THE ANDY KAUFMAN
RESTORATION PROCESS...At the April 2009 Profiles in History
Auction, Wally was the high bidder on a historic lot from the Stan
Winston Studios, which featured 3 life-like busts of the main
characters from the 1981 movie "Heartbeeps." A prototype for the
robot character Catskills, a prototype for the character Aqua
(played by Bernadette Peters), and a prototype for the character Val
(played by Andy Kaufman) were all included in the set. This set into
motion a brand new series of events which would have Wally updating
his Kaufman collection to all-new heights! Here's the history of
In the late 90's, Wally acquired one of Andy Kaufman's original Val
costumes from a private collector. The brown lame jacket,
with hand-stitched pinstriping was still in relatively good
condition, even though it had lost some of its original shine and
luster. The pants were in similar condition, and both needed to be
restored. When the costumes were constructed originally, it was
apparent that a layer of foam-rubber was sewn into the lining of the
costumes to pad out Andy's physique and make him appear more
android-like. Over the years, the foam-rubber deteriorated into fine
granules, and settled in the base of the lining of the jacket and
pants. Wally hired a seamstress to delicately open up the bottom
seams of the costumes to extract all of the granules, which looked a
lot like old coffee grounds. Once the costumes were free of the
residue, the seams were restitched.
It's worthy of note, that the costume in this collection contains
the "pre-bear attack jacket" and the "post-bear attack pants." In
the film, Val wanders into a bear's cave and is attacked. Tears in
the right knee of the pants, and the left shoulder of the jacket
result. Though the pants in Wally's collection have the rip in the
knee, complete with a variety of circuits, wires and tubing
protruding forth, the jacket has no such damage. It's also worthy of
note that the square buttons have been removed from the jacket, as
have the little touches of added-on circuitry on the sleeve. This
was done prior to Wally purchasing the costume.
Years later, at a Profiles in History auction, Wally was able to
acquire Andy's original Val bow-tie, complete with several
grain-of-wheat bulbs lining pieces of small metal tubing. In the
film, the grain-of-wheat bulbs actually lit up, but they no longer
seem functional. Wally put the bowtie with the jacket and pants and
made it into a stunning display behind Plexiglas in Planet
In 2008 at a Stan Winston tribute, which was part of the
International Make-Up Artists Tradeshow in Burbank, California,
Wally got to view the original prototype heads for the three
"Heartbeeps" robots. Wally had always been searching for an Andy
Kaufman lifecast, but was told that only two existed. One was done
by Bob Zmuda when Andy was appearing regularly as Tony Clifton. It
was the lifemask that the Tony Clifton appliances were sculpted on
to. The second was done by the Stan Winston Studios for the
"Heartbeeps" movie. Zmuda had told Wally that the Clifton lifemask
was his personal gift to "Man On the Moon" director Milos Forman,
and was no longer accessible. Though Wally repeatedly tried to
contact the Stan Winston Studios to investigate the whereabouts of
the "Heartbeeps" lifemask, he came up with no leads.
MIGHTY MOUSE, ET AL...
In 2001, Wally was able to acquire Andy's original "performance"
costume, consisting of Andy's trademark checkered blazer, blue
oxford shirt, black turtleneck sweater, white jeans and white
tennis shoes. Andy has appeared in this ensemble literally thousands
of times. It became his trademark style throughout his career, as
this costume saw action on Andy's PBS special "Soundstage," his ABC
special, his legendary Carnegie Hall concert, and when he appeared
on the very first episode of "Saturday Night Live" in 1975
performing Mighty Mouse. Many of Andy's early publicity photos show
him wearing this ensemble. When Andy wasn't performing in his
Hawaiian conga shirt, his I Love Grandma shirt, his Elvis costume,
his Tony Clifton tuxedo or his pink Foreign Man blazer, chances are
Andy was wearing this very costume.
the acquisition, a mannequin was customized to resemble Andy, and
then dressed in the original costume. A custom display case was
constructed so the exhibit would be kept safe behind glass. A sound
chip was placed in the exhibit, so that part of the "Mighty Mouse"
theme (complete with original SNL Don Pardo introduction) would play
at the touch of a button. But the mannequin just didn't look enough
like Andy, and Wally searched and searched for an Andy Kaufman
lifemask to make the display complete.
At the April 2009 Profiles in History Auction, Wally was the high
bidder for the very same busts from "Heartbeeps" that he had seen a
year previous at the Make-Up Artists' Tradeshow. Stan Winston The
Val and Aqua head were very life-like, complete with fake eyelashes
and glass eyes. In fact, a small knob at the base of Val's neck
would make the bust's eyes move back and forth when the knob was
Once the treasures had been
home, Wally was closely examining the head of Andy's character Val.
The piercing green/blue glass eyes in the bust were haunting! He
noticed that the glue that kept the sculpted robot hair fastened to
the head was old and cracking off. He then noticed that the hair
could be removed completely. Then he noticed that the rubber-like
prosthetics were starting to come off in places as well. The
prosthetic piece on the entire back of the head came off. The
prosthetic nose piece was lifting up as well. When Wally lifted up
the nose piece, he saw a human-like nose underneath. Just then
Wally started to suspect that underneath the robot make-up, Andy's
lifemask most likely existed.
Brian Chanes from Profiles in History had shown Wally a page in the
book 'The Winston Effect" that featured the Winston sculptor
creating the robot prosthetics on Andy's lifemask. Wally knew then
and there that the Andy Kaufman lifemask was most certainly
underneath the Val appliances on his newly acquired bust!
At the Monsterpalooza convention in May of 2009, Wally ran into
make-up and effects man Jim Ojala. Jim had worked for Wally's old
friend Robert Hall, at his Almost Human Special Effects studio a few
years back. Then, Jim and Wally met to look over the Andy bust in
detail. It was agreed that Jim would delicately remove all of the
Val robot appliances to reveal what was underneath. After a few days
of work, Jim e-mailed Wally to let him know it was indeed Andy's
lifemask, complete with facial moles! It was a dream come true!
Wally and Jim conferred again, and it was decided that Jim would
strike a high-quality negative silicone mold of this lifemask. Once
finished, a fiberglass replica of Andy's lifemask would be
fabricated, adding glass eyes, a wig, sideburns, eyelashes and
eyebrows. Of course, Jim would also add a life-like paint job to
make it seem even more realistic. When the head is finished, it will
be added to the mannequin displaying Andy's performance costume.
Naturally, the other head will need to be removed so it can be
replaced with Andy's regenerated lifemask. Jim will also repaint the
mannequin's hands to match the skin tone of his face.
Once the original Stan Winston lifemask is molded and restored to
its original condition, Jim will reattach the fake eyelashes, and
repaint the copper colored tone around Andy's eyes to match the
original prosthetics. Jim will also reset the lifemask's glass eyes,
since some of the original mechanics which allowed the eyes to move
back and forth have gone into disrepair. Then the original
"Heartbeeps" prosthetics will be delicately re-applied to the
Winston lifemask. When that is finished, the restored Val head will
be added to another mannequin that will be dressed in the original
Val costume. Both Andy mannequins will be on display in Planet
Wallywood. It's anticipated that by mid-summer, this project will be
ready for the unveiling.
June 21 - 2009 -
create the robot hands for the "Val" display, the mannequin's hands
are covered by a two-part molding compound called Magic Sculpt. Once
the two parts of the compound are joined together, the putty can be
applied to the hands and sculpted into the appropriate shapes. Water
can be used to smooth the putty where it's needed. Once the putty is
allowed to dry overnight, it becomes firm and sandable.
Since sculpting between the mannequin's fingers
is quite difficult, only one finger on each hand is sculpted per
night. That way each finger is allowed to fully cure before another
is sculpted, which cuts down on the possibility of accidentally
marring the sculpture while working in such intricate areas.
This page was created in an effort to let you keep an eye on the
day-to-day and week-to-week progress of these new restorations. New,
updated photos will be displayed here with captions so you can keep
tabs on Jim's progress with Andy. So keep checking back often!
In order for a shell to be created with fiberglass
to cradle the silicone negative of the Andy Kaufman lifecast, the
original lifecast needed to be built up with clay. The clay
represents what the silicone will eventually be. Once the cradle of
fiberglass is set, then the clay is stripped off the lifecast,
silicone is poured in and the raw lifecast is immersed. When it's
set, it will be a perfect "negative" casting of Andy's lifecast.
Stay tuned...next will be the silicone work! When the silicone is
cured, then fiberglass is placed inside the negative to make a
perfect replica of the original Andy Kaufman lifecast. Then it can
be painted with lifelike skin tones, hair can be added, and glass
eyes can be placed inside.
BTW, check out Jim's web site:
June 27, 2009 -
The fiberglass shell for the silicone molding process is readied
Andy's lifecast is encased in the sealed fiberglass mold casing, and
then silicone is fed into it. The silicone forms around the lifecast
making a perfect "negative" replica of the lifecast
Once the silicone cures, the mold is taken apart in two pieces, the
front and back. The original Andy Kaufman lifecast looks a bit
peeved to have gone through such a process. But the silicone is such
great material, the original lifecast is virtually unharmed.
PRESTO! An exact impression of the lifecast is produced in the
ALSO...back in the Chaney Room...the robot
hands are completed. The two-part molding compound called Magic
Sculpt is amazing! The details of the robot hands are completed.
Once the putty is completely cured, certain areas of the hands
will be sanded with a fine grain sandpaper to ensure proper detail.
June 30, 2009 -
Make-up/Effects artist Jim Ojala delivers the fiberglass Andy
Kaufman replica head pulled from the mold. Though this is not the
final wig and eyebrows, you can see the likeness beginning to take
shape. Of course the whole head needs to have hair, eyelashes,
eyebrows and sideburns professionally and permanently applied, as
well as have the fleshtones meticulously painted with glass eyes
installed, it's easy to see how lifelike it will be when it's
The guys from David's
Glass of North Hollywood delicately remove the huge plate glass
covering from the Andy Kaufman display. The mannequin is being
removed so that the head may be replaced with the Andy Kaufman
lifecast. That means that the mannequin will need to be completely
undressed so that the mannequin's head and hands can be repainted in
Jim Ojala's effects studio.
Want a close-up look at Andy's clothes?
July 2, 2009 -
Jim brings the painted lifecast over to Planet
Wallywood for color approval. He has covered the glass eyes with
latex to protect it from the airbrush during painting. When the
painting is done, the latex can simply be removed and the eyes will
be unharmed. The glossy finish will be muted somewhat in the final
incarnation, though not completely. A total matte finish would make
it look too much like a mannequin, and a bit of gloss gives it
"life"...as if it were facial oils. After a few more touch-ups, it
will be ready to have eyelashes, eyebrows, sideburns and the wig
attached. Note that the paintjob also gives a hint of Andy's 5:00
July 3, 2009 -
Jim Ojala brings over the finished mannequin
and it's stunning! His wife Beth, Jim and Wally undergo the arduous
task of dressing the mannequin in Andy's original performance
costume. The turtleneck sweater is pulled delicately over the
mannequin's head (so the hair, sideburns and eyebrows don't get
mussed), then the blue oxford shirt is added, and then the checkered
blazer. The shirts' sleeves are threaded through the jacket sleeves,
and then the mannequin's disconnected arms are fed through the
sleeves from inside the shirt. Then the arms are locked into place
on the mannequin's body. Getting the knob on the arm locked into the
hole and groove on the body was not easy! Additionally, it was tough
stretching the material in certain ways to accommodate the arms
considering the age of the material. Once the arms were locked into
place, the hands were added.
Many photos were taken of the finished product
before the guys from David's Glass came to place the mannequin back
in its case. Here are a few shots that show the wonderful detail
that Jim put into the paint scheme.
Jim trims up the eyebrows to exact precision.
Wally's pal comic Jon Reep stops in to see Andy.
The guys from David's Glass in North Hollywood clean the glass and
prepare to reinstall it into the case.
Project Restore Andy is complete!
The upgraded mannequin is installed in the case.
July 21, 2009 -
Jim Ojala brings over the completed Valcom robot mannequin from
"Heartbeeps." The dress shirt that Wally had in the display does not
have a large enough collar to accommodate the make-up appliances on
the head. So a size 18" collared shirt will need to be purchased.
Additionally, padding will need to be added to the chest and
shoulder areas to bulk up the display. Once a shirt is chosen, the
original bowtie will be added to it, making the display look more
Though the hands have been sculpted and completed, they are now in
the possession of noted toy and prop painter Scott Zillner. He'll
paint them in a matching copper tone and add distressing and
highlights. The addition of the hands will go a long way to creating
a finished look as well as the padding.
In this close-up of the completed Stan Winston head, you can see
Jim's amazing gift for restoration. He's embellished the old prop
with fresh metallic paint and touch-ups. He even managed to salvage
the original eyelashes! Though Andy's eyes weren't green in real
life, they certainly do "pop" against the copper colored skin tones.
July 27, 2009-
The mannequin's torso is padded up
to fill out the original dimensions of the costume. Then a white
shirt (with a neck circumference of 18.5" to accommodate all of the
prosthetics) is added to the mannequin. (The shirt is not an
original screen-used piece). Then the jacket is pulled onto the
mannequin and fastened. The bowtie is stitched to the collar of the
white shirt. The only thing left to complete the mannequin is the
addition of the painted hands. Then it will be a complete display!
The "Heartbeeps" movie poster is
mounted behind the mannequin to complete the display
July 30, 2009 -
Some vintage "Heartbeeps" lobby cards in clear
frames are added to the display, along with the placard that states
what the item is and the year it was used.
August 9, 2009 -
Artist Scott Zillner puts the initial paintjob
on the robot hands. They still need to have an overcoat of "dirtying
up" before they're complete, but they look amazing. A testament to
Scott's amazing work and abilities. Soon the hands will be delivered
and attached to the Heartbeeps robot mannequin and the display will
August 14, 2009 -
COMPLETE AT LAST! Scott Zillner brought the robot
hands by Planet Wallywood and his eye proved to be spot on! The
colors matched perfectly. Scott wanted to see the film to see how
the colors compared, and I got the surprise of a lifetime!
Apparently, the Andy Kaufman "Valcom" robot head WAS screen-used
after all! In one scene, early in the film, the robot's head swivels
around 180 degrees. The circuitry on the back of the neck matches
mine perfectly. I was astonished! Even the green glass eyes are the
same. Check out the screenshots from the film!
Give Scott Zillner a hand! No, give him TWO!
The completed Andy Kaufman Valcom robot.
My finished robot alongside the head as it appeared onscreen in the
As you can see, the circuitry on the back of the neck of the robot
matches mine perfectly. The prosthetics on the head were removed for
short time so the lifecast of Andy could be molded.
Again, another great view of the Stan Winston robot head in
the long process of restoration is complete. And I couldn't be
THANKS to Bryan Ebenhoch for the photo!
The photo that Bryan sent was blown up in to a presentational poster and exhibited alongside the robot. As you can see it looks fantastic!