Together Again for the First Time

Eryn Krueger Mekash and Howard Berger have known each other since the 1980s. But when the award-winning artists took to the Milk Studios stages in Hollywood, Calif. on Dec. 5 as the featured guests of a M.A.C. Pro presentation, they did something that they had never before done together: a make-up.

M.A.C. Pro Senior Artist John Stapleton kicked off the proceedings, open exclusively for the members of Make-up Artists & Hair Stylists Guild Local 706, by introducing Berger and Krueger Mekash. “They both do beauty and they both do scary really well. To see them collaborating is going to be really exciting,” he said. “They haven’t even practiced. So without a net they’re going onstage and they’re going to improv through it.”

Berger and Krueger Mekash began by offering their thoughts on the role their craft plays in a production and the importance of the make-up team presenting a united front.

Eryn Krueger Mekash Howard Berger interviewing each other
Krueger Mekash and Berger interviewing each other before starting the make-up

“When I go to a show, and even if I’m just doing the make-up effects, I always say to the department head, ‘Listen, I’m here to help. We’ll all work together,’” Berger said. “My failure is your failure. My success is your success. We all have the same goal.”

In discussing the ever-present time crunch on set, Berger got one of the afternoon’s biggest laughs recounting a comment colleague Dave Dupuis made when a producer interrupted him during a touch-up on an actor. “He just turned around and said, ‘Hey, pretend I’m in the lighting department, OK?’”

Berger and Krueger Mekash chose to recreate Hypodermic Sally, the ghost junkie character played by Sarah Paulson on the current season of American Horror Story: Hotel.

“It was a little bit of Courtney Love and also a little bit of Jean Harlow, a Twenties feel,” said Krueger Mekash about the make-up inspiration.

With Berger’s wife, Mirjam, modeling, the artists started with a trio of Super Baldiez pieces for the face.

Eryn Krueger Mekash, Howard Berger laying prosthetics
Krueger Mekash and Berger placing the prosthetics

“Super Baldiez is our friend,” joked Krueger Mekash. “We use it a lot. This whole season is about it. It’s going to be called American Super Baldiez Story.”

As the make-up proceeded, Berger and Krueger Mekash offered application tips and gave a shout-out to foam rubber. “Foam has gotten a bum rap for some strange reason,” Berger said. “But I love foam rubber. You can do a lot with it. But then again, I hate taking it off.”

Eryn Krueger Mekash, Howard Berger onstage
Krueger Mekash and Berger onstage at the M.A.C. Pro presentation
Eryn Krueger Mekash, Howard Berger
Painting the prosthetics

Throughout the transformation, the artists entertained the crowd with on-the-set stories. Krueger Mekash talked about creating 12 different looks for Bryan Cranston for the upcoming film Wakefield. Berger riffed working with Kurt Russell on Berger’s latest project, Deepwater Horizon.

Howard Berger
Berger bringing life to the hand prosthetics

“We had one day that was really gory, messy,” Berger said. “Cleanup time came. In the scene, Kurt is in a shower. He’s wearing like a jock strap. I’m cleaning him up, and I look down and I said, ‘You know, I never thought in 1981 that I’d be cleaning MacReady’s butt up.'”

Krueger Mekash brought American Horror Story hair department head Monte Haught onstage to complete the look with a frizzy blond wig that added just the right touch of disorder.

As drinks and hors d’oeuvres were served, Berger, Krueger Mekash and their creation mingled with Local 706 members.

Eryn Krueger Mekash, Howard Berger
A job well done!
Mirjam Clement as Hypodermic Sally
The final look: Mirjam Clement as Hypodermic Sally from American Horror Story: Hotel