Editor’s Note: The world lost iconic artist David Bowie on Jan. 10. In the course of his career as a musician and actor, Bowie transformed himself—and was transformed—into a range of personas, from the glam rocker Ziggy Stardust to the aging vampire John Blaylock in The Hunger, a make-up so known all on its own that Australia’s Odd Studio recreated it at IMATS Los Angeles 2015. Unfortunately, many of the make-up artists who worked with Bowie departed before he did, but we did get comment from some of the surviving artists who worked with him on what the experience was like. (In the cases of late artists, we have quoted previous Make-Up Artist magazine coverage.)
Nick Dudman: I was introduced to David Bowie by Dick Smith on the set of The Hunger back in 1983. Dick was interviewing me for a job as an assistant. David was sitting on set, in the mid-stage old-age make-up, and I didn’t immediately recognize him. Then Dick said, “Nick, this is David Bowie.” I still remember the adrenaline hit.
When Dick explained the make-up, I really looked closely and told him that I probably wasn’t going to be much help as I had no idea how he had made everything so real … he laughed and said not to worry, that was why he was there!
David was charming and friendly, completely relaxed and happy to chat. He was always completely professional and open to all. I met him again a couple of years later when I was making up Jennifer Connelly on Labyrinth—he instantly came up to reminisce about Dick and the make-up. A magic moment.
We, in our work, sometimes walk with giants. It is an honor and a privilege. David Bowie: Such a gifted, lovely man, who has left us all with so much, an artist without peer. RIP.
The late Dick Smith, describing his work on The Hunger in Issue 25: David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve play vampires. I created a series of progressively older make-ups to age 150 for Bowie. Made puppets to stage Deneuve’s death. Fashioned seven foam-latex mummy suits and various make-up effects. First use of my invention, PAX, to make-up appliances.
William Forsche: I met David Bowie at the taping of Top of the Pops in Hollywood, circa 1987, and we talked about Dick Smith and the aging process that [Bowie] went through for The Hunger. I also mentioned that I collect lifemasks and had a copy of the one he had taken for the movie The Man Who Fell to Earth, the casting was originally done by Bill Malone for the Burman Studio to help create alien effects for the 1976 film, and his eyes grew quite wide. He paused and then asked if it were possible to make a copy for him to have, to which I replied, “Of course.” His agent gave me David’s contact information and I later visited his New York office, shortly after which I was supplied some publicity photos to assist me with the painting of his cast as Aladdin Sane.
David was very happy with the casting I sent him so he sent me a couple of backstage passes to his Glass Spider Tour in Los Angeles, to which Mike Smithson and I went. Mike was nice enough to bring me to the Top of the Pops taping where I first met David Bowie. Thank you, Mike, and thank you, David.
I recreated these Aladdin Sane castings again in 2012.
Mary Greenwell: I did make-up for his 50th birthday tour. Before his 50th birthday, I had gone to South Africa with Grace Coddington and Bruce Weber to do Iman’s make-up for American Vogue; he was there and I met him. He was the most extraordinary man. You have to remember that at the beginning of his career, he did his own make-up. He might have had people to help him, but he was his own creator; it was his own vision. For his 50th birthday tour, he’d already gone through all his wild stages—Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke—so I made him more beautiful than he always was, a better version of himself. He was singing his classic songs, being wonderful, classic David Bowie, so he wasn’t doing invention during that tour. We all think he’s the most beautiful man, so that was the interpretation of the make-up. I was on tour for a couple of weeks. He is honestly the nicest person in the world, generous and giving. Even though you might feel like a small human being beside him, he helped you to grow and allowed you to be. I think we have lost the greatest living artist of the last 50 years, without a doubt.
The late Pierre La Roche, as described in an Issue 75 story by Brett Glass: When David Bowie released The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars in 1972, he not only debuted a new glam-rock sound, he debuted a new look. Bowie had hired Elizabeth Arden make-up artist Pierre La Roche to create this look, which mixed gender-bending androgeny with futuristic touches.
This look, as much as his new sound, gained Bowie worldwide attention. La Roche went on to work with Bowie throughout the 1970s, morphing Bowie’s face with every image change. It was La Roche who created the famous lightning bolt across Bowie’s face for the cover of 1973’s Aladdin Sane.
The late Richard Sharah, as described in an Issue 75 story by Brett Glass: Richard Sharah’s predominant make-up style can be defined by two of his most famous clients: rock star David Bowie and fashion designer Zandra Rhodes. Both clients pushed him to experiment with color and texture, thus helping him define his wildly creative punk-meets-New Wave aesthetic. According to an interview Sharah gave to The Face in 1981, he began working with Bowie in 1980 [on Ashes to Ashes]. “David came to me and said he wanted a Pierrot look, and let me design from there.” The result, which never crossed the line into clownishness, was a significant departure from Bowie’s glam 1970s make-up.
Louie Zakarian: I did work on one Bowie video. It was the “Little Wonder” video. I had to make a guy look like a young Bowie. I had little interaction with Bowie except for setting him up with some lizard contact lenses. But he was the nicest guy. He got a kick out of seeing the young version of himself.
If you ever worked with David Bowie, or were inspired by him, we invite you to share your memories on our Make-Up Artist magazine Facebook page.