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Meet the makeup artists who transformed David Bowie, Divine, Tim Curry & more into pretty things

A stunning image of David Bowie as Pierrot with makeup by Australian artist Richard Sharah.

There are few images in rock and roll as recognizable as David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane look. With his hair quaffed in a red mullet and a lightning bolt slashed across his face, it is hard to conceive how anyone would not be at least somewhat aware of Bowie in this context. Bowie’s constantly changing personae are, of course, some of his crowning achievements but as we all know, even the greatest artists didn’t become great without a little help from their friends. David Bowie had many incredible collaborators. Here are two which had the great honor of using his face as a canvas.

Bowie’s secret weapons in the makeup department during the 70s were Algerian-born Pierre La Roche, and legendary Australian makeup artist Richard Sharah. La Roche is the man responsible for creating Bowie’s iconic lightning bolt, and the far-out gold sphere Bowie sported on his forehead as Ziggy. Sharah gets the credit for bringing the Pierrot look used for the cover of Scary Monsters and the “Ashes to Ashes” video to life. However, both men have made other impactful contributions to the world of makeup. Let’s start with the late Richard Sharah.

Richard Sharah’s unique makeup style helped inspire the looks of the New Romantic movement. Sharah’s working relationship with designer Zandra Rhodes (who dressed Freddie Mercury and Queen during the 1970s) lasted for decades. Sharah was slightly color blind—something his fans and students believed only enhanced his artistic ability. Taking things a step further, Sharah also made his own products, therefore, creating truly singular work for his clients which in addition to Bowie included Visage’s Steve Strange and a makeup icon in his own right, Divine (pictured below).  

Divine (Harris Glenn Milstead) in makeup done by Richard Sharah.

Pierre La Roche left his native Algiers and made his way to France while still in his teens, though he wouldn’t stay long. His next move was to England, where he worked for cosmetics giant Elizabeth Arden. While with EA, David Bowie would hire La Roche to do his makeup for his 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars, keeping him around to take care of business for the 1973 live concert film where Bowie retired Ziggy. Here’s more from LaRoche on Bowie’s “perfect” face:

He had the perfect face for makeup, even features, high cheekbones, and a very good mouth.

And boy, the man should know, as he spent the better part of the 1970s working on Bowie’s beloved mug. In 1971, he painted Bowie’s eyelids blue to compliment the famous turquoise suit worn in the “Life on Mars” video. In 1973 for the album Pin Ups, La Roche made both Bowie and supermodel Twiggy look gorgeously futuristic. In 1975 La Roche would work on the influential cult film, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, where he was given the opportunity to create Dr. Frank N. Furter’s diabolical, sweet transvestite face, famous tattoos, as well as other characters for the film. As history has proven, this and the other images he concocted for RHPS are indelible, as are his other contributions, which strongly influenced the look of glam rock.  

Supermodel Twiggy and Bowie in makeup by Pierre La Roche used for the cover of 1973’s ‘Pin Ups.’

The same year, Mick Jagger hired La Roche to come on the road with the Rolling Stones and apply his makeup personally. La Roche also made Hall & Oates look glammy on the cover of their 1975 album Daryl Hall & John Oates, which freaked out their fans because, as Daryl Hall put it, they both looked like “the girl I always wanted to go out with.” Sadly, La Roche was not long for this world—though it’s a bit unclear how old he was, it appears he was still quite young when passed away in the early 1980s due to complications from AIDS.

Below you’ll see photos of La Roche with his pal David Bowie and other examples of his work, and also Sharah and Bowie, as well more eye candy looks he created for Divine, Steve Strange (including the video for “Visage”) and other pretty things.  

Makeup artist Pierre La Roche and David Bowie all dolled up for the ‘Life on Mars’ video 1971.

La Roche working his makeup magie on Bowie as Ziggy Stardust.

Another fantastic shot of La Roche making Bowie into Ziggy.

La Roche helping Bowie get ready backstage.

La Roche and Bowie as Ziggy Stardust.

La Roche and Bowie on the set of the video for the single “Life on Mars.”

La Roche (right) with a made-up Mick Jagger. Keith Richards approves this message.

La Roche with Mick in his makeup chair.

Tim Curry as Dr. Frank N. Furter with makeup and fake tattoos created by Pierre La Roche.

Curry getting his fake tattoos done by Peter Robb-King. King, a primary makeup man for the film “Tommy” and his team—Jane Royal, Ernie Gasser and Graham Freeborn executed the makeup for ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ per La Roche’s original conceptual designs.

Curry getting his Boss tattoo by Robb-King.

Susan Sarandon in makeup conceived by Pierre La Roche for ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show.’

The cover 1975’s ‘Daryl Hall & John Oates’ (also known as ‘The Silver Album’). Makeup by Pierre La Roche.

Bowie as Pierrot in makeup by Richard Sharah.

Sharah making Bowie into Pierrot during the ‘Scary Monsters’ photo shoot. Photo by Brian Duffy.

The awesome Barbie Wilde in makeup by Sharah on the cover of Avantgarde magazine, 1981.

Blitz Kid legend Steve Strange in makeup by Sharah during his days with Visage.

Steve Strange in makeup by Sharah.

Designer Zandra Rhodes in a poster with makeup done by Sharah.

Steve Strange in makeup by Sharah 1981.

Toyah Wilcox in makeup by Sharah on the cover of her 12” single ‘Thunder in the Mountains’ 1981.

Gary Newman on the cover of his 1981 album ‘Dance’ in makeup by Sharah.

The video for Visage’s “Fade to Grey” with makeup by Richard Sharah.

Bowie’s “Life on Mars” promo film, directed by Mick Rock.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Brian Eno answers a fan’s question about his makeup 1973
Master of disguise: Peter Gabriel’s mind-blowing make-up, masks and costumes from the 70s
The savage heterosexuality of macho Australian glam rock band Rabbit
The Harlots Of 42nd Street: Lost pioneers of NYC glam rock
Meet the legendary ‘glam rock’ wrestler of the 1970s, Adrian Street

Posted by Cherrybomb



08:36 am


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