Monday, September 28, 2009

Daniel Blumberg – Costumer Extraordinaire. A Career Designed To Fit

[Written by Grace K from Entertainment]

Daniel in the 2008 Macy’s Parade in New York City.

It was a hot and humid July and we were scrambling to meet deadlines to hold a press conference for the Universal Studios Audition Tour. We were looking to recruit the very best talent in Asia for all entertainment aspects of the theme park and wanted to get the word out in a big way.

To impress the media, we planned an elaborate song and dance number that involved fictional characters ranging from Shrek to Charlie Chaplin.

As the costumes weren’t ready locally, the team had decided to rent similar ones from Universal Studios Orlando.

Rental of the costumes was expensive as the costumes were bulky and heavy incurring high air freight charges. What’s more, the costume rental came with a strict condition – we needed to also hire their costumer which meant additional fees, flights, accommodation and per diems to pay – a hefty sum for a 50 person press event.

Practical Me thought: how hard could it be to wear a costume? Put your left arm in left sleeve; right foot in right leg. This is such a waste of money. Or so I thought.

What I had forgotten at the time was that you only get one chance to leave a big impression and that making a bad impression is 100 times more damaging and memorable than a good one. As a publicist friend once told me, always put your best foot forward, otherwise you might as well stay home in slippers.

At the dress rehearsal two days before the event, we were all anxious and excited to see how everything came together. That’s when I met Daniel Blumberg, an outwardly flamboyant American with short brown hair with a charming smile and remarkable self-assurance.

“Hi, I’m Daniel. You must be Grace. I’ve heard so much about you. Come over here, let me show you what we have to do. We’re going to have such a blast.”

Even though I was only able to eek out a small hello in reply, I was already having fun.

Assisting Daniel with wardrobe, I was mesmerized by the way he worked his costume magic. The actors and actresses were in and out in a flash. Some costumes had dozens of working parts: belts, wigs, shoes, shirt, necklaces, earrings etc but Daniel knew the exact location and order of every piece. He directed the make-up and the finishing touches. Blood red lipstick for the female mummy; Max Factor Ruby Red for Marilyn Monroe. And before you knew it, the grounds were full of TV characters come to life. A 6 foot Shrek was chatting up a curvaceous Marilyn Monroe while Dracula was trying to stay hydrated sucking bottled water through a straw.

In between, Curious Me had the chance to probe into his past to discover how he came into the trade.

Apparently, his childhood dream was to become a TV Soap Star as he had spent his entire childhood devouring the trashy storylines of TV soaps such as All My Children and Days of Our Lives. Fast forward to Daniel as a performer at Walt Disney World (which his parents helped to open) where he drew a huge deal of inspiration from the team of Central American and Cuban seamstresses in the costume shop. In between shows he would hang around the shop for hours, as he felt their work was amazing. Eventually this fascination would lead him to discover his talent for costume design.

While wiping off the beads of sweat from the performers’ foreheads, Daniel also revealed his favourite costume of all time which was, of course, Glinda, The Good Witch in Wizard Of Oz who was wearing a classic billowy sandy-pink tulle gown with satin bodice and crystal stars and rhinestones complimented by her Enchanted Crown of Destiny and Wand of Pure Goodness. As a child, my personal preference was for Dorothy because I loved those shiny Ruby Slippers.

The event, which flew by, was a huge success as the day passed without a glitch and the team had big smiles of relief on their faces. The challenge now was to peel the costumes off the poor performers who were exhausted and dehydrated from performing in the afternoon heat. The worst victim was Alex the Lion who was wearing a thick, furry body suit and oversized head – a walking sauna. During the photo shoot, Alex began to wave at me which made me think of how professional this guy was, always in character, happily waving at imaginary children. It took me 20 seconds to interpret happy mascot waving as desperate get-me-outta-this-suit-I’m-going-to-die waving. OOPS....

As for Daniel, he’s decided to officially join the RWS team and has made Singapore his new home. I can just imagine the wild costume parties that we’re going to have.

And since Daniel and I both have a passion for nice shoes, it’s looking like the beginning of a beautiful friendship…

Says Daniel:

“Costuming for me is theatrical expression in the purest form from my personal contribution stand point. I have always loved the performing arts in all mediums and that I get to do what I love everyday and get paid for it is the highest blessing. Daily I collaborate with a wonderful group of sketchers, pattern makers and seamstresses to bring to life not only the creative team’s vision, but also to create something special that will resonate with the audience well after the curtain comes down or the film ends.”

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