Today's post is in tribute to one of my great idols, legendary make-up artist & creature designer Stan Winston, who passed away last week at the age of 62 from a seven year battle with colon cancer. For those of you who don't know, he and his talented crew are the geniuses who created the makeup & creatures for The Terminator, Aliens, the animatronic dinosaurs for Jurassic Park, Predator, Pumpkinhead, Edward Scissorhands, Interview with the Vampire and many, many others. As a makeup artist he personally won Emmy awards for his work on Roots and The Autobiography of Ms. Jane Pittman. Winston had won several Oscars for his work and was one of the most influential makeup & special effects artists to ever live. He was in league with the great makeup artists like Dick Smith, Rick Baker, Rob Bottin, Jack Pierce, Lon Chaney, Jack Dawn...men who created some of the most iconic and everlasting monsters to ever grace the silver screen. So, his passing has saddened me greatly. He was always one of the highest practical makeup luminaries to me simply because his design for Predator totally blew me away and it was that which inspired me to get into masks & makeup to begin with. Even though I never had the good fortune to meet Mr. Winston I did get to meet his Art Department Coordinator, a wonderfully nice and incredibly talented gentleman named John Rosengrant, when I visited Stan Winston Studio back in the summer of 1992. Here follows that story...
In 1992 I was in the middle of taking Dick Smith's Advanced Professional Makeup Course and had built up a pretty decent portfolio. My brother was stationed out at Ft. Irwin in the desert of California at that time and it was then that I took my second trip out West with the intention of shopping my portfolio around at the various makeup studios. I visited Rick & Bari Burman's studio, Lance Anderson's, John Beuchler's...and didn't really think I had a chance in hell of getting in at Winston's...but I called anyway. Luckily they said that they were in a bit of lull that day and gave me permission to drop by. I walked through the door on pins and needles, I must say, and was greeted by a model of the Queen Alien looming menacingly in the foyer. To my surprise it was Winston's art department head, John Rosengrant, who came out to greet me. I already knew who he was, of course, and I felt like a complete idiot in his presence. But he was extremely nice and invited me to sit down while he reviewed my less-then-stellar portofolio. I had already done a Predator mask of my own and he complimented me highly on it, then looked over the rest of my work, giving me advice and suggestions for improvement, information which I soaked up graciously. He then invited me to come back and see the workshop, something which I had not really expected (Stan Winston was not there that day...I would only find out later that he was in Hawaii while they shot the triceratops sequences). He led me through the drafting room where Crash McCreery's beautiful pencil sketches of dinosaurs hung on the wall, then into a work area that they had also set up as a sort of museum. It was nothing as elaborate as the showroom he has today but it still knocked my socks off. Before he took me back, though, he had to pull a large black curtain to block off the larger studio because he said they were working on dinosaurs for Jurassic Park and that I wasn't allowed to see those. What I did see, however, was an unpainted raptor skin hanging on a gantry and two raptor tails lying on a nearby table, which was really incredible. He then allowed me to photograph the displays as much as I wanted and I just couldn't get enough of what I was seeing. I only had the one roll of film and I used it up in minutes. That done I didn't want to waste too much of his time so I thanked him a hundred times and departed, still floating on a very high-altitude cloud. As my brother and I were driving back to the hotel I went to remove the used film from my camera...only to discover that I hadn't loaded the film properly. Not ONE shot had been taken!!! My spirits crashed to ground like a meteorite. I went from being on a cloud to wanting to crawl into the deepest, darkest hole, I was so dispondent. The next day I desperately called John Rosengrant back and explained what I had done and sheepishly asked if it would be possible for me to come back and re-photograph what I had shot the day before. Unfortunately, he said that that display area was now covered with skins that they were painting and that it would be occupied all day, but he expressed how sorry he felt that I had lost my pictures. It was all my own stupidity, of course, for not loading the film properly. Anyway, I thanked him for his time and spent the last two days of my trip in a very depressed state. I flew back to West Virginia and had to suffer through telling my friends this both wonderful and depressing story as well. I was depressed for the next week. And then....and then...something arrived in the mail. A package from Stan Winston Studio! There was a handwritten letter from John Rosengrant. It read, "Dale...Thank you for taking the time to visit the Studio during your visit to L.A. I'm so sorry you lost your pictures. I hope these will do as replacements." Inside the package was an undeveloped roll of film. I just about fainted! I rushed to the developers and in an hour I had the most wonderful shots of those figures and models as I could possibly ask for. John Rosengrant, as busy as he was working on the dinos for Jurassic Park, had actually taken the time to reshoot my pictures for me and then send me the film. I have rarely been the recipient of such kindness from such a person and this experience just underscores the kindness and consideration that Stan Winston instilled in the people that worked for him. John Rosengrant could have easily dismissed me as a complete nobody...but he didn't....and I will remember that act of generosity until my dying day. It's acts of kindness such as that that inspires us to act with equal kindness toward others, which I try my best to maintain, following the example of Dick Smith, Stan Winston, and John Rosengrant. And here are a few of the shots that John Rosengrant took for me. Enjoy them in the memory of Stan Winston, for there will never by anyone quite like him. -Dale.
I also wanted to share a nice tribute written by my good friend and fellow makeup artist, Clayton Sayre, who basically was the one who got me into mask & makeup at the very start. I thought his words about Winston were very appropriate:
After reading the various tributes, I thought that of all things, Stan Winston gave the field of makeup effects a face and a personality. Moreso than Dick Smith or Rick Baker, Winston "emerged into the sunlight", so to speak with his everpresent smile and buddy-buddy comraderie with Hollywood elites like Schwarzenegger, Cameron and Spielberg. This coupled with his immense diversity, be it straight makeup effects, makeup/animatronics, or straight animatronics leading into CG, he didn't just approach them professionally...he downright attacked them....and always pushed the envelope in doing so. I have always felt that his direction of Pumpkinhead went underrated. It would have been nice to see how he would have grew as a director as well.