Bigfoot Encounters

~ The Chambers Obituary follows this article ~
John Chambers Denies Involvement in
Patterson Bigfoot Film

At 1 o'clock on Sunday, 26 October 1997, an associate of this writer interviewed John Chambers, famed Hollywood special effects man who presently lives in seclusion in a Los Angeles nursing home. During a very cooperative interview, the Academy-Award winning makeup artist said he had no prior knowledge of Roger Patterson and/or Bob Gimlin before their famed Bigfoot encounter on October 20, 1967.

John Chambers further said, he never made or designed the famous suit that had been his dubious claim to fame within some Hollywood rumor mills. By Chambers' own admission, he was good but he was not good enough to have made anything nearly as convincing as the Bigfoot seen in the Bluff Creek, California footage taken by Roger Patterson on 20 October 1967.

Today, Chambers is a sad and tragic figure, perhaps guilty of allowing his peers to believe he was capable of doing something as incredible as the so-called "Patterson Bigfoot Film". But he never bothered to set the record straight and instead was driven by his ego to let people believe he "might" have been that clever. Many of those with whom he worked assumed he had created a hoax upon Roger Patterson. He did not. John Chambers was good, but he says he was not that good. He is now fragile and aging, but spoke strongly on the points of truth about the so-called Chambers "Bigfoot suit" rumor.Needless to say, John Chambers really does not know the extent of the debate swirling around the Patterson film for years. Much that is written about this episode was based on what "people" thought, with no factual basis except the sly grin of an ego driven man. Chambers was a giant in his time, but his ego ran away with itself and the rumors mounted with wings of speculation over the years, which has sent the Bigfoot community into a tailspin.It all peaked on the 30th anniversary of the filming when press accounts from around the world repeated the rumor without benefit of a personal interview with Chambers. The news articles appeared from Asia to England, such as the one in the London Sunday Telegraph for Sunday 19 October 1997, entitled "Hollywood admits to Bigfoot hoax". In this article, timed to the anniversary of the Patterson film, news reporters Mike Lewis and Tim Reid wrote: "A piece of film, which for 30 years has been regarded as the most compelling evidence for the existence of Bigfoot, the North American 'abominable snowman', is a hoax, according to new claims. John Chambers, the man behind the Planet of the Apes films and the elder statesman of Hollywood's "monster-makers", has been named by a group of Hollywood make-up artists as the person who faked Bigfoot. In an interview with Scott Essman, an American journalist, the veteran Hollywood director John Landis revealed 'a make-up secret only six people know'. Mr Landis said: 'That famous piece of film of Bigfoot walking in the woods that was touted as the real thing was just a suit made by John Chambers.' He said he learned the information while working alongside Mr Chambers on Beneath the Planet of the Apes in 1970. ...Howard Berger, of Hollywood's KNB Effects Group, said it was common knowledge within the film industry that Mr Chambers was responsible for a hoax that turned Bigfoot into a worldwide cult. Mike McCracken Jr, a make-up artist and associate of Mr Chambers, said: 'I'd say with absolute certainty that John was responsible.' "In truth, John Chambers does not seem to be aware that this rumor has turned the Bigfoot leagues upside down. He is oblivious to the world of Bigfoot dramas. John Chambers' world has been Hollywood movies...not Bigfoot. But Hollywood stories are seldom happy ones, and John Chambers' is no exception. Lives consist mainly on a spiking need for importance which creates half-truths and makes Hollywood the rumor mill it is known to be. It is in this environment that the Chambers-Patterson rumor has survived and grown, mushrooming into wild allegations and innuendo.Evidently and allegedly, an early associate of Chambers, the movie director John Landis repeatedly has claimed that Chambers made the Patterson suit and helped shoot the film. For years people have pointed to Landis as the one from whom they heard the story, not Chambers. Chambers, however, says the only Bigfoot he made was the "Burbank Bigfoot," a large stone prop made in imitation of a real Bigfoot-type creature, used for a carnival tour. But not the Patterson Bigfoot. Bigfootry has suffered the consequences of Hollywood's rumor mills, substance abusing tabloid cocktail partiers, liars and sub-human carelessness. That is the true tragedy of this rumor.The time is now to remove this foggy veil hanging over the Patterson film and get on with solid research without all the doubting which has plagued the footage for thirty years.John Chambers remains a shell of his former grand character, now filled with pity and pathos. After leaving the interview, the interviewer broke into tears of relief and sadness at the prospects of Mr. Chamber's sad future. His life has lost its meaning. But this issue now has closure, and he was happy to set the record straight. Tears need to be mentioned outloud to a Bigfoot world that sometimes forgets its humanness in the search to be so scientific. The Chambers' rumor is merely another pathetic story out of Hollywood, a sad commentary that has nothing to do with cryptozoology.

John Chambers, a warm man, never did what his peers thought he did. It is time to move on from this shadowy legacy that has left a black mark on the 30th anniversary of the Bluff Creek film, and the roles of two sincere and credible men, Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin. It is time to re-view the Patterson Bigfoot footage with no doubts.

LC 1997 -- [unedited Fortean Times "On the Trail" column, January, 1998]
Back to: Bigfoot Encounters
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More on the Chambers Rumor/hoax

Chambers AffairFor years, a rumor has circulated that John Chambers, famed Academy Award-winning Hollywood special effects man, manufactured the suit allegedly worn by the ostensible Bigfoot pictured in the famed Patterson Film that spawned renewed interest in the creature.The controversy peaked in 1997, on the thirtieth anniversary of the filming, when press accounts from around the world recycled this rumor without benefit of a personal interview with Chambers. Typical of the headlines is one that appeared in London's Sunday Telegraph for October 19, 1997: "Hollywood admits to Bigfoot hoax." The article reads in part: A piece of film, which for thirty years has been regarded as the most compelling evidence for the existence of Bigfoot, the North American "abominable snowman," is a hoax, according to new claims. John Chambers, the man behind the Planet of the Apes films and the elder statesman of Hollywood's "monster-makers," has been named by a group of Hollywood make-up artists as the person who faked Bigfoot.In an interview with Scott Essman, an American journalist, the veteran Hollywood director John Landis...said: "That famous piece of film of Bigfoot walking in the woods that was touted as the real thing was just a suit made by John Chambers." He said he learned the information while working alongside Mr Chambers on Beneath the Planet of the Apes in 1970.On October 26, 1997, California Bigfoot researcher Bobbie Short interviewed Chambers, living in seclusion in a Los Angeles nursing home. The make-up artist insisted he had no prior knowledge of Roger Patterson or Bob Gimlin before their claimed Bigfoot encounter on October 20, 1967. He also denied having anything to do with creating the suit, and blamed the Hollywood rumor mill. Chambers went on to say that he was "good but he was not that good" to have fashioned anything nearly so convincing as the Bluff Creek Bigfoot.As stated in the article, the well-known movie director John Landis has claimed that Chambers not only made the Patterson suit but helped make the film. For just as long people have pointed to Landis as the one from whom they heard the story, not Chambers. But Chambers himself says the only Bigfoot he made was the "Burbank Bigfoot," a large stone prop intended to imitate a real Bigfoot like creature and used for a carnival tour.
Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark with permission to reprint from LC.

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MORE ON JOHN CHAMBERS
1922 - 2001 -- Obituary
He did not make an ape-suit for Roger Patterson
Obituary: John Chambers
John Chambers, make-up artist, was born in Chicago on September 12, 1922. He died in Woodland Hills, California, on August 25, 2001, aged 78.

[For 30 years, it was rumored Chambers made the ape-suit seen in the Patterson-Gimlin Film. But the photos below were as close as he came to duplicating the Patterson creature. He could not duplicate the biomechanics of the creature and in an interview in October of 1997, Chambers revealed he did not know Roger Patterson and never made the ape suit.]

Make-up artist who created the masks for Planet of the Apes - and Mr Spock's ears. Not only did the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences create a special Oscar for John Chambers, they hired a chimpanzee, in a tuxedo, to hand it over. The presentation in 1968 seemed entirely appropriate in recognition of the ground-breaking work Chambers had done designing the make-up or the original Planet of the Apes. The film had been turned down by every studio in Hollywood for fear audiences would not take talking apes seriously. Chambers successfully transformed actors of the calibre of Roddy McDowall into simian versions of themselves and the end result was one of the biggest hits of 1968, a classic that more than holds its own against the current remake.

Chambers is a cult figure in Star Trek circles too, for being the man who designed and created Mr Spock's famous pointy ears - ears only rivalled by Mickey Mouse's as the most recognisable in 20th-century popular culture.

Chambers is regarded by many as the father of modern
cinema make-up. He inspired a generation to take up the craft and helped to persuade the Academy that make-up artists should have their own Oscar. But movies were not his first career. He was lured by the promise of Hollywood escapism only after years of pioneering, and sometimes heartbreaking, work with disfigured war veterans, producing artificial ears, noses and even whole faces.

Chambers was a big, straight-talking, happy-go-lucky man, born in Chicago, and fiercely proud of his family's Irish roots. He trained as a commercial artist, designed jewellery and exhibited as a sculptor before the Second World War, in which he served as a medical technician. Cosmetic surgery was in its infancy; Chambers helped to develop new rubber compounds and prosthetics, and established a reputation as a miracle worker. But the work took a huge emotional toll and he felt too much was expected of him. He was able to use his artistic gifts to recreate faces, but there was no technology at the time to animate the features, and he was deeply affected by the hopes and despair of victims and relatives.

He thought his work with prosthetics might open doors in Hollywood and in 1953 he secured a post with NBC television. He worked on such enduring TV series as Lost in Space, The Munsters, The Outer Limits and Star Trek. One of his biggest challenges was working with Paul Newman on the boxing drama The Battler, when he had to add cuts and bruises to Newman's features almost as quickly as they would have appeared naturally, because the programme was going out live.

Planet of the Apes was to prove an even bigger challenge. There was a Hollywood tradition of actors in ape costumes and masks, but usually these were comedies or B-movies, and they were not normally required to speak. But Planet of the Apes was set in a world where evolution had been turned upside down, humans were dumb and chimps, gorillas and orang-utans were the superior species. Chambers had to devise a new type of make-up in which the ape lips would seem to form words. When it came to the ability of the subject to express emotion, Chambers knew, from his experience as a medical technican, the difference between a mask, that covered the whole face and individual false features. He and his team worked round the clock to perfect designs, using plaster likenesses of the actors' faces as the starting point. Make-up was glued, piece by piece, to the actor's skin. Part of the face was painted, but otherwise left exposed, enabling actors to wrinkle their faces and express emotion. In the course of his work he developed new adhesives, new non-cracking paint and a new type of foam rubber, which allowed heat and sweat to pass through.

Initially the make-up process took five or six hours, and it never came down below three or four. Actors had to turn up in the middle of the night so they would be ready to shoot in the morning, and often slept as make-up was applied. Whenever producers were faced with a particularly daunting make-up challenge they would invariably think of Chambers, who often worked uncredited on specific assignments. He designed Tony Curtis's false nose in The Boston Strangler (1968) and Richard Harris's false chest in the western A Man Called Horse (1970). Harris had pins inserted into his chest and was hoisted into the air in a gruelling American Indian ritual. Other films included The Island of Dr Moreau (1977) and Brian De Palma's Phantom of the Paradise (1974).

In 1967, the year in which Planet of the Apes was filmed, two researchers captured on film what was purported to be footage of Bigfoot, America's equivalent of the Abominable Snowman, walking in California woods. It was long rumoured it was a hoax, with Chambers supposedly responsible for the outfit, an allegation he always denied, claiming he would have done it better.

Latterly he was confined to a wheelchair by a stroke and paralysed on one side. He remained a great talker and storyteller, and an Irish tricolour brightened up his room at the motion picture industry hospital in Woodland Hills, California, not far from the Fox ranch, where he worked on Planet of the Apes. He is survived by his wife Joan.
© The Times, London

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John Chambers Dies
August 31, 2001
For years John Chambers allowed the public to believe
he made the costume allegedly worn by the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin Film Creature.
In October 1997, during a personal interview he denied he was ever good enough
to have made a costume resembling the PGF creature, but allowed the rumor
to persist because it "was good business."
The best ape-suit he created can still be seen in the reruns of the 1968 film "Planet of the Apes.
That ape-costume design doesn't come close to the sasquatch creature seen
in the Patterson-Gimlin Film, in fact no one anywhere has duplicated anything remotely
close to the creature seen in the Patternson-Gimlin Film of
October 20, 1967 and John Chambers never knew Roger Patterson.....B.Short


Oscar-Winning Makeup Pioneer Who Put Pointy Ears on Mr. Spock, John Chambers, Dead at 78

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Oscar-winning makeup pioneer John Chambers, who did everything from put the pointy ears on "Star Trek's" Mr. Spock to turn actors into simians for the original "Planet of the Apes," has died of diabetes complications. He was 78. Chambers died Aug. 25 at the Motion Picture and Television Fund retirement home in Woodland Hills. During his 30-year career, Chambers worked on numerous movies and television shows, including TV's "The Outer Limits," "The Munsters," "Lost in Space" and "Mission Impossible." His film credits included "The List of Adrian Messenger" and "The Island of Dr. Moreau." Most of the time he worked out of a lab in his Burbank garage, and it wasn't unusual for his neighbors to see stars like Leonard Nimoy, Lana Turner, Marlon Brando and Mickey Rooney drop in for special makeup sessions.

When he worked on "Planet of the Apes" in the 1960s, Chambers recalled in a recent interview how he spent hours at the Los Angeles Zoo doing research. "It was the best way I could think of for capturing the elastic facial expressions of the apes," he said. His preparation led him to develop a new type of foam rubber that was easier to work with than the material commonly used at the time. He also created facial appliances that could be attached to actors' faces to form primate features. For his efforts he became only the second makeup artist to receive an honorary Academy Award. A competitive category for makeup was established in the 1980s. Chambers also developed a new technique for making "bald caps" for actors. His invention, made from liquid plastic sprayed onto a metal form of an actor's head, remains the industry standard. He is survived by his wife, Joan.

© The Associated Press Published: September 1, 2001


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