Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Part 6 - The Transitional 70's (Pre-1975)

In the past, there has been a fallacy that the decade between 1970 -1980 was dull, and uninspired when compared to the decades that proceeded it.  This piece of misinformation was spread by hippies that were unhappy that the days of LSD, free-love, and progressive thinking had come to a close.  The hippie aesthetic had been assimilated by "the man" and was now being used to sell everything from tennis shoes to nutritional supplements.

But those of us who were old enough to remember Woodstock, P.O.W. Bracelets, and the Moon landing, but young enough to groan when Watergate proceedings preempted our favorite television shows know that this was, indeed, one of the most important decades in the history of fandom.  Unlike the cliche about the month of March, The '70's eased in with BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES and roared out with STAR WARS and the world would never be the same again.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Amongst my fondest memories of the mid-70's was the introduction of three products that appeared around Halloween time in the local drug store called K&B (yes, it is ironic that years later, I would work for KNB so profoundly).  These new miracle products were: Creepy Skin, Vampire Blood, and Scar Stuff.  It is nearly impossible to convey how insane I was about these Special Effects Make Up items.  The Vampire Blood, which came in a tube (and still does to this day, I believe) is self-explanatory, the Scar Stuff was excellent for making slashes in the back of your hand or on your cheek, and the Creepy Skin made incredible and disgusting purpley-red welts that look like you either had a disease or a healing burn.

I still had no knowledge of Liquid Latex, much less Foam Latex but as evidenced from that horrible PLANET OF THE APES make up I attempted, I was determined to be able to change my face into a visage of horror!  I have no idea how many little tubs of Creepy Skin I purchased, but I recall leaving no tub behind at K&B.  I have to also point out that I recall that after church one Sunday, my mother had taken us to K&B and there, on a bottom shelf in the toy aisle was another treasure: Aurora's Glow-In-The-Dark Gozilla Model Kit.

James Bama's Art could have sold a model kit of a Fire Hydrant!
It is interesting that artist, James Bama, who had painted all of the box art for the Aurora Monster Model Kits would be responsible for two other iconic pieces of art that affected my brother and I.  We wouldn't know for years that the same man who painted those lurid images of our favorite monsters also painted the publicity art for STAR TREK:
I think we saw this first in a TV Guide
James Bama also painted the covers to the Bantam Books '70's release of the DOC SAVAGE novels which my brother and I read (he, more than I):
Bama's Cover Art for "Death in Silver"
By this time, my brother and I were attending the yearly Star Trek/Science Fiction Convention called VulCon.  Even though I had the pleasure to meet guests like George Pal, I think what we looked forward to was the "Dealer Room" where collectors comics, magazines, and collectibles, that were extremely rare in New Orleans ,would suddenly be in great supply.  One of my annual purchases would be back issues of THE MONSTER TIMES, a newsprint periodical devoted to all things horror:

If this was still in print, it would be my primary source for the news.
It was at Vulcon, that I purchased a back issue of a fanzine copied onto light green, heavy weight paper - Cinefantastique. I also purchased my one and only copy of CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN magazine which wasn't released in New Orleans.  I was beginning to gather information from new sources, although none of it very practical step-by-step stuff.

Vulcon offered another opportunity: The Costume Contest.  With my limited knowledge, I made a crude Papier Mache mask of the lizard-like Gorn, from the STAR TREK episode "Arena." It was dreadful, but garnered a "special junior interest award" as I was the youngest participant.

These came in the mail when you received your all-access pass.
The winner of the contest was a local prosthetic make up artist named Russ Elliott who had put together a sophisticated facial prosthetic complete with expert hair pieces.  As far as I knew, he was the closest thing to a real Hollywood-level make up artist that I would ever meet and I tried to introduce myself to him.  He was aloof and dismissive.  I was crushed.  I just wanted to ask some questions and get some information but he would have none of it.  Wow.  The more I thought about it, the angrier I got and deep inside I made a promise to myself: One day, I would surpass the great Russ Elliott.


  1. "The '70's eased in with BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES and roared out with STAR WARS and the world would never be the same again." - Well said. The fandom decade in sentence.

  2. I seem to recall you mentioning Boris Vallejo a lot back then, but I can't remember if it was praise or disdain...

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