It's rare day indeed when I bump into a show biz fancy-pants who hasn't been to my house. Once at a party, I had the good fortune to meet one of the key make-up artist's from the Apes film. "You live in Roddy's place?" he marveled "I have something for you."
Two days later a box arrived containing one of the chimpanzee extra's masks from the movie. The background apes (you read that right) didn't endure the grueling six-hour make-up process the principals did, and wore specially designed over-the-head rubber masks, one of which I know held in my trembling fanboy grip. With no one home, unable to restrain myself, I yanked it firmly down over my head.
Here's a funny fact about polyurethane rubber. Over time, its chemical compound starts to decay, and it undergoes a process called "off-gassing", where the toxic exhaust of its deterioration is released. In the case of, let's say, a chimpanzee mask, this gas settles in the muzzle of its mouth. One could say that an over-the-head chimpanzee mask is, in fact, the perfect vessel for capturing these fumes. And when said fumes have brewing for two or three decades, they are exquisitely ripe.
I found this out when I tried to breath. "Ungoo!" I grunted, as thirty-odd years of monkey mustard gas knuckle-punched my nostrils. Stunned, I staggered back and tried to clear my head. Then I coughed, sending what poisonous vapors were not in my nose up into the safety of my eyeballs. Blind and hacking, my head encased in a simian gas chamber, I zig-zagged about the room. "I can't die like this," I thought, "it's too hilarious."
Finally, I got down on my knees wrenched the mask from my head. A chimpanzee face stared back at me from the floor, impassive, but mocking.
Dana Gould owns Roddy McDowall's house:
Current Music: Verbena -- Monkey, I'm Your Man ♬