When I was a kid, my plan in life was to become a mercenary.
No, seriously, fer rills. Once, in Junior High, a library assistant came to the classroom door and announced all the overdue books checked out to people in that room.
The other couple of kids on the list had stuff like “I, Robot” or “Where the Red Fern Grows.” When they called my name, it was for a book on the history of booby traps and “The Art of War.” I went to Junior High in the early ’80s. They really had those books in the library. (In the days before Angry Moms could start a Twitter movement to get rid of a particular library book.)
In my sophomore year, I decided on Marine Biologist. I think because it sounded like a fun job more than any other reason. Then I found out how boring Biology classes were.
So, back to mercenary.
I had exactly zero direction in life when I graduated High School. I was a weird amalgamation of Popular Kid, Stoner, Slacker, Smart Kid, and Amateur Hoodlum. I moved in and out of AP classes from one year to the next because when they put me in, I wouldn’t do squat and would earn horrible grades. The next year, they wouldn’t put me in AP classes. (A wise choice, by the way.) Then they’d give us a Standardized Test at the end of the year, see my scores, sigh and roll their eyes, and put me back in AP classes.
I moved out of my father’s house at the end of my junior year of High School. I moved in with my girlfriend who graduated two years ahead of me. Faced with the prospect of going out into an Oklahoma winter morning or staying in bed next to a warm woman… Let’s just say my attendance rate plummeted.
I was a pretty smart kid and I barely made it out of High School because I couldn’t be bothered to go or put out effort when I did go. Yeah, I could tell you a long sob story about my lousy home life. (In fact, maybe another post should be about those stupid Facebook memes that show a set of clackers or an Evel Knievel toy with the words “If You Remember These, Your Childhood Was Awesome!”) It just ain’t true.
But the point is, I graduated High School seriously adrift in life.
So of course, I joined the Marines. That straightened me right out. Not really, I drank and got in fights like I thought I’d joined the John Wayne World War Two Marines. I had not. I got in trouble for doing stupid things and went through a divorce.
So of course, I became a police officer. The kid who at turns was a Slacker, Stoner, and Amateur Hoodlum became a cop. When I went back for my 10-Year reunion, I think a couple of my High School friends actually wet themselves a little when they heard that.
Having not grown up as one of those kids who just couldn’t wait to become a cop, I didn’t have much use for those who had. I found quite a few of them to be officious little pricks who would step over their own mother to get that next rung on the Civil Servant ladder. As quickly as I grew tired of that, I also grew tired of cleaning up after other people’s random violence, poor life choices, and murderously terrible driving.
So of course, I went into the Makeup FX industry.
Wait… Okay, I had to go back and read that twice, myself. How the hell did that happen? Oh yeah, my wife’s friend Tamara happened to be in that industry. She got me a job doing grunt work on the shop floor of Stan Winston Studio. I had no idea who Stan Winston was, other than the stuff I’d seen on TV. This tended to aggravate people who had grown up wanting to be in this business and tried for years and years to get hired by Stan Winston Studio.
But I was a former Marine and ex-cop who worked in a violent city, so they didn’t give me too much crap about it. In fact, some of them began to teach me how to do the one job in the industry that I actually had a shot at. Making molds of sculptures and makeup appliances. Then I learned how to cast pieces out of those molds, what kind of material to use for different things, and most importantly, how to take a break at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. As a cop, I had a thirty-minute lunch in a 10-hour shift. I was elated to learn this “break” concept. Oh, and the molding and casting. That was great, too.
Turns out, during my time in the Marines and on the PD, I had accidentally learned how to point a group of people in one direction and get them to accomplish a common goal. In the Makeup FX industry, that job is called “Project Coordinator.”
So there I am, at the top of this post, in a picture with my beautiful wife at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards. I’m even wearing a tuxedo, what my younger self might have called an “asshole wrapper.” Our shop, Fractured FX, won an Emmy for the crew’s awesome work on American Horror Story: Freakshow. Which means somewhere, there is a picture of a guy who was a weird amalgamation of Popular Kid, Stoner, Slacker, Smart Kid, and Amateur Hoodlum who graduated High School with zero direction in life… holding an Emmy. That he did not steal.
Life is effing weird, man.