I admit it: I was pretty two-faced on Thursday.
I started my day as a middle-aged white woman with a really bad back. But hours later, I'd morphed into a bald, stubble-faced, wrinkled old white guy.
My new visage reflected how my body felt — old and achy. My new look made one co-worker scream and two women burst out laughing, but barely registered a glance from the editor of the TODAY segment I was producing. Is this how he really sees me?
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My quick-change came compliments of the $1,600 "Geezer Guy" mask. In fact, wearing the "Geezer" made me feel even more stooped over, old and achy than I did already.
I got the “Geezer” from Los Angeles mask maker Rusty Slusser. As correspondent Lee Cowan reported on TODAY Wednesday, Rusty made news when a couple of his masks were used by some bad guys — including, perhaps, one of California's most prolific bank robbers.
Rusty says he was dumbfounded when a Cincinnati cop phoned his studio at 4 a.m. one morning to find out if the mask man knew about the masked men. Rusty had fallen asleep there after working all night. The call was no dream — but for a white guy who was caught red-handed pulling a robbery disguised in one of Rusty's masks as an African-American, it became a real nightmare.
Rusty, a Texas boy (hardly unexpected with a name like that), started out as an apprentice in the mask trade when he was just 13. He cut his teeth on beastly birds, wicked werewolves and a mummy with nuclear-grown incisors. A life of making pretend has clearly kept him looking young, but he’s been at it for 26 years and carefully covets his molding secrets.
Rusty’s a perfectionist. I know, because I picked up the “Geezer” mask we used on the set this morning from the woman who painstakingly implants the mask’s hair, a single strand at a time.
His masks are so transformative that I can only say, it's freakazoid — especially when our reporter went from being one of the whitest guys I know, with an excellent head of hair, to a chrome-domed black man — all in the time it took you to read this sentence.
Rusty says he sold a half a million dollars’ worth of masks last year, so you know there must be lots of less nefarious uses for them than robbing banks. Halloween, for instance. Or sometimes celebrities want to hide behind something more than their Foster Grants. One guy wanted a fake face to propose to his wife. Now there's a marriage destined to turn into a horror show.
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And Rusty's art isn't limited just to faces: For a medical school, he’s working on a mold for a leg. Going out on a limb, so to speak. (Frankly, I'd rather have the students amputate a faux toe than a real one.)
I couldn't help but notice that Rusty's studio had only one female offering — a combo “old lady” with a head and torso that included very, very saggy boobies. As I was the only (real) woman in the room, all the guys noticed me staring in horror at Droopy Granny. Then they stumbled all over themselves to assure me that I looked NOTHING like her.
Alas, I fear gravity will, in time, prove them wrong. I wonder if Rusty can make something in an Angelina Jolie? I bet wearing an Angelina would make my back hurt a lot less. Or at least make me look better when I’m stooping and drooping.
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