Opinion | The real superheroes of TV? The makeup artists.
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If you’ve been on television – and in Washington, that is – then you’ve been “in the picture.” If you’ve been very lucky, you’ve landed in the chair of an artist named Rose Procopio Barondess.
Rose, as everyone knows, has been a popular and popular figure for over 40 years. From Mikhail Gorbachev to Betty White and presidents Bill Clinton to Donald Trump, Rose painted them all, and most of the decorative artists were commissioned because, as the old hands knew, he changed them from in every corner.
Mind you, there are many beautiful makeup artists in the television talk show. But Rose is special. Ask Clinton, who signed one of the gowns she used to protect clients’ clothes: “Rose — the best gift this side of plastic surgery.” Henry Kissinger wrote: “You did the best you could.” Dee Dee Myers, former White House press secretary, said: “I bow at your feet.”
His mug with these and other famous signatures, including Rose’s jewelry bag, will go down in history on Monday when Rose will present it to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of America. The museum requested that Rose keep her large suitcase, including her many paints, paints, powders, brushes and other tools. “I never thought,” Rose told me, “that my image would become a thing of the past.” Tim Russert thought years ago that he would donate.
He’s not really retired – his clients are still “exclusive”, both individual and anchored. But the epidemic, when he lost his father, took a toll on his work life. This seems like the right time to part with his professional holdings.
Rose, who was born in DC, got into the business early, creating it with her brothers. She started modeling at the age of 19 but prefers to stay behind the scenes than in front of the camera. “I had more control over makeup,” she remembers, “and I was better at modeling.”
Having worked mostly with network and cable television – Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Katie Couric, Russert and Chris Matthews, to name a few – he has also traveled the world with talent. In the 1996 presidential race between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, he worked with both campaigns and was both candidates.
I have known Rose since I first appeared as a guest on the Sunday show about 15 years ago. Within minutes, she was able to transform my slightly moist face into something that people would love to have in their living room for a few minutes.
For the uninitiated, makeup is important on camera, not just to make you look better — although that’s nice — but to keep you alive. Even before the curse of high-definition television, studio lighting was so bad that even the best human faces would look flat and lifeless without strategic framing and definition.
Let’s be honest; this is a dangerous job. Basically, you have to visit famous people and people, many times every hour, every day, every day. It’s also a strange act of loyalty, and it doesn’t get any easier. As she worked, Rose focused on every pore of your face – something that should be familiar – and kept her thoughts to herself. However, I doubt Michelangelo had a conversation while he was scaling the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
And the people he paints? They never express love. Rose talks about making John F. Kennedy Jr. on Russert’s “Meet the Press,” and the show’s producers told him not to talk to him, not to look at him, not to make eye contact, no. to photograph him, to ask for an autograph. Rose didn’t say a peep until Kennedy asked her about her bow and asked if she would sign it again. He turned to Russert and asked if he could sign. “Of course he can!” Russert called out. Rose remembered Kennedy: “He was the best man in the world.”
Others are the opposite – jumpy, scared, demanding, or humble. Good decorators try to make everyone feel comfortable, no matter what the occasion. Rose is an expert at that. “I knew I was the last person people would see before they went on set, and I tried to keep that in my mind. Being calm helps them calm down.”
Makeup artists are great listeners. The makeup room is the place where people give their hair, reality, and appearance, and say things they would never say anywhere else. The witters before the show made this effect stronger. Even some of the most seasoned veterans are still shaking before the curtain goes up. Live television offers many opportunities to say something stupid, you can understand it, remember it, and repeat it with the Schadenfreude crowd.
The guiding principle is that what you say in decorating always stays in style – and frequent visitors often mistake artists for their saviors. So I’m looking forward to her food memoir, which is in the works with the working title, “All Made.”
Hello, Washington. Most people who have sat in Rose’s chair have little to worry about. Most of all, we should be grateful, because few of us will be like us when he whipped his scarf from our necks and said, “Yes, you are ready.”
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