The Flashback Interview: Valli O’Reilly

My first exposure to the work of Oscar-winning makeup artist Valli O’Reilly, my newest interview subject, came when I purchased a copy of Martin Scorsese’s After Hours on VHS and the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense on DVD in the early 00s. The makeups she created for David Byrne’s self-interview for Stop Making Sense, and for the many unique denizens of the city in After Hours, really made an impression on me.

On a family trip to Walt Disney World in 2005, I watched the 77th Annual Academy Awards and saw Valli O’Reilly win an Oscar for Best Makeup for A Series Of Unfortunate Events. 15 years later, I had the chance to interview her about her long and diverse career as a makeup artist. I hope you all enjoy getting to know this great artist.

Say hello to Valli O’Reilly!

Johnny: Hello, Ms. O’Reilly.

Valli: Hi. How are you?

Johnny: I’m doing good. First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this interview.

Valli: Oh, of course. You’re lucky because I’m starting a new project next week, so I wouldn’t have been able to do it during the week. This worked out perfect. I got off work a little early today, so it turned out to be a good thing.

Johnny: Alright. Well, I have my questions ready to go.

Valli: Okay.

Johnny: First of all, what led you to the field of makeup design?

Valli: Well, I studied art. That’s what my interest was. I studied fine art and production design for theater. That was another major of mine, and art history, and I used to be a sculptor, so I kind of fell into doing makeup. I never really thought about doing makeup as a career. Some of the people I went to university with took film courses, and I took one of the classes as a filler out of interest. When they were doing their graduate films, they would ask people at the university to pitch in and help, so I helped a few people with their projects, and one of the jobs I was assigned to was doing makeup. I enjoyed it, and it sort of came naturally to me because of sculpting, so I sort of fell into doing makeup.

Johnny: You did makeup for the first two Porky’s movies. What went into the makeup for those movies?

Valli: It was supposed to be kind of retro, and the director wanted it to look very realistic. The first movie had all the people at Porky’s who were strippers and ex-carnies and everything. Back then, you had to go to a library and look up pictures. It wasn’t like the Internet where you could just look it up, so we had to look at areas of Florida in that time period, which was the 50s. We had to do research on the haircuts, what carnies looked like back then, what the clubs looked like back then, what a redneck sheriff looked like back then, and then sort of follow the directions. I think this was a story that had happened to one of Bob Clark’s cousins. He had very specific ideas, so we just had to follow them.

Johnny: Alright. To go to another credit, you worked on makeup for the movie Savage Streets, a classic of 80s exploitation filmmaking. What effects were your favorite to create for that movie?

Valli: Well, that movie was the first one that I did when I moved to California, so I didn’t even know what I was really getting into. I did a commercial for somebody I knew from the East Coast. He introduced me to a hairdresser, and she said that she had this movie she was going to do. It was low-budget, but I could make a bit of money and I could meet other crew people, so I took it. I had no idea what it was about, so I remember when I read the script, I was like, “Jeez”. This was pretty rough for back then, you know? Now it would be like nothing. I was really kind of excited about meeting Linda Blair because I’d seen The Exorcist, and it scared me to not sleep for probably a month when I was young and we sneaked into the film as we were underage.

That’s about all I can say about that film. I was not really happy with the story of that film. It was kind of hard to work on, being a young woman, as there were rape scenes and stuff like that, and it was very lowbrow. At the end, I think the producers tried not to pay us. That was a whole other issue. They tried not to pay us for about three or four weeks of the film, which was not very cool (laughing), so those are the memories from that movie.

Johnny: I’m sorry you had to deal with that. Well, to move to a credit that was hopefully a better experience, you worked on the 1984 movie Heartbreakers alongside a former interview subject of mine, Jamie Rose. What are your favorite memories of that project?

Valli: Oh, that was a great project. Everybody had so much fun on that. It was a really low-budget movie, but I knew Nick Mancuso from before because we were both from Canada, and the director was very nice. The story was pretty good, and every actor was fantastic. We all got along so much that we’d go out to cafes together after work and things like that. They didn’t have a proper makeup trailer because it was so low-budget. They just had a honeywagon room which was about the size of a small bathroom in a small house, and we had the honeywagon driver put shelves in there and make a seat because all the actors, while we were making up two people, which was pretty much all we could fit in there, wanted to hang out. They had to kind of make seatings, so it turned into a mini drop-in center.

That was a really pleasant project. There was nothing really special about the makeup, except Peter Coyote had a lot of tattoos and he had to do a shower scene. I remember it was the first time I had to cover up, and not make, tattoos, Normally you’re putting tattoos on people in a movie, and this is the first time I had to cover full body tattoos on somebody.

Johnny: Interesting.

Valli: As it was a shower scene, it was a double challenge for me because I’d never done that before. They didn’t have the makeup supplies that they have now. There’s so many things that make it really easy to cover tattoos where you don’t even see them. Because of the lawsuit against The Hangover, Part II and Mike Tyson’s tattoo, you have to have tattoos approved on movies now, and prove it was your own design. Otherwise, they have to cover them as the tattoo artists will come after them saying, “You used my design in your movie. Now I’m going to sue you”.

Johnny: Well, like they say, necessity is the mother of invention.

Valli: Yeah.

Johnny: To go to my next question, you worked on the classic Martin Scorsese dark comedy After Hours. What made that movie such a standout for you?

Valli: Well, that was really what I would say was my first “real” movie, and to work with real iconic people, even though they weren’t that old back then. Marty really made a name for himself. I met Michael Ballhaus on Heartbreakers, and he asked Martin Scorsese, because he thought I was talented, if he could recommend me to work on After Hours. That was not really a huge budget film, either, but it was a great script and I really wanted to do it. It meant being a local in New York, so I had to try and figure out where I was going to live because they were going to pay me like I lived in New York, but I lived in L.A at this point. I didn’t live in New York anymore, so I knew this musician, David Byrne from Talking Heads, and he was going on tour and his girlfriend was going with him, so he had a loft in SoHo. He let me stay there and pay pretty low rent while I did the movie.

I was able to do the movie in New York, and Martin Scorsese had pretty much every idea in his head, so he would tell me how he wanted each character, and I would do it if he liked it, or I would make changes to it if he wanted it to be a little different. With that movie, Griffin Dunne was so much fun, and there was really a great group of people.

Johnny: Absolutely. That movie’s a stone classic. I’m glad it’s finally gotten a great critical reception, not that it didn’t back then. I know that the critics really liked it, but now it’s definitely been seen as one of the classics of the 80s, and you did great work in it.

Valli: Thank you. Well, I loved it. It was, like, 14 weeks of night shooting, so that was really hard because we had to stay up all night, every night, and on the weekends you couldn’t go to sleep normally because your sleep pattern would be off, so you had to hang out with the people you were working with on the movie because they were the only people who were up all night. Back then, it was the 80s, and New York had all these clubs like Danceteria, so that’s what we kind of did. We just stayed up all night. Like in the movie, we stayed up all night as well. Although I don’t hang out with them, I still know Rosanna Arquette and Griffin Dunne. They were really talented.

Johnny: Absolutely.

Valli: What a great pleasure to work on that. The cinematographer who has now passed away, Michael Ballhaus, was a genius.

Johnny: How lucky you were to work on that movie.

Valli: Yeah. You know how you have favorite jobs and favorite times in your life? That was different. It was really special.

Johnny: Fantastic. To go to my next question: Some of your more fantasy-oriented work can be seen in the post-apocalyptic cult classic Cherry 2000. How did you land that gig?

Valli: You know, it’s so funny, Johnny. Some of these movies I completely forgot I even did. Savage Streets? Linda Blair was great, but I’d completely forgot I did that movie. Cherry 2000? I’ve met young people, probably your age, who have come up to me and said, “I Googled you. I looked on your IMDB and saw that you did Cherry 2000”, and they made a bowing motion to me. I said, “You saw Cherry 2000? People are watching that movie?”, and they would say, “Oh my god, it’s a cult classic”. Who knew, you know? (Laughing)

Johnny: Well, that does lead me to ask: Cherry 2000 was the first of several times you would work with Melanie Griffith. I find her to be a very underrated actress, so what’s it been like to work with her?

Valli: Oh, she’s great. I’m still friends with her. I mean, I’ve known her since the 80s. She’s great. She’s a nice person with a big heart. She was really popular in the 80s and most of the 90s, and now she hardly works at all. People kind of have their moment, I guess. Some people are lucky where they work all the time. I worked with her on Pacific Heights, which was one of my favorite movies I ever did. I loved that director, John Schlesinger, and I just loved working on that movie. It was absolutely fantastic, and she was a big part of it. She just had her baby, Dakota Johnson, maybe six months before we started filming that, so Dakota, as a baby, was in the makeup trailer all the time.

Cherry 2000 was hard because we were in Nevada in the desert. It was dirty. We were in the Hoover Dam. I look back now and I think it was kind of interesting, but at the time, we were stuck in mud with all the trailers sometimes, yet I could do whatever I wanted makeup-wise. When they had all those weird scenes with those clubs, I kind of tried to copy and make actors look like they were Picasso paintings or things like that. One person, I tried to make them look like they were from a Vincent Van Gogh painting. With Melanie, we kind of wanted her to look a little bit different than she did in the movie. That was the studio’s idea. Instead of looking like a tracker from one of the Mad Max movies, where she could’ve looked more androgynous, we got to tone it down a bit, but the studio wanted her to practically look like white, over-the-knee suede boots and big hair, like a Whitesnake video, which is completely not believable if you’re a tracker in the desert, but they were trying to sell the movie as something it really wasn’t.

Johnny: It may have been sold in a certain way, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t a good movie. It was a certainly enjoyable one, and again, you did some great work on it.

Valli: Thank you.

Johnny: Oh, no problem.

Valli: You really do good research.

Johnny: Oh, the Internet Movie Database has really been a boon to me in doing this. You worked on several music videos in the 80s. One of the most standout for me was Rebbie Jackson’s song Plaything. I feel the makeup you created in the video really reflected the concept of the song. Were you thinking of the lyrics when creating the makeup for that video?

Valli: You know what? I know I worked on it, but the IMDB doesn’t report that I’ve done thousands of music videos. That one I barely remember doing. Usually when we create the makeup, a lot of times the director has a lot of involvement in music videos on the look, but it can be a collaboration, and yes, a lot of times I get inspired by the music, but there’s a lot of other musicians it never showed up for. I did all of the Talking Heads’ music videos. Does that show up on IMDB?

Johnny: It does not, but since you bring it up, I definitely am a big fan of Talking Heads as well. Of all the Talking Heads videos you worked on, which was your favorite?

Valli: Mmm, probably Road To Nowhere. I liked that one.

Johnny: Oh, yeah. That was a very creative video.

Valli: I love David Byrne. I just think he’s a genius, you know? Everything he did was so creative and, like, wow, how did he come up with that, you know?

Johnny: Well, when it comes to David Byrne, I can definitely relate to him. We both live with Asperger’s Syndrome, and he’s a man I look up to because of all he’s been able to accomplish in spite of having that autism spectrum disorder.

Valli: Oh, really. I didn’t know that he had Asperger’s.

Johnny: Yeah, he was diagnosed with it a while back, although Tina Weymouth had suspicions about it for a long time beforehand.

Valli: Actually, I suspected something. I guess what people don’t understand about different types of autism is that each person, like anything you have, it comes out different. There’s not just one type of Asperger’s, you know?

Johnny: Exactly.

Valli: Yeah, so I guess sometimes people say things. Sometimes people like him don’t say anything when you should be saying something, but that’s interesting. I had suspicions that he had it, and I didn’t realize he came out with it. I’ve got to say he’s a very generous human being, a very artistic person…I can’t say enough good things about him. He really is a special person with a unique talent. Meeting him and working with the band was one of the highlights of my career.

Johnny: This does also lead me to ask: When David Byrne filmed that self-interview to promote Stop Making Sense, did you do the makeup for that short?

Valli: Was he a woman and a David Bowie type?

Johnny: Right.

Valli: Yeah, I did that.

Johnny: That was definitely a great collaboration between you two. I still think about quotes from that video to this day. I mean, “It’s like 60 Minutes on acid”.

Valli: Yeah. I’ve got to say, out of anybody I’ve worked with in my whole career, and I’ve worked with a ton of people as you can see, famous people from all over the world, David’s one of the highlights of my career.

Johnny: That’s great. Speaking of famous musicians you’ve worked with, moving into the 90s, you were Whitney Houston’s makeup artist for her 1992 hit film The Bodyguard.

Valli: Yeah.

Johnny: What stories do you have to share about Ms. Houston?

Valli: A fantastic person. I posted something on my Instagram account a while back because it just bugs me how everybody likes to talk about the bad side of Whitney Houston, the drugs and her falling down, so to speak.

She was fun. She had a great sense of humor. She loved eating candy corn. I could never figure that out. They’re pure sugar, and they look like little triangles. They’re a very American candy, and I’d never seen that before, but she liked stuff like that. She wasn’t on drugs when I worked with her, although maybe she smoked the odd joint here and there. She had a wicked sense of humor. She thanked me when she got an American Music Award for The Bodyguard. She didn’t have to do that, you know.

She invited me to her wedding, and I went because I thought I’m never going to see anything spectacular like this again, and it was pretty spectacular. They had the C.C and Company Band. Her aunt Dionne Warwick sang. Bobby Brown hired some friends of his that were dancers to dance with women that wanted to dance when their husbands didn’t. Everybody was dressed to the nines. She had it in the backyard of her house. They had vans taking people back and forth to the hotel. You couldn’t have made a more beautiful wedding.

When working on The Bodyguard, she went around talking to everybody in the crew. It was a completely different story. I did quite a few print things with her, and music videos as well, and she was a really talented person.

Johnny: Those are lovely stories you have to share of her, and again, how lucky you were to work with her. Since you did mention Warren Beatty, you’re the second collaborator with him that I’ve interviewed, the first being your fellow Best Makeup Oscar winner John Caglione Jr.

Valli: Well, Warren’s tough. I’ve done a lot of movies with him, and interviews. You name it, I’ve done it for the last 25 years with him. He’s a very great filmmaker, very precise. He’s very controlling. He’s very “his way or the highway”, but you always end up with a good result. He’s one of the top filmmakers in the industry. What can I say?, but he’s not an easy person to work with. You wouldn’t say “that’s a lot of fun”. It’s more like, “That’s a great project. It’s going to turn out great, and you’re going to work your ass off, and you’re going to be challenged every second”.

He’s a fantastic director. When you’re not working with him, you can say he’s nice, but when you’re working with him, he’s driven and he has a definite idea of what he wants, and he just expects everybody to be up to that level. He’s kind of like having a strict teacher. That’s the best way to describe him. He’s very business-like. There’s not a lot of joking and stuff like that. It’s like if you have a teacher that jokes in the classroom, and then you have a teacher who’s like, “Okay now. Everybody look forward and pay attention. This is what I want you to do. Do this”. He’s stricter.

I don’t want to say anything negative about him because it sounds that way. He’s just a very old school, old Hollywood style of directing. He hires the best and he expects a certain level of expertise. He doesn’t want to hear excuses from people for why something isn’t right. He’s like, “Make it right”, like a strict parent.

Johnny: I understand. To go to a different director, you were the key makeup artist for Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks!, which I find to be one of the most underrated movies of the 90s.

Valli: A lot of people didn’t like that movie. I loved it.

Johnny: I did, too. That’s why I say it was underrated, because I feel like a lot of people didn’t get it, so I have to ask: Were you familiar with the trading cards the movie was based on, and if so, how did they influence your work on the film?

Valli: Well, I wasn’t familiar with the trading cards because with Tim, so much research has gone into the movie before I’m even hired, but a lot of that stuff kind of affected the creatures more, the aliens and that kind of thing. For me, my concept, as Tim and I are pretty much the same age, we decided that I would base a lot of the characters on 1960s kitsch, like Annette Bening was modeled after Ginger from Gilligan’s Island. We used the feel of a 60s TV show for a lot of the characters and actors that were in the movie.

Johnny: Interesting. I can definitely see the 60s influence in that. Very creative on your and Tim’s part, and it definitely gave the movie a very unique style.

Valli: The Martian Girl was like a 60s Barbie doll, and all the characters at the Luxor and Egyptian had an I Dream Of Jeannie kind of feel to it all.

Johnny: It was definitely a well-designed movie, and your work on that movie played a part in what made it so well-designed. To go from one fantasy to another, and heading into the 00s, you were the makeup department head for the movie S1m0nE. A rather unique project, how did you utilize your makeup skills to help create the digital title character?

Valli: Oh, I loved that movie. Well, they wanted her to sort of be somebody that was the girl next door, almost pure, angelic, luminous. That’s why she looked the way she did, and not heavily made up or anything like that. She looked kind of child-like, clean, fresh. She looked kind of trustworthy, empathetic, naive, innocent, that kind of thing. The director ended up marrying her at the end of the movie (laughing).

Johnny: Well, now we come to a very big project for you. You worked on Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events. Knowing that Jim Carrey is rather committed to his characters, was it difficult to make him up, or was it easy?

Valli: I department-headed the whole movie, so we had somebody apply his makeup every day because there were just too many people. Colleen Atwood was the costume designer, while I was makeup designer and designed all of the characters. Colleen and Jim designed his Characters and Bill Corso applied the makeup.

Johnny: Well, since you do mention Bill Corso, Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events would, of course, win you an Academy Award For Best Makeup. Were you nervous that evening, and do you recall what you felt when you and Bill Corso were announced as the winners of the Best Makeup Oscar?

Valli: I was really happy. My dad had had a stroke and he was in a rehab facility, and he was able to watch it on TV, seeing me get the Oscar. I took my mom with me to the awards, and I was just really proud. You know, I kind of feel I got that award for my whole career, not just Lemony Snicket. I was scared out of my mind, but luckily that year we got it in the aisle, so we weren’t blinded by the lights of the camera pointed towards us to shoot us. Also, we didn’t have to look at giants because when I went up onstage for the BAFTA I won for Alice In Wonderland, and I saw a zillion people in the audience, I thought I was going to pass out.

If you’re not an actor, it’s pretty scary. I can’t even explain it. Maybe some people really love it, but for me, I would rather get my award in the audience like I did the first time, where you don’t have to look at everybody. It’s a lot. I’m just not one of those people who’s good with that many eyes on me, you know?

Johnny: Yeah. I watched the ceremony that year, and they seemed to want to get the technical award winners done with as quickly as possible.

Valli: They always do. They were even talking about not showing the technical winners anymore.

Johnny: Most of the Oscar winners I’ve interviewed so far have been winners of a technical award, with the exceptions of Best Animated Short winner John Canemaker, Best Live-Action Short winner Chuck Workman, and Best Documentary Feature and Best Documentary Short winner Sarah Kernochan, and I feel that all of you are just as worthy of time as the actors and actresses. I mean, of course you get the Oscar, but I also wish you would get the respect of being able to speak at the same length as an actor does. Without you, the technical crew, the actors and actresses wouldn’t be where they are, so you deserve as much credit as they do, and I really wish you’d get it.

Valli: Yeah. For example, a movie like Alice In Wonderland. That was all about the makeup and design. Where is the acting in that movie? It’s like you’re only looking at the visuals. They’ve talked about having the crew people on a different night and not even being televised. I mean, who really wants to see all those dance numbers at The Oscars? Now they spend so much time on what everybody’s wearing on the red carpet, and they’ve made it kind of like The Ellen Show. It’s all games, and it’s not like the classic old-school Oscars. They were very dignified, and they respected everybody. Even Roger Deakins, who’s a world-famous cinematographer, one of the best in the world, they were, like, ready to beep him off when he won the Oscar. It’s like, “Are you kidding me?”. They gave this man two seconds to talk when the movie wouldn’t be anything without him, you know?

Johnny: Well, the Academy may not respect your efforts and time, but I certainly do, and you’ve certainly done a lot of great work.

Valli: Thank you so much, Johnny. If you think about it, all the editors and the costume designers…Even our salaries are way out-of-whack compared to what actors get. It’s a weird world we live in, Johnny (laughing), but I’m happy that you like our work. I’m happy that you really see the makeup effects and stuff because some people don’t really notice it.

Johnny: Oh, I know it’s very important, and you’ve definitely done great work. To stay with you, you worked on Christopher Guest’s TV series Family Tree. As many of Guest’s projects are known for their heavy improvisational style, were your makeups for the series also improvised, or did Christopher have an idea of what he wanted beforehand?

Valli: Most of the time he had an idea of what he wanted beforehand, but then sometimes he would throw in a gag at the last minute. It’s fun, actually, that way with him, because then you have to scramble and come up with anything. Those movies may not be a box office hit, but if you wanted to have a laugh at work and just enjoy your job to the max, work on a Christopher Guest movie in any capacity, even putting out coffee cups.

Seeing those actors improvise is hilarious. They’re so good. He likes to hire the same little group of people. One of my favorite movies ever was Waiting For Guffman. I think I’ve seen that 20 times. I could watch it anytime, anywhere.

Johnny: When it comes to Christopher Guest, I’m more familiar with the early version of Corky St. Clair, Chip Dimentabella from Saturday Night Live, and the Billy Crystal special Don’t Get Me Started. That’s how I know that character.

Valli: Yeah. He’s so great, isn’t he?

Johnny: Oh, absolutely. “I know you, I know you, I know you!”. The Synchronized Swimming sketch from SNL…

Valli: Yeah, he’s really something. That Corky St. Clair is from an “off-off-off-off-off-Broadway production” (laughing). They’re all just so talented. It’s fun doing that because, even though I didn’t work on Waiting For Guffman, you could see the weird little things, like how they do Catherine O’Hara’s hair. In the midwest, girls used to do that weird bang that would stand up in the front. It was the style for a while in the 80s, and they would just sort of overexaggerate her. He knows how to do the subtle human nuances that can make people laugh. Take a little, quirky thing about somebody and make it bigger, and it’s all done with a kind humor, you know?

Johnny: Absolutely. To stay with your work, since you’ve mentioned you’re working on a new project, how has the chaos of coronavirus changed how you apply makeups?

Valli: I’m just helping a friend on this job because I need a job since there’s not much work happening. It’s a TV show that she’s doing for HBOMax. We have to wear gloves, N95 masks, cloaks, visors and goggles. It makes it really hard to do makeup. First of all, you just feel so claustrophobic, and I wear glasses when I’m working, so these things fog up all the time. At the end of the day when I got home, I was exhausted, and that’s just from doing the makeup tests. I make sure I drink water with a lot of electrolytes in it.

We also have to sterilize everything. We have these different bins, so say I’m doing your makeup. I have to have a metal tray and put out all the stuff I’m going to use on you, and then scoop things on a palette, and then quickly take away the containers. I then make you up and put it in some other container, in a sealed bag that will only be used on you. I have to clean everything I just used with 70 percent alcohol, and I have to wipe down the chair where you were sitting after you get up. I brought these trays that they use for people that paint, so I have a few of them. For each person, I clean it with alcohol and I put all the makeup I’m going to use on the tray and then, at the end, I have to sterilize everything.

It’s exhausting. Between each person we have to sterilize the whole area, so it takes much more time to do somebody’s makeup.

Johnny: I’m not even a makeup artist myself, and just hearing that description I felt your exhaustion…

Valli: So you can imagine if you’re doing special effects. There’s a couple of special effects guys that I know, and they’re working on some big shows. They’ve said that when they get home at night, they get in the shower and they just fall into bed. You’re a big guy and you have a beard or something, and then you have the mask and the visor, and then you have to try and work as fast as you can with the visors and another assistant, quickly trying to do an appliance on somebody because the actor has no mask on. You’re really vulnerable, and the producers want you to speed it up. You have to be careful, not only for your own health but for the actor’s health, and for sterilizing everything.

It’s tough, and what the producers don’t realize is that it takes so much longer. They can’t rush us because if somebody gets infected on a show, they have to shut the whole show down, so it’s so stupid for them to try and rush people. You know what I mean?

Johnny: I do. Well, hopefully better times are coming soon.

Valli: Yeah. Well, like I said, we only did the makeup tests. We start shooting on Monday, so I’m sure we’ll get it down. It’s a learning curve, so I’m sure we’ll get it down to a science. At a certain point, we’ll be able to figure out how to do it efficiently and safely, but right now it’s so new. When the colder weather comes, it will be better, too, because we won’t be as hot with all the stuff on, and I think, when we’re outside, we won’t have to wear this shield and they’ll let us go in to touch people up, but I don’t know. It’s a different world.

Hopefully they can work out something with rapid testing, so that way they can test everybody to see who has it and who doesn’t, and make the people who have it stay home for 14 days with a beeper on their leg. They could get control of who has it and who doesn’t and stop the virus, because vaccinating everybody? You see now how only half of the USA gets flu vaccinations. It’s just like with the masks. There’s going to be a lot of people who don’t want to get a vaccine, so I don’t know. Who knows what’s going to happen with it? We’ll just try to wear our masks and stay positive. You know what I mean?

Johnny: Oh, I do.

Valli: I feel grateful that I’ve got a job, no matter what it is.

Johnny: That actually does lead me to ask: Although you didn’t intend to become a makeup artist, you did end up as one, so what advice would you give to someone looking to enter the field of makeup design?

Valli: Well, right now it’s kind of flooded because of that show, Face Off, and because of Instagram. It seems that everybody and their brother or sister or uncle wants to be a makeup artist. It’s hard to give any advice right now with this corona business because it’s hard to get into the union now. A lot of young kids have gone to these makeup schools and spent a fortune to become makeup artists, and now there’s no work to be had at the moment. You never want to tell people not to follow their dreams, but it depends on what type of makeup they want to do, I guess.

Some of these makeup schools can cost up to 30, 40, 50 thousand dollars, and not every kid has access to that kind of money. I mean, the best way to get your hands wet is to buy some books, look at videos online, go to different makeup artists’ websites that do some tutorials, and just practice, you know? Even for me. If I want to learn something new makeup-wise, even at this stage in the game, the more I practice it, the better I get. I mean, obviously, if they want to learn prosthetics and things like that, they’re going to have to invest in classes from a trained professional, but for beauty makeup, for now, they can go online and watch makeup tutorials from all sorts of different people.

Johnny: Alright.

Valli: Does that make any sense?

Johnny: Oh, it does.

Valli: Right now in today’s economy, if some kids have a dream of going to makeup school, some community colleges offer classes, but it’s quite a big investment for a student or a parent to put out. They should see if they really like it before they spend the money right now.

Johnny: Alright. Well, that does it for my questions. I again thank you for taking the time to speak to me. It was an honor to do so. You’re a phenomenal talent, and I’m honored that you took the time to share your stories with me.

Valli: Oh, of course. You know, I was looking at your John Caglione interview. It was quite extensive. He’s done so many big movies with a lot of prosthetics.

Johnny: It’s always an honor to interview talents like yourself, and like John.

Valli: It’s very impressive, Johnny. You’ve done a really great job, and the fact that you know and you’ve seen all these movies is quite remarkable.

Johnny: For me, it’s an example of how I’ve been able to utilize Asperger’s Syndrome to help me out because one of the aspects of it is an intense focus on a particular subject, and for me, it’s retro pop culture, especially that of the 1980s. I’ve been able to utilize it to work for me, and it’s allowed me the chance to interview great talents like yourself.

Valli: Well, can I make a suggestion? I’m a member of the Motion Picture Academy, and now with all this inclusiveness and diversity that they’re doing, I don’t know if it would interest you, but I think you should reach out to them. The fact that you have Asperger’s, and that you’re so hyper-focused and so talented at this…You have so much knowledge of pop culture that maybe you might be able to find a part-time position with them.

Johnny: Wow. Well, first of all, I’m flattered by that compliment, and second, I’ll definitely give it some consideration. Of course, I would need to worry about it impacting my Social Security Disability, but I’ll definitely give it some thought. I’m flattered by the suggestion.

Valli: Well, even if it was just on a volunteer basis…I’m going to make some calls at some point because you could do these things, and write articles and stuff, and have them put in the newsletters and everything without actually being paid, you know what I mean? Just put it out there where people can see your art, your talent.

Johnny: That really warms my heart to hear that.

Valli: I’m very impressed, Johnny, seriously. I mean, I’m impressed at how great you are at researching, and how much you know. It’s very impressive.

Johnny: Well, I thank you for that. It’s really an honor to get a compliment like that, and I’ll definitely keep that in mind for the future. On that note, thank you again for your time, for your compliments, for everything, and I’ll definitely be in touch again soon.

Valli: Okay, Johnny. Thanks. It was a pleasure to be interviewed by you. Thank you so much. You’ve really accomplished a lot, and that’s really great to see. I was very impressed when I looked at the interviews of other people, and it’s an honor for me that you chose me also to be interviewed with such incredible artists. I feel flattered that you reached out to me.

Johnny: Thank you very much. Pardon me for stumbling over my words. I’m just very touched by your compliments, and we’re definitely going to talk again soon.

Valli: Okay, Johnny. You have a wonderful weekend.

Johnny: Likewise.

Valli: Okay. Bye bye.

Johnny: Bye.


I would again like to thank Valli O’Reilly for taking the time out of her schedule to speak to me, and I would also like to thank Keith Zenobia for helping to put the interview together.

Coming soon to The Flashback Interview are conversations with dancer/choreographer Anita Mann and Saturday Live Live veteran Gary Kroeger.