Looking a bit like a character actor from Goodfellas, make-up maestro Alberto Angelo "Al, Alan" Fama has been in the LA IATSE family since the autumn of 1965. His first substantial gig was day checking with Paul Newman on the cold war classic "Torn Curtain", where he worked under the watchful eye of makeup artists Dick Cobos and Bill Buell, with Alfred Hitchcock at the helm. "Hitchcock wanted a natural looking make-up that didn't appear obvious," Fama recalled.
Recommended by Harry Merrit in 1967, Fama applied the shadow beards to Dustin Hoffman for the iconic Alpha Romeo driving scene in "The Graduate". 'One night we went long shooting," Fama said, "Dustin asked me to phone his mother, who was visiting and waiting for him to wrap, to let her know he would be late. Twenty years later on "Hook", Fama marveled, "Dustin still remembered me from that."
Fama, called king of the miniseries by Sue Cabral-Ebert, began his path to Hollywood at age 14. Influenced by Lon Chaney's Wolfman, the budding makeup artist created his own character study of the Hunchback of Notre Dame with improvised costume, wig, crepe wool facial hair, a bulging eye and a humpback. Fama's Quasimodo was so convincing it scared his Uncle Raymond half out of the house. And true to those origins, throughout his forty-year-plus career, he continued to enjoy creating characters. "I really liked the facial stuff," Fama said, "beards, mustaches, chin pieces, sideburns ... "
Applying those skills to full advantage, Fama was nominated six times for best makeup in a miniseries (George Washington I, Mystic Warrior, Nutcracker, George Washington II, North and South, V (second mini series)) and once for makeup in a series. Al also served as the Television Academy’s Governor for two terms. He also served on the Executive Peer Group Committee.
Apprenticed under Wally Westmore and Ben Lane, Fama wound up working on one of Hollywood's epic comedies of the 70's, Mel Brook's "Blazing Saddles". Aided by second Terry Miles, he did principal makeup on Cleavon Little, Harvey Korman, Gene Wilder, and Alex Karras, as well as countless character actors and stunt players.
Like many who worked in the "biz" during the 70's, Fama did his time on the Big Island powdering Jack Lord on "Hawaii Five-O". After "Five-O" fizzled, he returned to glamour makeup and rapidly gained a reputation for his work with beautiful women.
Face-turning such femme fatales as Angie Dickinson ("Big Bad Momma" and "Police Woman") as well as big-hair-gal Linda Gray from "Dallas", Fama did it all. "Angie was my favorite," the retired pro said. "A real class act.
The next two decades of Fama's work consisted of one miniseries after another. From the challenges of a vast production like "North and South" (period makeup, wounds, aging, beards, and Liz Taylor), to the exhausting accuracy of the face paint on the Western epic "The Mystic Warrior", Fama was a pro who did his work with style.
Al was elected to the Executive Board in 1987 and served until 1994. In 1992, he became the Assistant to the Business Representative under Howard Smit. In 1994 he was elected to the position of Business Representative and served until 2001. Under his tutelage, there was the creation of the 60th Anniversary Celebration, which drove the interest in honoring our members and their talents. This successful celebration drove the interest to create and produce the first Make Up and Hair Styling Guild Awards, recognizing our members for their artistry. Al also with the then current Executive Board was the guiding force to finding and purchasing our "new" building here in Burbank.
Retired since 2001, the facial fixer from Cleveland offered these words of advice to future generations of the Local 706 trade, "Learn the craft. Makeup is not all lip-gloss, eyeliner and back rubs." Asked about the special bond between actor and makeup artist, Fama answered simply, "It's all about trust. What happens in the chair stays in the chair."
Whether masking David Carradine's prodigious tattoos or keeping a false beard on Steven Seagal in "Hard to Kill", Fama is a craftsman who stood by his professional convictions: authentic-looking makeup, never overdone, done just right- especially if it scares you half out of the house ..
Al is survived by his Sister Josephine Gaski, and his nieces, Florence Rhea and Susan Babnar. No services are planned for Los Angeles, he will be interred in Ohio at the family plot.