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CHRIS ERSKINE

These fans enjoy a brush with greatness

Fan of the house:

January 22, 2009|CHRIS ERSKINE

Me, I never know what to wear to a game. Do I go with the latex or a thicker, more creamy oil base?

What about a fright wig? Is that overkill? A cape seems almost mandatory for evening games and some sort of helmet that funnels beer. How about tights? Is it too cold for tights?

Honestly, I've never done the face-paint thing, but I have to admire the ersatz superheroes who do. There is so little celebration in life anymore. Sure, on Thursdays, Jane brings bagels into the office. And if someone has a birthday, there's bound to be a nice cake.

But, celebrations on a national level are too few, and we should honor those who mark the moment by smearing themselves blue or green or Steelers gold. Sports' rainbow coalition.

Take my nephew, please. That's him in the photo on Page 8, proudly wearing the face paint of his beloved Florida Gators. When this photo started making the rounds his sophomore year, many members of the family experienced a mild embarrassment. Billy's a face painter? Why on earth?

Admittedly, our family has always had a thing for devotion. We hold onto our cars far too long. And we never get divorced, ever. You can crack a vase over our skulls and that only makes us love you more. Crazy Catholics.

But young Billy was taking devotion to a whole new level. By gawd, Billy the math whiz was turning into Puddy, the "Seinfeld" character who stunned Elaine by dressing for a date to a New Jersey Devils game with his face painted.

Truth is, sports devotion is a noble quality, something that should be nurtured in young men. For example, I once went on a hunger strike till the Chicago Bears traded for a quality quarterback. Twelve years passed, nothing. Then along came Rex Grossman. Burp.

In a similar vein, I have this friend, Steve, who tried to break up with his favorite team, the Cincinnati Bengals, earlier this year. He penned the traditional "Dear Bengals" note but then didn't have the heart to send it. They had been together too long.

Guys, huh? We'll go through three marriages and 17 jobs but stay with the same sad-sack sports team for life, no matter what.

Point is, in today's sporting world, the fans show far more loyalty to their teams than the players do. You think Kurt Warner would ever show up to a game dressed like King Tut?

"Nothing says 'I love my team' like slathering blue all over your upper half," says Amanda Cohen, who has been painting faces and torsos professionally for about 12 years. "I say if you're going to go all the way, get a professional so you can avoid things like ugly crusty spots or unpainted areas around the armpits."

For those who love too much, Amanda recommends a paint called Snazaroo, available at art supply stores or online. The water-based paint comes in dozens of shades, "so it's easy to match your team's colors. You're not going to find exact Pantone matches, but it will be close enough."

"The people who slather their entire upper body don't seem to care what they use, but you can tell when they use cheap stuff because it clumps and streaks and wears off in their creases," she says. "That kind of coverage would take way too long with greasepaint, so I'd recommend Snazaroo in the 18ml size and a damp sponge to apply it all over.

"Get a friend to do your back," she says. "If you show up with a bare back, we all know you're alone."

Meanwhile, the ultimate body-painting team, the Blue Man Group, uses a theatrical grease paint made by Mehron and available through Alcone stores ( www.alconeco.com), says Paul Ackerman, the group's general manager of production. "It takes about an hour for the guys to get 'bold and blue' " Ackerman says, "bold and blue" being the troupe's term for game ready.

"My costume was mostly limited to clothing I had purchased from local stores," says my nephew, who favored the simplest route. "I easily found face paint intended for Halloween costumes at local party stores."

Billy confesses that his face-painting days have mostly passed, even if his passion for the Gators lives on.

Yet, look at him in that photo . . . confident, committed and a little drippy. Thanks to patriots like him, the next generation of real fans is picking up foam scepters and Nerf shields and marching to the front lines.

Don't you envy him just a little bit? There is quirky spectacle here, a calling . . . a little bit Don Quixote, a little bit John Belushi. These guys are a Seth Rogen movie waiting to happen.

I say march onward, superheroes. And don't come home till you've showered.

In the meantime, I'm not eating a thing till the Dodgers finally sign Manny Ramirez. Hey, somebody has to do something.

Erskine's Man of the House column appears Saturday in the Home section.

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chris.erskine@latimes.com

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Super Bowl XLIII

PITTSBURGH VS. ARIZONA

Feb. 1 in Tampa, Fla.

at Raymond James Stadium 3 p.m. PST, Channel 4

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