Vincent J-R Kehoe, the make-up book author, artist and president of RCMA Professional Products, died Aug. 17 in Somis, California. He was 86.
A former professional ski instructor, Kehoe served in the U.S. Signal Corps during World War II before embarking on a professional make-up career in 1940. He served as make-up department head for CBS in New York (designing all the Ford Theatre and Studio One productions) and for the NBC Hallmark Hall of Fame series. His filmography includes the musical Carousel, the 1958 horror classic The Blob, and the dramas Giant, The Thomas Crown Affair and Charly. All in all, he oversaw make-up for more than 3,000 major TV, film and stage productions. The list of celebrities he made up is long and varied, ranging from Grace Kelly to Boris Karloff.
In 1949, Kehoe joined Local 798, the East Coast union of make-up artists and hairstylists; from 1962-1966, he directed make-up for New York City’s International Beauty Show. And in 1999, he served as speaker at the International Make-up Artist Trade Show.
Kehoe wrote more than a dozen books on make-up, including Special Make-Up Effects; The Technique of Film and Television Make-Up; The Technique of the Professional Make-Up Artist for Film, Television and Stage; Photographic Make-Up for Stills and Movies and The Professional Make-up Artist, written with colleague Joe Blasco. These books were Kehoe’s contribution to the education of make-up artists, something he took to heart.
“To become a knowledgeable, competent and complete professional make-up artist requires, first, a sincere desire to learn everything there is to know—and then some—about make-up procedures, products, ingredients, lines, comparative work and how it is or was done,” he wrote in the introduction to The Technique of the Professional Make-Up Artist.
Kehoe also wrote several articles on advanced make-up research for the Journal of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. As president and director of the Research Council of Make-Up Artists, a post he assumed in 1963, Kehoe designed and produced the Color Process line of RMCA Professional Products.
“Mr. Kehoe was a true gentleman,” said Samuel Bekerian, owner of Naimie’s Beauty Supply. “He was intelligent, fun, witty and an honest businessman. His amazing artistic talent and pioneering spirit led him to create much-needed specialty make-up products that continue to serve the needs of our professional artists in the make-up industry in all corners of the world. He had an unwavering commitment and passion to serve professional make-up artists, which is unmistakably evident in his RCMA brand. He always referred to RCMA as a professional product for the professionals only. I believe Mr. Kehoe never wished to create a cosmetic brand for the masses. He achieved his goals, reached his dreams and lived contently.
“Mr. Kehoe was not in the spotlight or recognized for his contributions to the industry but his legacy will continue for decades to come. I am proud to have known this genuine human being. I had the privilege of doing business with him for over two decades, attending his make-up course and representing his fine products at Naimie’s Beauty Center and Burman Industries.
“I am saddened by Mr. Kehoe’s death and offer my deepest condolences to his wife Gena and his family.
He will be missed!”
“I am shocked and saddened by the death of Vincent Kehoe,” said friend and colleague Dick Smith. “I remember him as one of the few early make-up artists who was continually inventing special make-up materials and techniques. Since we started in the East, away from Hollywood, which tended to be secretive, we enjoyed sharing our discoveries, a practice that benefited our Eastern colleagues. Vin wrote the first book on the new field of television, The Technique of Film and Television Make-Up. The book is really about television, with enough reference to film to include it in the title. It is still a fine, small book of 280 illustrated pages.
“Vin was also a wonderful person and a fun guy to know. I can’t remember him ever being bad tempered. I was lucky to be his friend.”
Kehoe received a BFA in Motion Picture and Television Production from Columbia University in 1957 and served as guest lecturer at the Barnard College Drama Workshop. He also studied at the Bishop-Lee School of the Theatre and the American Theatre Wing. Along with his texts on make-up, Kehoe authored books on bullfighting and the history of the American Revolutionary War.
He is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren.