For the Record

For the Record:

Planet of the Apes. Well let me tell you about my involvement in the Planet of the Apes. It goes back to 1968 when I first saw it in high school. My thought was,” how did they do that”? This eventually lead to my career as a make-up artist. You may have heard of me.  My last name is Neill since birth.

I did my first Planet f the Apes makeup on myself in 1972. I’ll make this as short as I can, but shortly thereafter I was invited to Ape Con in Hollywood.

I put my own makeup on, got on a plane and flew to the Con in makeup. I had to call ahead of this event and ask if it was OK. They said, “yes”, to my amazement. Try to do that today. Not on your life.

When I arrived at the airport security held me for awhile and then let me board after everyone else boarded the plane. To say the least it was an amazing experience and people loved it.

I got to LA and was picked up by Abby Bernstein and her mother Bee. I stayed at their house, slept in the makeup and went to the Con the next day.

That’s where it all started. I met Paula Christ and Bill Blake, who were the only other people doing Ape Cosplay back then. They were the best at it down to the last detail.

I later moved to LA. I did lots of conventions and even sold foam rubber appliances that I was making in my apartment. This lead to my getting in the union and one of my first jobs was working on the “Planet of the Apes” TV show  where I met Roddy McDowall, John Chambers, and many other greats from the series and movies. It was a wonderland for a young guy in his 20’s to experience.

Later I hooked up with a band named “ Zolar X”, a space rock band. I did a Sixth Finger styled make up for the bass player. They had a makeup artist doing their make named Veonity. She was a beautiful hot redhead that I fell madly in love with and we became a couple. We lived and worked together for a few years. That’s when she shortened Veonity to Ve. People assumed we were married so we went with it. She became known as Ve Neill. Ve became one hell of a makeup artist and is always working on the craft.

Ve and I enjoyed working on many films together and we use to love cosplaying together, many times as the apes and others in space aliens. We did “Laserblast” together and more. I made the prosthetics and she did the makeup.

Later I was asked by Fred Philips to work on Star Trek to do Spock’s ears and other aliens. I told Fred about Ve and she was hired to apply make-ups on the show, she was group one and was able to do this because she had her days from a previous film we had worked on together.

In the Union those days you had to have a certain amount of days on a film to be group one. Group one meant you were highest up in the union order and could be picked to work on a film. Only if everyone in group 1 was working would a Group 2 member be picked. Every day you worked (as a group 2), then would go to the 120 days needed to be group 1. Oh and you had to take this test. Then you were in.

We eventually parted and went our separate ways but remained friends to this day.

I later met my late wife in 1980 and shortly thereafter worked for John Chambers on a National Lampoon film with my dear friend Rick Stratton. That was amazing time to work for the great master and get to know him well.

I remember my first day there. We met again. He was wearing his white lab coat and tie.

“So you want to sculpt huh kid?”

I answered, “Yes Mr. Chambers”. He then handed me a broom, “well… see if this fits first.”

I was one of the lucky ones. I never achieved lunch bucket status.

Later on I did get to sculpt and heard all kinds of wonderful stories from his experiences in WW2 to Outer Limits and “Planet of the Apes”.

There are so many other details I haven’t gone into. This is the short story but I do plan a book with the full story soon. My whole story about my career. If you weren’t nice to me you have a lot to be worried about now.

But what this all brings me to is this:  I was doing cosplay “Planet of the Apes” before any of you.  I lived, ate, slept, drove a car, did conventions, charities, San Diego Comic Con and flew a plane in “Planet of the Apes” makeup before any of you were born. So now you know my story too.

5 Responses to “For the Record”

  1. 1 evil_genius_180
    May 15, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    My only question is; did you cosplay as a gorilla, orangutan or chimpanzee?

    • May 15, 2018 at 4:51 pm

      Hey Chris. Just working with your Enterprise model on Star Trek Sirius. I got back the entire original edit from the grave. All stopped when my late wife died. I did only the Chimp. I did Gorilla suits a lot as you know.

      • 3 evil_genius_180
        May 16, 2018 at 5:38 am

        I had a feeling you did the Chimp costume for yourself. The Chimps were always my favorites in those films. Of course, that’s due in no small part to the late great Roddy McDowall.

  2. May 16, 2018 at 7:34 am

    The picture with the three of us I’m wearing Roddy’s actual costume.

  3. May 17, 2018 at 6:49 am

    The actual costume? Wow! Oddly, you can tell it is you in there 🙂 Thanks for this cool anecdote – you really have a lot of cool history.

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May 2018

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