RANDOM PIC OF THE WEEK
This is the Clifton I used to do in the early 2000s. The make-up was great, but the costume wasn’t quite as accurate as I would have liked.
Obviously, under the circumstances of the week, I couldn’t stop singing this medley from “The Fantastic Miss Piggy Show” that Tony Clifton performed so brilliantly. “Siiiiiiing! Sing a so-hong!”
Monday the 21st – WE’RE ON THE MEND! – Because of the strange occurrences of the past few days, I gave myself permission to sleep late. I was feeling a bit better after the “food-poisoning/24-hour-stomach-flu” thing I had endured, and Roxy was doing pretty well after her ordeal of being attacked by a pitbull in Palm Springs. Later in the afternoon I drove to Voice Trax West for a session for American Airlines. Normally I would have just walked, but the muscles surrounding my ribs were still very sore from the illness I had incurred. When you can’t keep anything down that whole middle area gets very sore and fatigued rather quickly. So every step I took was a bit painful. I haven’t really eaten anything since Sunday morning, and I wasn’t really very hungry anyway. After the session I went to a local craft store called Kit Kraft to pick up some supplies for my kid’s project, I hit the hardware store to get some items, drove to my mailbox to pick up my packages, dropped the stuff off at home, and then drove the SUV back to Enterprise to drop it off. I did manage to walk the short distance back to my house, shower and nap on the couch. I got up later to type out Wally’s Week, and I started digging through the closet in my Chaney Room to find my costume for the big upcoming Halloween party on Saturday night! It was a blast digging through the old Chaney Room closet again!
Tuesday the 22nd – COUNTDOWN TO HALLOWEEN! – Nick Simon is a very successful writer and director who has been living in L.A. for a while now. Like me, he too hails from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It’s always fun to get together for lunch from time to time and chat about the old homestead and other things going on in our transplanted lives. So we met at Jerry’s Famous Deli for lunch and had a great time catching up. I just KNOW that he and I are going to be working on something together someday. Then I sped over to my Dr.’s office to get a refill on a prescription. Then I hit the post office to mail some things, checked my box for packages, stopped by the cleaners to drop off a comforter that needed cleaning, and drove to a costume store in Burbank to pick up some white tuxedo gloves, aka “parade gloves.” When I pulled my old white gloves out of the Chaney Room closet the previous night, I realized they’ve seen better days and need to be retired. They’re all stained and gross-looking from years of use. I found the gloves I needed and headed home to start my evening’s activities. First, I recorded a few auditions and sent them to my agent. I did a little more work around the house and then napped in the evening. I got up later to do more auditions, and then started the arduous task of bookkeeping; something I NEVER look forward to, but something that has to be done. I had lots of receipts stashed in my envelope from all my travels over the past several months, and it was time to get everything reconciled in my bookwork. It took hours, but it was good to have it over with for the time being. I scanned some checks and prepared a bank deposit, and then I started digging into my Halloween costume to make sure I had all the parts I needed and they all still worked. I’m going as the Andy Kaufman lounge singer character Tony Clifton this year. Unlike when I used to do Clifton in the early 2000s, I’m no longer going to wear prosthetics. Instead, my effects guy Jim Ojala is creating a hyper-realistic silicone mask that will last forever. The shirt, tie, jacket and shoes all still worked very well. But the pants, which I haven’t worn in 18 years, no longer fit. ARRRGH! So I need to go to It’s a Wrap in Burbank to get some new tuxedo pants. Luckily black tuxedo pants are fairly easy to find, but I’m still annoyed that my original pants no longer fit. But honestly, it’s not like I last wore them two years ago and they no longer fit. These are pants from 18 years ago…so I guess I’m allowed to “grow a bit” over the nearly two decades. (It’s still aggravating though!) Since I was in Palm Springs last Saturday, and didn’t get to enjoy my normal Saturday night ritual of my Saturday night Super Salad and an episode of “Space 1999,” I decided to do it tonight. The episode’s guest star was Christopher Lee, and it was the best episode I’ve seen so far, even though I’m only about 6 episodes into the first season. But as I’m watching the show, I sometimes wonder how the actors all kept straight faces while they were filming.
Wednesday the 23rd – PANTS, GLANCE, DANCE! – As Tony Clifton might say, with some of his ‘world famous rhyming,’ it was time to go pants shopping. I was lucky to find several good candidates for black tuxedo pants at It’s a Wrap, and many of the candidates were brand new, never worn, and still had the tag on them. They were selling for as little as $30 a pair, plus there was a 50% discount on everything! Awesome! But the pants they had were more “modern” looking, and didn’t have the look of the 70’s Tony Clifton I was looking for. The most glaring difference was the satin stripe running down the outer legs. The Tony Clifton look I’m attempting to capture is the way he looked on “The Fantastic Miss Piggy Show” (probably the final time Andy ever performed Clifton before handing it off to his pal Bob Zmuda). The satin stripes on more modern tux pants are thinner than their retro counterparts. But I found 3 various, suitable sizes which will need to accommodate the fat pad which I’ll wear underneath. While two of the pair I bought are the more modern style; made from wool with a thinner stripe, I did find an amazing pair made from 70’s era made from soft, stretchy polyester knit fabric. It’s the exact same material they used on my original Jack Lord “Hawaii Five-O” costume! They made fabrics stretchy in the 70’s because we were all dancing so much back then. The pants didn’t have a tag on them, and I started to think they were custom-made for some film or TV project. It’s a Wrap is a great store in Burbank that sells unused clothing from film and TV wardrobe departments, so you never know where these clothes were used, or in which projects. Most of them are from major networks and film studios! I got a car wash on the way home, and once I got home, I had several auditions that needed to be done. The warm day had cooled off considerably once the sun set, so I put on my walking shoes and walked over to CVS to get my prescription filled. I got a sandwich at Subway on the walk back home, and went inside and showered. I grabbed a short nap on the couch. Luckily, I was feeling much MUCH better, and my rib muscles were no longer hurting. It felt good to be out, walking briskly, enjoying the evening. Later I got up for some work around the house, and started prepping my Clifton costume. I realized upon closer inspection of the new tux pants, that they had no functional pockets. They had faux pockets stitched into the design of the pants, and this further discovery made me think that these really WERE custom made for some film or TV show. The problem was that they were about 2 inches too short for me. I had taken them to dry cleaners on my evening walk, and while they said they could let the hem down easily enough, it would take over a week. Since I needed the pants this Saturday, I told them no thanks. I noticed that the edge of the fabric on the pant legs had been “overlocked” by whoever made them originally. That meant that I could snip off the threads holding the hem in place and let all the fabric down, and the fabric wouldn’t fray. So I did, and it worked perfectly. Because of the stretchy nature of the fabric, I knew that I could stretch out the “bend” from where the pant legs had been hemmed up. So I ironed them out a bit (that fabric reacted VERY well to heat) and I hooked up some binder clips and rubber bands to stretch the bend out of the pant leg. It worked perfectly! I LOVE THESE PANTS! When I used to do Tony Clifton back in the early 2000s I used the only tux jacket I could find that was similar. It was close, but not perfect. In the late 2000s I found two of the EXACT type of jackets Andy Kaufman wore as the original Tony Clifton. I have one adorning my Tony Clifton life-size figure in my kitchen, and the other fits me perfectly, so I keep it in my closet for special occasions. But since they’re such a rarity to find, I don’t really want to wear it anywhere for fear of getting it damaged. So several years ago, I did a high resolution scan of the unique paisley pattern on the jacket’s fabric, and had my pal Scott Sebring create a tile pattern to have yards and yards of replica fabric printed. Even the REAL Tony Clifton was interested in getting some of this fabric printed, because the tux jackets he wore were fading quite badly and were no longer usable. I had many yards of the fabric created, gave Tony enough to have a new tux jacket made for himself, and I still had enough left over to make two jackets for me. Tony had his tailored in the Philippines, and his tailor was so good at creating the jacket for him, that he had enough fabric left over for a vest and two bowties. Clifton gifted me with a bowtie for giving him the fabric. I had considered wearing the actual Lord West tuxedo for Halloween, just to have the feel of what an original would be like, but I opted to wear the replica in case something horrible happened while we were out at the party. Food or drink spills on the original 70’s tuxedo would have been quite tragic, so I decided to play it safe. And the replica is so good, it has the look of the original down to every last detail! But this would be the first time I ever went out as Tony Clifton wearing the ACTUAL, authentic looking tuxedo jacket, and I was very excited by the prospect (as an insane Andy Kaufman fan!) I decided to call it a night, so I made some soup and watched an episode of “Police Woman” before bed.
Thursday the 24th – OSCAR ORBS, TONY TUMMY! – My friend Edi and I met for lunch at Paty’s in Toluca Lake, and then I sped over to Alex in Wonderland to do some more work on creating the “eye blink” mechanism for the Oscar the Grouch replica puppet I’m working on. My buddy Pat Evans, a super talented prop fabricator in his own right, was in the area so I had him stop by and meet the gang at A.I.W.! I got home to feed the pets, and my pal Jim Ojala stopped by with the finished Clifton silicone mask. It looked amazing and stunningly lifelike! I needed a little more tinting done on the sideburns to match the wig, plus we decided to attach a small piece of Velcro to the forehead so that the wig could be attached securely to the mask. That way it wouldn’t move up or down throughout the course of Halloween evening. When he left I did some auditions, and then grabbed a short nap on The Most Comfortable Couch in the Universe. My night time project involved moving a bunch of plastic bins around in my garage so that I could obtain access to my underground storage area. I needed to find my box of vintage reel to reel tapes, from my old days of radio. Whenever I would write, produce and mix a new parody song for “The Dr. Demento Show,” I always made sure to do a “live performance” mix, consisting of all the musical elements sans lead vocal. That way I could play the track at events and sing to it live. I’m prepping some material for a live comedy act I’ll be doing in a few weeks, and I needed to find an instrumental track for a song I did many years ago. The only existing copy I have handy is on an old cassette tape, which probably sounds like crud by today’s standards. So I needed to unearth the original master tapes to have them digitized professional for the best possible sound quality. My pal Elliot Lure had a lot of his old reel to reel tapes digitized recently by a company in Pasadena, and he highly recommended them. It was my intent to get into the garage early in the week to do this, but my sore rib muscles prevented me from doing any heavy lifting in small, cramped spaces. But I found the boxes I needed, grabbed the tapes, and I’ll run them over to the transfer house early next week. I went inside and started working on the Tony Clifton fat pad. Since every seamstress I know is on a time crunch working on high profile Halloween stuff, this simple project is something I’ll have to do on my own. I can hand stitch well enough on my own, and it will suffice as a temporary fix, but for the long haul I’ll have to have a pro fat pad made if I ever want to do Clifton as a cosplay for future conventions or events. I bought a white tank top at It’s a Wrap, dug out a bunch of pillow stuffing that I had in my storage boxes downstairs, and found some stretchy cream-colored fabric for the tummy portion. I cut out a pear-shaped piece that went from my solar plexis down to my waist, and started hand-stitching it to the front of the tank top. I left the top open so I could stuff it to my liking, and then sewed it up. I even sewed in a belly button just for reality! When I was working as Beetlejuice at Universal Studios Hollywood back in 1994 to 1998, the costumers there would create fat pads for the Beetlejuice actors in much the same way. But as a short cut they would buy little round pillows at a local store and sew them into t-shirts for us. It literally looked like we were wearing little round pillows under our shirts, and it looked terrible. There was no form or human shape to them at all. Honestly, it looked like a bunch of pregnant Beetlejuices running around. I asked them if they could fine tune mine to look a little more realistic, which they did. Once I got the tummy portion stitched to the tank top, I had to create a Velcro-attached crotch panel, so the fat pad wouldn’t move around during the evening. But that would have to wait until tomorrow. I was beat!
Friday the 25th – SO…I SEE THE SEWING YOU’VE SEWN! – Mid-afternoon Jim Ojala brought the Clifton mask over again and it looked amazing! I needed to stich a companion piece of Velcro in the inside front of the wig to correspond with the piece on the mask. But that would have to wait until later, because I had to run to a dinner meeting at the Yard House in Burbank to meet with old friends Steve and Amy Austin. I used to work with Amy a long time ago at the Premiere Radio Network, and we got back in touch last March at the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas. We had a blast chatting all evening. But when I got home I had a full night of work ahead of me! I stitched the Velcro inside the wig, I also stitched two wig clips into the inside back of the wig, so the wig could snap securely into little pin curls I’d put in my own hair. That would prevent the wig from moving around at all once it was on. It wasn’t easy, but I eventually got it finished. I also got some white linen fabric from my storage downstairs and cut out a crotch panel. Since I was doing a fast job on all this, I needed fabric that had a tight enough weave where it wouldn’t fray. Until I can get this to my seamstress to have it overlocked, I needed it to stay as secure as possible and not fray out. I attached the Velcro attachment to the fat pad, the companion Velcro piece to the crotch panel, and attached the crotch panel to the back of the tank top. It worked perfectly, and for a rank amateur I did alright. Satisfied with my progress, I made some soup and a sandwich and watched another episode of “Police Woman.”
Saturday the 26th – HALLOWEEN SATURDAY! – Knowing that I would most likely be up late for the Halloween party I’d be attending, I slept fairly late in the day. When I got up l walked Roxy over to our church for their annual “Trunk or Treat” event, where people pull their cars into the parking lot, decorate them up, and pass out candy to kids in costumes. It’s always a lot of fun! I got back home around 6:30 and started the Clifton prep. Unlike years’ past when it took me about 2 hours to do the Clifton prosthetic make-up process, this was considerably easier. I put my hair in pin curls, and applied Tan #2 pancake make-up to my neck. This would ensure that my neck would be the same shade as the skin tones on the silicone mask. My friend M.D. arrived and we caught a cab over to the party at the Autonomous Special Effects house. My pal Jim Ojala got me tickets to this amazing party which is hosted every year by a major special effects house in L.A.! The costumes and make-ups are always top notch, because these are the PROS! The cab pulled up to drop us off, but I had a bit of prep to do before I was ready to get out. I put the mask on, attached the wig in place, put on the sunglasses, and then put on the white gloves and faux diamond pinkie ring. But by the time we got inside I realized my pinkie ring was gone! It had slipped off the glove. (Note to self: sew the ring to the glove for future events!) Luckily, they found the ring and it was returned. I spent the rest of the evening with my left pinkie curled up so it wouldn’t fall off again. Though it was very loud in the party, and I wasn’t able to talk well through a silicone mask, somebody introduced me to a woman whose name (I think) is Margaret. They said that her husband was the make-up artist who helped to create the original Tony Clifton make-ups for Andy and Bob Zmuda!! I HAD to get a picture with her! There were so many great costumes, but the Planet of the Apes folks were absolute showstoppers! They looked like they crawled right off the silver screen! They went around and passed out beaded necklaces to those costumes they felt were worthy to compete in the midnight costume contest. Knowing that professional make-up artists look down on “masks,” I probably didn’t have a chance. But my pal Dana Gould was there passing out the beads and gave me a set. I knew with all of the amazing make-ups at the party, I most likely wouldn’t win, but I was honored to be chosen for consideration. Many people came up and said I was their favorite costume of the night, even though a young lady at the front entrance thought that M.D. and I were Sonny and Cher. I saw lots of great folks, chatted with many friends, and we had a blast dancing, eating, and seeing all the amazing costumes. As expected, the Planet of the Apes group won the contest and deservedly so. Stunning! We caught an Uber back to Planet Wallywood and I removed the layers of clothes. Even though it was a nice cool evening in L.A., wearing 3 layers of clothes (fat pad, tux shirt and jacket) still made me very warm. I did some work around the house, relaxed, and made some notes about what to change on my costume; 1) sew the ring to the glove, 2) move the Velcro up on the fat pad’s crotch panel for a more secure fit (as the tank top stretches out over the course of the evening as it starts to get wet with perspiration), 3) possibly put a crotch panel on the tux shirt to keep it secured as well, 4) have functional pockets put in the pants, but I’m not sure that’s even possible, 5) since the bowtie I wore sat crooked because of an inferior clasp, I think I’ll opt for a clip-on bowtie for future appearances, 6) stitch the wig to the silicone mask permanently. But all in all it was a pretty spectacular evening; one of the best Halloween Saturdays I think I’ve ever had! I went to bed to rest up, because I had to be up a little earlier than usual on Sunday to sing a song at church. And my voice was a little rough from all that amplified talking I had to do through a silicone mask, and over loud music. So rest is the key.
Sunday the 27th – THE AFTERGLOW! – The “high” feeling from the previous night’s party was still in full effect. It was great doing a perfect Clifton, where all the costume pieces were as accurate as they could possibly be. I got a message from my ‘adopted grandma’ Shirley that she couldn’t go to church because of an allergic reaction. So Roxy and I walked over to rehearse for the service. I sang the old 70’s classic “Spirit in the Sky” which is always a crowd favorite. Since there was no Shirley, I didn’t have any dinner plans. So Roxy and I just walked home. I ran the kitchen sink full of warm water and put in a little dishwashing liquid. I soaked the fat pad to clean it (I didn’t want to put it in the washing machine because of all the hand-stitching I had done) and then put in the tuxedo shirt. There was a fair amount of make-up on the collar that I had to lightly scrub off, but I let them both soak for a period of time. As I was kneading the fat pad to get it clean I discovered that there were still a few stick pins in the crotch panel that I hadn’t removed! YOWCH! That could have been REALLY uncomfortable! But luckily they didn’t make their presence known during the evening. I let everything soak while I took a short nap, and then I got up for my auditions. I spent the rest of the night sorting out all the pix from the party, and strategized for the new week. I had LOTS to do in the coming days. I walked Roxy on a leisurely late-night walk through the complex and noted that summer was definitely over…it had turned COLD!!!
And how was YOUR Halloween week??!?!
PIX FROM THE WEEK
Here’s Tony Clifton’s brief stage appearance during the costume contest! Probably the only time you’ll see comic Dana Gould and Clifton on stage together!