Jessie Lilley
Buddy Barnett
Brad Linaweaver
Articles Features Interviews Books News Film Music Blog Forum Staff Back Issues Links Contact Us Legal Index

Makeup & Misery

Adventures in the Soap Factory

Norman Bryn

Classic Creature Craft, LLC—301 Pages

When my old pal and one-time hot date Norman Bryn contacted me to say he’d written a book about working in the make-up departments at All My Children and Saturday Night Live, I was curious to see what he’d come up with. When I received the copy for review, I realized he’d managed to produce a rarity indeed.

I’ve just finished reading one of the most fascinating treatises on the art of make-up, labor union politics and working in show business in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. If you are considering a career in entertainment, this book is an absolute must. I heartily suggest it be bought and used as a text book in any of the theatrical/film/television make-up schools that are operating today.

Bryn takes no prisoners in his work. Those who need to be called out and onto the carpet are and those who need not be named are not. A self-professed “tell-some” chronicle, Makeup & Misery describes the trials our hero suffered while working as a per diem hire at ABC Studios in New York City on the popular daytime drama, All My Children. We enjoy the triumphs, cringe at the failures and cheer at the remarkable hoisting which Norman Bryn renders upon some of his colleagues. I’ve spoken with one of the people named in the book and was told, “He treated me fairly and with respect. I’m quite pleased.”

Through it all, as the artist discusses the people he’s working on, he presents beautiful full page glossy prints of his sketches, photographs of the works in progress and detailed notes on the colors and brands of cosmetics used to create the final picture. Bryn is also a talented prosthetics man and not only creates scars and gashes here and there for the occasional train or car wreck, but owns Classic Creature Craft, LLC out of Greenwich, CT wherein one may find all manner of classic film stars in their guises of monsters, vampires and other things that go bump in the night.

How to turn a nice man into a demon barber.
David Canary, before and after Bryn.
A student of the old-school, Bryn continues to work his sketches by hand, dismissing the digital possibilities because if he can draw it with his hand, on paper, he can draw it on someone’s face. You can’t put the living face of an actor into the MAC and have your way with it, now can you? No. You have to stand there and wield your brushes and sponges with skill and finesse to get Susan Lucci to be stunning as Erica Kane (to name just one of Bryn’s many ‘clients’). Different cosmetic lines and paraphernalia come and go and he’s tried them all, discussing them in detail on these pages and presenting his assessments of same.

Not just a make-up artist, Bryn is a hard-fighting political animal with a sense of fair play that eventually elevated him to the position of Vice President of IATSE Local 798 in New York City. When his long-time colleague and then Local President Kelly Gleason died suddenly, he wound up in the President’s chair, though he didn’t stay long. Bryn’s inherent sense of duty kept him juggling family and business; to stay in the position would have done more harm than good for the Union because of other responsibilities that required his immediate and long-term attention. Instead, he opted to step down to care for his aging parents, both in their 90s.

Bryn has no sense of humor
when actors are late for their makeup call.

The analytical half of Bryn’s brain points out the signs of the failing economy back in the 90s from observing the Executive Level Politics at such studios as ABC and Disney (now forever and unalterably merged, more’s the pity) and how these corporations are only two that contributed in grand style to today’s unemployment lines and fiscal crises.

I repeat: this book should be required reading for any person who wishes to make a living in entertainment, whether in front of the cameras or behind the scenes. It is an excellent roadmap of the bumpy and pot-hole laden thoroughfare that leads to a living in one of the most cut throat businesses in our society. I applaud Bryn’s work and pledge my support to help get this book into the hands of people both in the business now and looking to join the fold.

Norman Bryn’s wicked sense of humor and delightful talent for composition keep this book moving along at a rapid and enjoyable pace. I found myself completely annoyed when I had to put it down to leave for work in the morning or to get some sleep at night.

Read the book. You’re going to need it.

— Jessie Lilley

All Photos © Norman Bryn, All Rights Reserved. Photos imply no endorsements by those pictured.