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October 20, 2014

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Of scars and stars: Las Vegas Magazine dresses up Strip entertainers in Halloween ‘undead’ fashion

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E. Ipolani

Stylist Zee Clemente works on transforming Strip headliner Terry Fator into Frankenstein before a photo shoot at the Greenspun Media Group photo studio in Henderson on Oct. 11, 2011.

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Vegas Undead: Behind the Scenes

Stylist Zee Clemente works on transforming Strip headliner Terry Fator into Frankenstein before a photo shoot at the Greenspun Media Group photo studio in Henderson on Oct. 11, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Good use of bolts, Terry. Nice scars, Taylor.

We’re talking of Terry Fator and his wife, Taylor Makakoa, who grace (to use the term loosely) the current covers of Las Vegas Magazine and Las Vegas Weekly, sister publications of the Sun.

Fator, of course, is the Terry Fator in “Terry Fator: Ventriloquism in Concert.” Makakoa is his onstage assistant and all-the-time wife. Fator performs ample mimicry in his stage show but has never modeled the way he did for the magazine illustrations.

For the shoot, Fator is done up as Frankenstein’s menacing (and, hey, misunderstood) monster. Makakoa is his angst-riddled, gray-haired bride. At first glance, these figures hardly resemble the people beneath. Fator, in particular, is unrecognizable with his cinderblock-shaped noggin and guacamole-green hue.

“My gosh, it’s spectacular,” Fator said in a phone conversation Thursday afternoon that also involved Makakoa. “They made me look better than I thought they would.”

“They” in this instance was hair/makeup artist Zee Clemente, fashion stylist Christie Moeller and ace photog Christopher DeVargas (who accompanied me on many National Finals Rodeo shoots late last year, so the man does possess visual dexterity).

The idea sprouted like a zombie from the graveyard in “Night of the Living Dead.” Las Vegas Magazine Managing Editor Jack Houston tossed the idea of publishing an “undead” issue around Halloween to LVM Art Director Erik Stein. It was match-in-a-gas-can time, as the two quickly paired top Vegas performers with famous horror film subjects. Others selected for the undead treatment were Rio headliners Penn & Teller (depicted in a poster for “The Mummy”) and Imperial Palace headliner Frank Marino and his longtime partner, Alex Schechter (“Dracula”).

It was not easy to get these folks assembled given the scheduling and time commitments required to execute each shoot. Fator says that when he was presented the idea by a member of his PR agency, the pitch was cast with the qualifier, “I assume you don’t want to do this.”

“I said, ‘Are you kidding? Of course we want to do this,' ” Fator said. “We jumped at the chance. We knew it would be a lot of time and effort, but it was worth it.”

One quirky touch is that Fator’s little Maynard Tompkins puppet (an Elvis impersonator) is featured inside the magazine wearing a white lab coat as Dr. Frankenstein himself.

Fator said the experience gave him a newfound regard for long-ago actors who portrayed the monster.

“It raised my respect for Boris Karloff and Fred Gwynne,” Fator said, referring to the film and TV legends who portrayed the monster generations ago. “Fred Gwynne had to do this every week for years. I can’t imagine what he went through.”

Fator did not mention Peter Boyle, who played the monster in “Young Frankenstein,” but you can include him in that monstrous collective.

Some women say it’s not a bad look.

“There is nothing cooler than you and your husband dressed up as Frankenstein,” Makakoa said.

The couple have never dressed in Frankenstein garb, for Halloween or any other reason. This year he is dressing as Zorro and she as a skeleton.

“A sexy skeleton,” he stresses.

The entire makeover and return-to-normal process for the magazine shoot took a lot longer than the original estimate of four hours.

“People don’t understand how grueling and exhausting a photo shoot can be,” Fator said. “It can be very, very grueling. For me, the hardest part was to get that feel for the real monster.”

That required some acting.

“I had to stand there for an hour straight, with my fingers curled and growling,” he said. “It wreaked havoc on my voice, and we had a show that night. Taylor’s makeup took longer than mine.”

Makakoa added, “I think it was a full six hours.”

But it was worth it. Fator said he and Makakoa would have sat for the photos even if it were just for posterity.

For the folks at the magazine, there is still great potential in this idea. As Houston noted, “I thought Zombie Matt Goss would be a good one.” Maybe next year, right?

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWithTheDish.

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