'd really given me. Filling me with his warmth and charm and generosity.

I miss him.


Ya gotta get 'em started early.....
Did you read the Film and Video article? It tells of my first "prosthetic appliance" work. I was in the first grade. Six years old. I had been chosen to play Jesus Christ in the school play (that's right, Catholic school. No WONDER I'm so warped!) I wanted to play it authentic. But they wouldn't let me go "barefoot" in my sandals. I had to wear socks! Huh? "Jesus wouldn'a worn socks!"

That wasn't all - I also made stigmata for myself to wear. I used brown and red crayons and colored in these holes and a spear wound on binder paper, and wanted to cut them out and scotch-tape them to my hands, feet, and side. They made me wear socks with my sandals; you think they were gonna let me put on these wounds? No WAY!

It was my first encounter with "creative differences!" No wonder it seems like I've been doing this a long time....

more anecdotes to come...  


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