- HOW BABY FACE WAS BORN...
- 1. Introduction
I'm a little afraid to answer your letters, lest I disillusion you and come tumbling down off the pedestal upon which,
thanks to you and your friends, I find myself, recently and precariously placed! But at the risk of revealing myself to
be a Mere Mortal, I'll take the chance. And begin by saying once more Many Thanks for all the nice things you've
said about Baby Face and (hope it doesn't go to my head) -- "Moi"?
At the risk of opening a subject that I could more easily talk about than
BF, dare I mention that we too love cats, and had, until very recently five
and a half of them ourselves, But in just the space of a few months we lost
four, and now have only one and a half left. The "half," being a big black
cat that was "our cat" for several years and then decided he liked the
neighbors house better, but still visits us several times a week for snacks
and expensive flea prevention treatments.
I hesitate to answer the first question you asked as I hate to disappoint
you, but, alas, I fear the answer to whether or not the Baby face dolls can
ever be produced again is-- No. If I wasn't typing this one finger at a time
I could explain the many reasons why, perhaps I will attempt it sometime.
My answer to the second question will be, I fear, equally unrewarding.
The fact is, I have no idea how many different dolls were actually produced.
I can tell you that I did sculpt all the heads, and many suggested heads were done in Super Sculpy, some of which
were downright Hideous. I see some of them on the Internet, and I cringe at the sight of them. I have no idea how
they got there. I even saw one for sale on E-Bay.
After the initial choices were made, they were cast in wax,
and the real work began. Finishing and refining the waxes was
the hard part, not only because they had to be perfect, but
more so because (as we all learned the hard way) they had to
be sculpted in "code", as due to shrinkage, what you "saw"
was far from what you "got"! And this had to be taken into
account and compensated for ahead of time. I also had to set
the eye positions ahead of time in the waxes, and that proved
to be the biggest challenge of all. Anyway to get back to your
question, I did about 23 finished waxes: most of which were
used for several dolls, and a few of which were never used at
Some people have suggested that hands other than mine, might have worked on the heads or the waxes at some time
in the process. This, as desperately as I wished I had some help at the time, was not the case. A model shop in
Pennsylvania did make molds of the Sculpy and pour wax impressions of them for me, but in the end no one ever
touched the heads "creatively" but me.
In Fact as I write this, a very unpleasant episode, that I had totally forgotten, once more comes to mind. The
employee of the model shop who, alas, was responsible for molding and casting the heads and I, got off to a very bad
start, and as a result, he did everything he could to be as difficult as possible from there on out.
The first 3 heads that were supplied to me in wax had been enlarged to account for
shrinkage on a computerized pantograph. This produces a crude approximation of the
original. Turning it into a good copy, is a very delicate process, one that certainly called for
all the skill I could muster. This well intentioned individual, what I really mean is "well
intentioned Ass-" took the heads off the pantograph, carried them over to the buffing
machine, and proud of his buffing abilities, polished them until the soft wax shone with all the
glow AND DETAIL of bowling balls! --What happened to the "nuances" and for that matter
the NOSES? He polished them off! I believe that, at that moment the term "Polish It Off"
meaning to "Destroy"something, was invented!
He not only failed to look at the original heads while he was "polishing them off", but
looking at them afterwards "OH OH!", lost them! And Sent the "bowling balls" without them, Hoping, I guess no
one would notice, And it looked, at that point, like project Baby Face, had been polished off as well. But the heads
were found, and he had to do them over, and he never forgave me for his mistake. I think what really ticked him off
was the fact that he wasn't allowed to buff any more heads. I detected some sneaky buffing on some and complained,
which made matters, and the quality of the castings he gave me in the future, even worse.
There are others who deserve huge credit for Baby Face, who have
not been mentioned in your web site, such as: Judy Albert, without
whose Talent, Expertise and Hard Work, Baby Face never, in my
opinion, could or would have happened, David Galoob who fell in
love with Baby Face at first sight, and having the one vote that
mattered, cast it for a doll who was nothing but a doll ! Saul Jodel,
who ran the whole operation and battled, relentlessly, for nothing
less than, perfection, And last but not least Cathy Oi-- Saul's one
woman secret weapon who fought and won the battles, from behind
the scenes, time and time again.
Hey does this sound like an Academy Award acceptance speech or
Gosh, Hasn't my little index finger been busy, I sure got side
tracked! And no doubt I'm teetering at the edge of the pedestal right
now, if not already on the ground!
With Best Regards, Mel Birnkrant
Next Page: 2. The Inner Life of Baby Face
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