Breaking Don Post Studios Interviews Lee Lambert

Interview: Lee Lambert, Author of The Illustrated History of Don Post Studios

Interview: Lee Lambert, Author of The Illustrated History of Don Post Studios

Someday in 2017 my brother-in-law, who teaches programs on make-up, requested me a few new e-book that had simply been launched on Don Post Studios. I used to be unaware of it, nevertheless once I appeared into it I used to be surprised by the unimaginable assortment of masks that have been featured inside its pages. I contacted the books writer, Lee Lambert, and requested him some questions relating to this venture which he spent a number of years engaged on.

Jonathan Stryker: The ebook that you’ve written on Don Post Studios is beautiful, meticulously researched and extremely skilled. Is that this your first ebook?

Lee Lambert: Not solely was it my first e-book, however I initially had no want to put in writing it. The thought of a e-book on Don Post Studios first crossed my thoughts about ten years in the past. I had seemed for a e-book on them and was stunned to seek out out that no one had written one. In 2012, when the information broke that they have been being shut down, I acknowledged the time was proper for a guide and waited to listen to that somebody was writing it. I stored shut tabs on the rumor mill, ready to listen to that somebody was going to tackle the venture. Weeks become months, and no one was even speaking about it. The extra I considered it, the stronger I felt that this was a guide that wanted to be carried out sooner quite than later. I had gone to my good friend and fellow collector Dan Roebuck’s home and spent a while leafing by means of his binders of Don Post publicity photographs and observed that many of the previous ones have been beginning to degrade.  Lastly, I noticed if I didn’t step up and do it, it wouldn’t get carried out. I’m the primary to confess that I didn’t have the information to do it, however I used to be pals with the individuals who did. I’m additionally not knowledgeable author by any means, however this isn’t a tutorial textbook. I simply approached it as a fan and collector speaking to different followers and collectors. In hindsight, I feel simply placing collectively the ebook I needed to see as a fan is why the guide has carried out in addition to it has.

JS: How lengthy have you ever been a fan of horror?

LL: There was by no means any single Wow! second for me the place I fell in love with the style. It’s simply what I’ve all the time gravitated in the direction of. As a child rising up within the 1970’s in Toronto, Saturday mornings weren’t cartoons for me. We had a youngsters’s present right here in Canada referred to as The Hilarious Home of Frightenstein which featured interpretations of basic monsters as the primary characters.

JS: My God, I additionally noticed Frightenstein and remembered the opening credit very vividly. My mother and father had a black and white TV on the time. This was 1975/1976. I used to be in my second yr of elementary faculty and appeared ahead to this present each day. I couldn’t recall the title of the present, however 25 years later my pal Debra advised me what it was!

LL: Superb! After Frightenstein, there was a station that confirmed both Common basic horror or 1950’s sci-fi flicks. On the similar time, my favourite toy was Hugo, Man of 1000 Faces and my favourite childhood guide was Alan Ormsby’s Film Monsters.

JS: Was the vacation of Halloween a particular occasion for you throughout your childhood?

LL: Surprisingly, it wasn’t that huge of a deal once I was a toddler. I loved trick or treating, however I seldom put any thought into my costume and didn’t get excited for it. Again within the 1970’s, virtually no one did something in my neighborhood in phrases of Halloween adorning. There was one exception although. There was this one couple who used to prop up a couple of patio stones within the yard as tombstones and the spouse would gown as a witch and run across the roof cackling at us youngsters.

JS: Oh, man! What horror movies impressed you/scared you probably the most?

LL: I’ve by no means truly been scared throughout a film. The closest was once I snuck in to see Halloween in 1978. I beloved each minute of it whereas I used to be watching it however mendacity in mattress at night time I’d keep in mind the scene the place Jamie Lee Curtis appeared out her bed room window and noticed The Form wanting up at her. Like most youngsters, I had an excellent creativeness and simply satisfied myself that, if I appeared out the window, The Form can be standing in my yard. I didn’t have nightmares, nevertheless it took a bit longer to get to sleep. Wanting again, there have been so much of films that I liked once I first noticed them within the 1980’s and proceed to like them to today. That being stated there have been a couple of that had an actual influence on me. The summer time of 1981 was large as a result of a pair of werewolf films that I couldn’t get sufficient of. The Howling was launched in April, simply earlier than my birthday and I noticed it nicely over a dozen occasions. In August, when it obtained to the purpose that I might recite The Howling dialog verbatim, An American Werewolf in London was launched. On the time, the transformation scene in Werewolf utterly captivated me and I might watch the film time and again, making an attempt to determine the way it was achieved.

JS: Wow, I had simply began moving into horror movies in the summertime of 1981 however I noticed them on tv. I truly noticed The Howling and An American Werewolf in London two years afterward residence video and I almost memorized The Howling, too! I went to go to a pal at his home two years in the past and we watched it and he virtually recited it verbatim, too!

LL: Wow! Fortuitously, again then, theater safety on the native mall was virtually non-existent. As a child, you’d purchase a ticket for one thing G-rated and when you have been previous the ticket taker on the entrance, no one cared what theater you went to or should you stayed for each screening.

JS: I do know! It was really easy to try this again then! In 1983, I paid to see Struggle Video games and snuck into Dangerous Enterprise.

LL: Ha! To today, Joe Dante and John Landis stay my favourite administrators with Dante’s Matinee being my all-time favourite movie of any style. One other movie that basically embodied (to me no less than) what the video retailer expertise was about was The Evil Lifeless.  It wasn’t the slick, polished movie that I used to be used to and I completely beloved that. With creature design and particular results being what me probably the most about horror movies, after seeing Evil Lifeless I assumed Tom Sullivan was a genius and over 30 years later, I nonetheless do each time I watch it. A aspect notice is that Tom Sullivan was a visitor on the present the place the Don Post Studios ebook was initially launched. The e-book was surprisingly an enormous success and all of the advance copies we had have been bought out inside 20 minutes.  Shortly afterwards, Tom walked by and requested the way it was going. Once I advised him how shortly the e-book bought out he shook my hand and congratulated me. To this present day, that handshake means extra to me than how properly the guide did.

JS: Your e-book is a 600-page treasure trove of info and an astonishing array of photographs from the glory days of the Don Post masks period. How did you first uncover Don Post’s work?

LL: Properly, I actually want I had a cool story to reply this, however the boring fact is I noticed the advertisements within the again of previous Well-known Monsters magazines however by no means knew (or cared on the time) who made them. I used to be fascinated by rubber masks as a toddler, although I wasn’t allowed to have one. I might get previous points of Well-known Monsters from a second-hand bookstore that was near the place we lived and, like many monster youngsters earlier than me, I used to be drawn to the masks advertisements. I additionally liked wanting on the low-end financial system rubber masks that may pop up within the native Woolworth’s every Halloween. I might ask for one and all the time be informed no. My mother and father would get me a Ben Cooper or Collegeville boxed costume. I now know that these have been all Don Post Studios masks, however on the time I had no concept. The first time I ever turned conscious of the identify was when Star Wars got here out and the masks have been bought within the massive blue bins with the DPS identify on them. It wasn’t till I used to be an adolescent that I started placing names to the producers and never till maturity that it actually mattered.

 

 

JS: My introduction to his work was in 1977 when Lazaar’s, the one retailer that I went to that had full head-sized masks, displayed the Don Post Star Wars line that consisted of Darth Vader, the Stormtrooper, C-3PO, and Chewbacca. They have been a far cry from a budget, plastic masks we had for Halloween that had a rubber band that broke after simply a number of makes use of. Every masks value $50 which could as properly have been $500 to me, a nine-year-old with a 25 cents per week allowance.

LL: I keep in mind these shows nicely! I had my Halloween costume deliberate round one of the Darth Vader helmets. I knew my mother and father would by no means purchase one for me, however I hoped if I had the remaining of the costume deliberate they might see I wanted it. I had a black monitor go well with, black rubber boots, and a pink broomstick. We received to the large Woolco retailer that had the Star Wars masks and I went looking for the Vader helmet to point out my mother and father how nice (and needed) it was. I approached the mountain of blue packing containers, checking all of the labels to seek out the Vader helmets. Positive sufficient, there have been perhaps 2 or three Chewbacca’s and each different field was a C-3PO. My disappointment was apparent and, whereas I can image my younger self on my palms and knees like a miniature Charlton Heston on the finish of Planet of the Apes, screaming “Damn you, Woolco!”, the truth is I simply seemed unhappy. My mother and father took pity on me and purchased me one of the 99 cent vacuformed plastic Vader masks with the elastic string, telling me it was “just as good”. “Just as good”?? If I had recognized profanities on the time I might in all probability nonetheless be grounded.

JS: Haha!

LL: This was about two weeks earlier than Halloween and the Vader masks solely lasted a number of days earlier than, you guessed it, the elastic broke. I ended up sporting a boxed Satan costume that yr which might have been fairly real looking if Devil wore a plastic smock together with his image on it. Come on, it was the 1970’s…something was attainable.

JS: What was the primary Don Post masks that you simply acquired?

LL: As dangerous because it sounds, I truly didn’t get my first Post till I used to be an grownup. As a young person within the ’80s, there was no web and I by no means actually needed to get into mail order so I needed to accept what was obtainable regionally. That meant all I had to select from what have been very low high quality Rubies or the occasional Cinema Secrets and techniques or Illusive Ideas masks. I just lately got here throughout the plastic tote with my previous masks and sat there taking a look at them, questioning no matter possessed me to purchase Fred Flintstone and Homer Simpson masks. I don’t keep in mind taking medicine, however no different rationalization is sensible. I assume it’ll stay a thriller. Quick ahead to 1998, when Post launched the Calendar Reissue masks. There, wanting again at me, have been the acquainted faces that used to taunt me from the pages of Well-known Monsters. As an alternative of the “Which one of these will I get?” first thought that youngster Lee would have had, grownup Lee’s first thought was the extra mature “I need all of these!”.  As soon as I had the bug, I jumped again into masks accumulating with each ft. I purchased a couple of of the Calendar Reissues, in addition to some Posts I had remembered seeing marketed within the 1980’s. I bought a bunch inside a brief interval of time, so I actually can’t say which was the primary. I do keep in mind a number of of the primary ones have been a 1980’s reissue of the Boris Karloff Frankenstein, in addition to a vinyl 1977 Tor Johnson.

JS: Inform us concerning the relationship you will have with the individuals who labored for Don Post and their contributions to the e-book.

LL: Everybody I requested for assist was incredible. Don Post, Jr. didn’t interact an excessive amount of via the method, however that was comprehensible. The firm he had spent over forty years operating had been bought out from underneath him just a few months earlier and the injuries have been nonetheless recent. The last item he wanted was me poking round however he was nonetheless gracious and by no means refused to reply issues for me or give me suggestions. It was an identical state of affairs with Rob and Cathy Tharp. They each joined DPS within the mid 1970’s, have been let go as staff within the monetary disaster of the mid 1980’s, however shortly afterward got here again on a contract foundation. They have been each nonetheless coping with the after-effects of DPS shutting down, however they have been invaluable to me. They provided me with rather a lot of never-before-seen behind-the-scenes photographs, have been capable of make clear quite a bit of the element questions that collectors obsess over (and no one else provides a rattling about). It wasn’t straightforward for them at occasions, and I knew it, however they believed in why I used to be doing the guide they usually agreed this materials wanted to be preserved. To today, they’re like household to me. Invoice Malone, who went on to direct movies like The Home on Haunted Hill remake and Parasomnia, was one of the DPS administration groups within the 1970’s and he was extraordinarily gracious together with his time. He answered all the things I needed to ask him, even concerning the Captain Kirk masks that he’s sick of speaking about. We spent probably the most time speaking about Star Wars and the tales he informed have been simply unimaginable. Then there was Bob Brief, one other 1970’s DPS masks maker who went on to win an Oscar for his work on Beetlejuice. Regardless of being such a gifted and completed man, he’s very humble and right down to earth. He was implausible to talk with and gave me tons of info. Simply final weekend somebody requested me a query that I had forgotten the reply to, however I knew he would know. I reached out to ask and inside an hour he acquired again to me with every little thing I wanted. There have been additionally quite a few different artists I spoke with who had hung out at DPS they usually have been nice at answering every thing for me and letting me use some of their photographs.

There have been different contributors with no formal connection to DPS whose assist was instrumental. I’ve to start out with Danny Roebuck who was the primary one to consider I might write this guide. As I’ve advised him, he was the who one believed in me when no one else (together with myself) did. He provided me with about 90% of the classic pictures you see within the e-book. On the time, I didn’t know anybody I wanted to know and Danny was the one who made the introductions. Even in any case that, an important factor he did was obtained the approval from Don Jr. for me to do the guide. Subsequent are two longtime Post collectors, Dante Renta and Evil Wilhelm. I spent a number of years specializing in studying all I might about Post masks and my information base is simply a fraction of what these guys know. Their information is so in depth that when Don Jr. determined to do the Calendar Reissue venture he consulted with Evil and Dante was introduced in to doc the method. He shot tons of, if not hundreds, of photographs of every masks at each step of the method. There was a plan on the time to make use of them for an additional undertaking, nevertheless it by no means got here to fruition, so all of these fantastic photographs have been in Dante’s possession and had by no means been seen by the general public. It was like hanging gold when he provided me the use of any I needed. I had been considering the Calendar Reissues can be good for a number of paragraphs within the 1990’s chapter, however because of Dante and Evil, they make up one of one of the best chapters within the ebook. One factor I’ve advised them each is that in the event that they hadn’t been in help of my doing this ebook, I wouldn’t have finished it. That’s not simply how essential their contributions have been, but in addition how a lot I respect them.

One different individual I’ve to acknowledge is my cowl artist, Daniel Horne. When the purpose got here that it lastly hit me that I used to be doing this guide, after a number of drinks and a half-hour of pacing forwards and backwards frantically asking what I had gotten myself into, I began to assume of a canopy. I’ve been an enormous fan of Dan’s work, from the primary time I noticed it. He was the primary to return to thoughts, however on the similar time I knew I’d need to pay for the duvet out of my pretty shallow pocket which successfully crossed him off the listing. I made a decision I needed a 1960’s Glenn Unusual Frankenstein on the duvet, simply because it’s an iconic picture and one of the masks individuals most frequently assume of once they hear the identify Don Post Studios. By way of contacts within the interest, I used to be capable of monitor down an previous clean pulled from the unique mould that’s a lot bigger and extra detailed than the smaller copies from recast molds that you simply see round in the present day. I despatched it to my pal Pete Infelise for paint work. After matching the colour of the customized end within the 1966 calendar, Pete spent a number of weeks with a element brush, touching up the wrinkles to completely match the calendar photograph. The masks was then despatched to Dante for his wonderful customized hair work. My plan was to photograph the masks for the duvet however, as time went on, I knew I’d remorse it if I didn’t no less than ask Dan about portray the duvet. I had recognized Dan for a number of years and we had turn into associates, however I had by no means requested him for something. I bumped into him at a present and we talked concerning the ebook I used to be engaged on. I lastly bit the bullet and nervously requested him if it might be potential to fee him to color the duvet. I used to be ecstatic when he stated he would like to, after which I virtually fainted when he quoted me a worth that was virtually a present. I despatched him hello res photographs of the masks from all angles and he took the inventive liberty of the orange background. I had truly been considering of a black background, however I trusted his inventive imaginative and prescient greater than my very own so I let him select. In hindsight, that was the fitting determination because the orange is ideal.

Once I step again and take a look at all the assistance I acquired from so many individuals, all of whom I’ve come to think about as associates, I feel I in all probability contributed the least to the guide. It looks like I simply organized every thing and wrote down different individuals’s tales. Perhaps that’s sufficient.

JS: Placing this guide collectively couldn’t have been straightforward. What have been some of the challenges you confronted and what would you do in a different way in case you have been to do it once more?

LL: There have been two huge challenges. The first was merely condensing virtually seventy-five years of historical past right into a single e-book, whereas nonetheless protecting the visible scrapbook type I had envisioned. I needed giant pictures that stood out and grabbed the reader’s consideration. Sadly, the extra of these I included, the much less room I had for textual content. My strategy was to inform the story by way of photographs with the textual content offering context for the photographs. In hindsight, I in all probability ought to have made a couple of compromises on pictures to get extra textual content in however that was the decision I made on the time.

The different huge problem was overcoming that voice in my head that stored telling me I needed to make everybody completely satisfied. As I labored on the ebook, I discovered myself speaking to different collectors who I knew have been my audience. I might ask them what they thought the e-book ought to appear to be to get some suggestions to hopefully make the guide higher. In fact, ask twenty individuals and also you get twenty totally different solutions. Do you assume anybody of them described wanting a guide that seemed something like what I used to be truly placing collectively? Nope…not even shut. That obtained actually discouraging and I noticed why everybody who had tried to put in writing this ebook earlier than me packed it in and give up. One thing I’ve by no means shared publicly earlier than is that I wrestle with extreme nervousness. It was actually dangerous on the time and I had satisfied myself that no one would really like this guide, everybody would hate me, and I might have rocks thrown at me if I confirmed my face in public. I used to be very critically considering of giving up when Cathy Tharp advised me to only loosen up and write the guide I might need to learn. It sounds easy as a result of it’s, however it actually was what I wanted to listen to. That stopped the wheels spinning in my head and from that time I by no means requested anybody else what they needed to see or mentioned the content material of the ebook with anybody who wasn’t serving to with it.

One different problem I bumped into, which wasn’t an enormous challenge nevertheless it’s value mentioning is there have been some questions that have been unimaginable to reply as a result of the one individuals who knew the solutions have been gone. I drone on lots so I’ll have talked about this already, however one of the explanations I did the guide was that the quantity of unanswerable questions would continue to grow as time went on.

One factor I might undoubtedly change is the dimensions of the e-book. A 600-page hardcover is spectacular, however it’s an costly guide to supply and that value will get handed on to the readers and I’ve little question the price has harm gross sales. I might have cut up it into 2 and even three volumes and capped it at 250-300 pages per quantity. My subsequent ebook is on Distortions Limitless and that was what I did for that one. By splitting it into two volumes, I discovered I might truly get extra materials in and add extra textual content. The finish result’s a greater e-book general.

That being stated, I don’t have any regrets with the guide I put out. It will not be good, nevertheless it was a studying expertise. I used to be actually humbled when the e-book was nominated for a Rondo Award for Greatest Ebook of 2014. There have been 17 nominees within the class and I acquired runner-up. Whereas I used to be a bit of disillusioned on the time, I’m proud of how shut I got here and I take pleasure in a bit of self-deprecating humor by billing myself as “Rondo Award-Losing Author”. Like I stated, I’m not knowledgeable author nor do I fake to be. I’m simply a mean fan and collector speaking to different followers and collectors.

JS: Are these Don Post masks behind this bass participant?

LL: No, none of these are Posts. Most are from Jeff Keim at Dying Studios and a few are from Paul Daniels at Darkside Studios, two unbiased masks making corporations which were round for fairly some time. I don’t know precisely how lengthy Dying Studios has been round, however my earliest recollections of them can be from the early 1980’s. Life took me out of the pastime from the late 1980’s till 1998. Once I acquired again into it, Darkside had been round for a number of years.

JS: The photographs that you simply revealed within the ebook depicting the masks in full colour are of wonderful high quality. Did they require any variety of digital restoration or have been they left of their unique state?

LL: Consider it or not, these aren’t classic photographs. About 90% of these are masks in my very own assortment that I photographed for the ebook. The others have been masks I both didn’t have or I knew somebody who had a greater copy. I’ve a reasonably good concept of what most of my pals have of their collections, so I might simply get maintain of them and ask them to shoot a number of pictures of particular masks I needed. My assortment room was ruined in a flood a number of months earlier so nothing was organized. It was packing containers of masks all over the place that I needed to rummage by means of to seek out what I wanted. I purchased a white bedsheet from Walmart and nailed it to the wall in a single nook of the basement, draping it over an previous aquarium stand. That was my far-from-professional photograph studio. It was nonetheless a greater setup than what I used for the glow masks photographs, together with the one on the again cowl. I’ve by no means advised anybody this earlier than however these have been shot in the one room I might get darkish sufficient…the toilet. I had my digital camera, a pile of glow masks, and a fluorescent blacklight fixture. I might put the masks stand on the shelf subsequent to the bathroom, use the blacklight to cost up the glow paint, then flip off the lights and snap the photographs. In the event that they appeared good, I might activate the lights and swap masks. I felt ridiculous doing it, nevertheless it labored!

JS: That is an unimaginable story of an equally extremely ebook! The place can readers buy it?

LL: It’s out there by means of Amazon, nevertheless individuals can save a couple of bucks by ordering direct from the writer at this hyperlink.

JS: When can we anticipate your subsequent guide, the one on Distortions Limitless?

LL: I get this query quite a bit and it’s extraordinarily irritating as a result of I don’t have a solution.  I completed writing the guide final July and it’s been in improvement hell ever since.  Blacksparrow, who revealed the Post e-book, was initially going to publish the Distortions one as properly.  Sadly, when the time got here to print the books, circumstances past Blacksparrow’s management prevented that from occurring.  Blacksparrow had each intention of following by means of, nevertheless the discharge date stored being pushed again additional and additional.  A second writer has entered the combination, eager to take over the publishing duties to get the ebook out.  Now the 2 publishers have to type out the monetary aspect of this whereas myself and everybody who preordered copies waits for information.

The state of affairs is extraordinarily irritating to me personally for a couple of causes, probably the most sensible of which is that I’ve put rather a lot of my very own cash into the e-book.  What’s extra necessary although, is that I put three years of my life into it and got here up with a completed product that’s truly higher than the Post ebook (and that’s coming from a Post collector).  I actually need individuals to have the chance to see it for themselves.  Distortions’ historical past is cut up into 2 distinct areas of curiosity, beginning with mask-making then altering course to the haunted attraction business in 1995. With that division occurring virtually midway via its 40-year historical past, I cut up the Distortions historical past challenge into two volumes which retains the fee down for Distortions followers and provides them the chance to buy just one quantity if their curiosity is in just one facet of Distortions’ historical past.  With all of the uncertainty surrounding the discharge of the primary quantity, I’ve put the second quantity on maintain till I can get a dedication to have it launched as nicely.  It’s about 90% full so will probably be straightforward to wrap up if/once I get that dedication.

JS: Thanks a lot on your time.

LL: Thanks!