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A Tale of Two Michaels
Originally published at Make-Up Artist Magazine
Michael R. Thomas
October 20, 2009
Editor’s note: This summer, make-up artist Michael Thomas and pop star Michael Jackson died within two months of each other (Thomas’ obituary is posted on our site). Here, Thomas, who was Jackson’s make-up artist for The Wiz, recalls some memorable experiences with Jackson on and off the set. Thomas’ wife, Christine Domaniecki, shared Thomas’ memories with us.
Wizardry Behind The Wiz
On The Wiz, we had Vac-u-Forms made from plaster life masks of each actor who appeared as a main character (including the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow, played by Michael Jackson). They were made because every week or so, Stan Winston’s Los Angeles-based lab would ship a bunch of the actors’ freshly made foam-latex appliances to New York, where we shot the movie.
After I brought the Scarecrow appliances home, I would lightly attach the foam-latex pieces to the Vac-u-Form and pre-color them. It saved a lot of application time when we were in the make-up room at the Kaufman Astoria Studios. Keeping the foam-latex pieces on the form during pre-painting kept them in shape, the way a coat hanger keeps wrinkles out of a coat. On the inside of one of the forms, you can see a few color swatches. I duplicated the color of the Scarecrow’s greasepaint in artists’ acrylic. I put acrylic on the neck ruffle he wore as well, because if I used greasepaint, it would rub off onto his costume.
We were allowed to keep the forms at the end of the movie. I have about five.
Every morning I began Michael’s make-up by applying a bald cap to keep his hair, which was in very small braids, in place. Next I would apply the foam-latex pieces: a forehead piece, two cheek pieces, a nose piece (which was supposed to look like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup wrapper), a chin piece and a neck ruffle. They went on in the morning and had to be maintained during the day.
Michael Tells: ‘I’m A Girl Watcher!’
Tiger Beat; September 1972
Have you ever had that weird feeling that someone was staring at you—watching your every move? If you have, you might discover that the someone is none other than Michael Jackson!
He was leaning against the tree, whistling a nameless little tune. The sky—so blue that it hurt the eyes to stare up too long. But that was all right because he wasn’t looking at the sky. His eyes were busy elsewhere!
Michael grinned to himself. There was nothing that could top what he was doing right now! Standing here so casually, with his thumbs stuck through his belt loops, no one could guess that he was practicing an art.