Coneheads!

We declared 2010 to be "The Year We Make Contact," to borrow from a certain movie's tagline.  We had done a lot of different movie tv and characters before, but we never really did a whole theme for the year.  This year I planned to push things in more of a sci-fi direction than before where it was all ghosts and ghouls.  It just made sense that we'd be aliens as part of the theme.


The Coneheads at home!  It's Halloween night.  Do you know who's giving out candy to your kids?

Our on-screen counterparts.

The Coneheads arrive in Oak Lawn!

A close encounter of another kind.  Here we have a picture of us getting our picture taken.

(Picture courtesy of Cori.)


Beldar
As you probably know from the classic SNL episodes, Beldar models himself after Robert Young/Fred MacMurray father-figures.  He is almost always (in the SNL sketches anyway) depicted in pajamas, although I did see one still of him in a '70s business suit from an episode I've never seen.

I know there's also a cartoon (which I've never seen) and the '90s movie which I did see and really didn't find as horrible as people make it out.  (Really?  Did you think this was going to be a philosophical journey directed by Ingmar Bergman?)  We stuck to just the '70s sketches as source material.

I tried to get Dani to make the crazy stoic Conehead face in most of these pictures, but she only did it after shots of us laughing.  I'm laughing in this one too, so the face is just goofy instead of deadpan.

(Picture courtesy of Marcie.)


On our way to Oak Lawn.  I couldn't wear the cone in the car on account of the fact I don't have a sunroof.

After searching all over the mall and a few other stores, I finally had to order the pajamas off eBay.  Nothing current could be reasonably passed off as what Beldar wore.  The only things in cotton were plain.  The only things with prints were silk.  Goddammit!

(At left) Beldar and offspring at Boo-at-the-Zoo where we studied humans and other Earth animals.


Census-taker Steve Martin interviews Beldar in my pajamas.

Prymaat

Here's Dani texting Katie or Amber shortly after we arrived in Oak Lawn.  This was the final version of the heads we made.  More about the "making of" and different versions we tried are a little later on the page.

Prymaat's look is intended to be that of someone posing as a '50s mother/housewife, but the style also has to be rooted in the '70s (which were directly influenced by the '50s, of course).  Remember that the characters are posing as an "all-American family," and Prymaat Conehead is drawing on archetypes like June Cleaver, Donna Reed, and Laura Petrie.


Here's Dani with the "back-up plan" store-bought head we went with for our party since none of our other attempts were successfully completed in time.

Here's a shot of the shirt sans apron.  As with the pajamas, we were trying to get a '50s-cum-'70s outfit.  In other words, it had to look like it was made in the '70s but referencing the '50s.  There is actually a lot of overlap between those decades thanks to the 20-year cultural cycles (e.g., American Graffiti takes place in the '50s, made in the '70s, etc.), so the colors and busy prints were common to both.

I checked thrift stores and vintage clothing shops with little success.  EBay was hard to navigate when you have something this vague, so I just spent a lot of time browsing.  I think we ended up finding this on Etsy.com.


Here's one version of Prymaat's outfit in a SNL sketch with Buck Henry.

Stan
Yes, I know the Coneheads had a daughter, but I've also made so secret of the fact that's what I wanted.

Their daughter Connie was born here on Earth and, despite her alien upbringing, is grounded in the '70s culture, thus she mostly speaks like they do, but her identity is more genuine rather than assumed.


Stan's costume was homage to the original Grateful Dead shirt that Laraine Newman wore as Connie Conehead in the sketches.  The idea back then was that Connie had grown up on Earth and so was actually into our culture unlike her genuinely alien parental units.  (There are hints at this in her rebelliousness and speech.  For example, she says "Dude" naturally instead of as a forced attempt to sound like a native.)

We couldn't find an exact match for the "American Beauty" design by Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley in Stan's size and didn't want to make an iron-on.  Note that she wears different shirts anyway.  We found the "Steal Your Face" logo at Target and just went with that.


I thought about modifying the costume for Stan so that he was more grounded in present day than the Dead, although at least that's sort of Halloween if you know nothing about music or history.

One thought was to have him wear a Star Wars shirt since that referenced the 1977 movie, which is both sci-fi and came out the year the first series of "The Coneheads At Home" sketches were airing.  However, that would have been a little too removed for people to follow what I was going for.  Most of my friends would have just assumed it was because I like Star Wars and wouldn't have analyzed it beyond that.


I'm pretty sure Coneheads reproduce by parthenogenesis.  I don't see where I had any role in creating Dani's boy-clone.

Look how big my head looks!

Stan and I play a traditional Conehead game*.

*Yes, I know the subtext from the original SNL sketches.  Whatever.


This was the second or possibly third day that Stan had worn the head, so it had gotten a bit stretched and was wrinkling around the base.  Also, the collar was designed (originally, not just in our case) to cover the hairline around the back.  It really didn't work with this many curls trying to peek out the back.

Alternate costumes
This is the business suit version of Beldar I mentioned above.  And Connie's shirt is black in this sketch.  Other times she wore a white version of the same.

I didn't dwell on the details as we were putting things together.  I'm only noticing this just now (long after the fact) as I assemble the pictures on this page.


The Heads v.1
Obviously this was a long and arduous process from the look on Dani's face.  Actually, I kind of enjoyed it because we spent a lot of time experimenting, trying out new materials and different techniques to pull something together.

Here's the very first pass at making a positive for the conehead.  It's a styrofoam head from a beauty supply store topped with a plastic cup (inverted) from the kitchen that is held in place with packing tape.


Dani then started building up the outside with clay.  Actually, there's an intermediate step here in that she cut up a plastic bottle to add still more volume to the proto-cone.

First draft, in progress.  The clay made the whole assembly top-heavy, so I put it in the box from a hard drive I had recently bought, and that stabilized it some.

However, I wasn't happy with the shape and dimensions, so we took off the clay and started working on a second draft.

Around this time I started experimenting with liquid latex for what was to follow.  This is my cone-in-miniature.  It came out really well, actually, although it turned out that the larger the appliance, the harder it is to keep things smooth and even.

Here's yet another attempt at the positive.  You can see a yogurt container emerging at the top.  The goal here was to minimize the amount of clay we had to put into this thing.

Here's the final version of the clay positive.  It is really, really smooth, which took literally hours.  I know there are tricks you can use with clay such as adding water, but I just did it manually so I could monitor the shape and correct it as I went.

At this point I started brushing on latex.  You really can't use a brush for something like this though, only if you're applying the latex to a negative mold.  The brush started texturing it up very quickly, whereas I wanted it to be really smooth on the outside.

I believe this is after the second brushed-on coat, not yet dry.  It turned a nice flesh color and not so white when dry.

At this point I realized I needed a means of adding the latex in liquid form since the brush was leaving too many lines.  We have a lot of different syringes on hand thanks to Dani's work, the foster dogs, and now the baby man, so I used a couple of them to "paint" the latex on, although "deliver" is probably a more appropriate term.

I was working with gravity, so the idea was to make a wave of latex and just recharge that as it rolled down.  As you can see, I had to do it in columns.  I was about three-quarters of the way around at this point.  The latex dries very, very quickly though, so you have to get it right pretty much on the first pass.  Any bubble or excess or (worst of all) attempts at a second pass, and you end up with "warts" that detract from the smoothness.

The final version of this one just wasn't to my satisfaction, and it took hours to do just the one, so we decided to try another medium...


The Heads v.2
With it becoming clear that the latex head was falling short of my expectations, we made a second attempt in another medium: Fiberglass.  This was certainly more durable and could retain its shape without batting, although the texture was again kind of rough.  Had we enough time to experiment, I believe this could have successfully been smoothed using Bondo (which we had on hand).  Unfortunately, time was short.  Not sure that I have any pictures of this, but I wanted to make a note of the attempt because it's a material I'll likely revisit for the appropriate project.

The Heads v.3
The adult latex heads weren't ready in time for the party (though Stan's was), so I went with a back-up plan and bought a couple of "alien head" prosthetics for us (Stan's was custom made out of latex; read on).

They fall short of the originals in a very literal sense.  In other words, they aren't officially Coneheads merchandise, so they aren't the exact dimensions of those characters' heads in order to skirt copyright infringement.

They originally came with ears, but we cut them off.  I'd like to be able to hear.


You can still see the crease in the middle that reveals how fresh from the package they are.

(Picture courtesy of Shanna.)


 


The Heads v.4
Other than Stan's head which was a complete success once we stuffed it properly (except that I really should have extended it longer in the back to completely hide his hair), we gave up on the latex after the first attempt at a head for either of us.

After the sub-par store-bought crap and the aborted fiberglass attempt, Dani came up with the idea of using stockings and Mod Podge.  Here we have the stocking pulled over the positive, the third time we put the mold to use!


In case you'd never heard of it before (I hadn't; Dani's the crafty one), Mod Podge is an all-in-one glue, sealer, and finish.  It's mainly used in decoupage projects.  You can find tons of projects for the stuff around the web.  There are literally whole blogs dedicated to it.

Here's a test with the head.  It's fairly rigid, although we stuffed it with batting anyway to retain the form.

Even with the rigidity, there was enough elasticity carried over from the pantyhose material that it was a slip-fit around my head.  We didn't even use any spirit gum to hold it on.


Side view.

It wasn't a good fit on the little guy though, as Grandma observed.

Stan's Conehead
Here's the foundation for the positive for Stan's head.  It's two halves of two different plastic Easter eggs we bought with the intention of building some props somewhere down the line.  Stan likes to put the biggest of these on his head like an astronaut helmet and listen to how weird his voice sounds.

That's a bucket of clay to the left.  You can see I used packing tape here again to hold the two egg halves together.

We were starting to run short on time by the point I got to working on his, so this is the only picture I have of the process other than the pictures with him fully in costume, but we did finish a latex version of his conehead that worked great for the party and all the way through to Halloween night.


This is the very first wearing of Stan's conehead.  You can see where the bottom edge still needs to be trimmed and there isn't nearly enough batting to flesh out out fully.

It is also suffering from the internal stickiness of fresh latex.  You need to hit the stuff, appropriately enough in this case, with a light dusting of baby powder to keep it from sticking to itself while it is new.


Here he is a Boo-at-the-Zoo, by which time we'd figured out how to properly stuff the cone.  You can also see that the edges look better now that they're trimmed.

Apron
Prymaat's "I Hate Housework" apron is intended as irony in the case of the character because she does play the role of a very dutiful housewife, at least to fit into her persona on Earth.  Dani, on the other hand, genuinely does hate housework, and so our home is like iterations through a chaos equation.  In other words, we don't clean until we are on the brink of disaster (or if we have a Halloween party), then we cycle back again.

Both the apron and the iron-ons were from eBay.  Honestly, I tried finding a plain white apron all over town with no success.  I looked on eBay, and found exactly what I wanted and super cheap, like $4 or something ridiculous with negligible shipping.

On the other hand, I did find the iron-ons (same exact "Cooper" font as on the SNL costume) at Joann's, but it was a lot cheaper on eBay.


And here's Dani's crazy face with the final product.

This was one of several versions of the apron that was worn on the show.  They always had the "I Hate Housework" slogan, but the placement and sometimes even the font was different, which is really weird to me. I mean, did wardrobe lose them and have a new one each time?  Was someone taking home souvenirs?


Collars
Mercy the puggle is soothed by the sound of the sewing machine.

Dani studies a photo reference for detailing.

The Target plastic bag to her left is covering the clay positive of the head to keep it from drying while we were still working with it.  The head is jammed in a cardboard box to keep it upright.


Working on the collar at night after the baby went to sleep.

Here's a close-up of the collars on Halloween day while we were doing Boo-at-the-Zoo.  Obviously Dani's cone has seen some wear by this point.  This probably could have been corrected if we'd taken more time to get the batting properly stuffed around the edges.

And here's an even closer look at the detailing on the collars.  Why is my kid so serious all the time?

Dani's and my collar have three layers of trim: One wavy line and two thin, straight lines.  Stan's has only the one line.


The SNL version was busier and a little bit more alien-looking, sort of like digital hieroglyphics or something, but it was impossible to find anything that was close to that on this planet in time for Halloween.

The Saucer

Here's what the Conehead family arrived in.  This futuristic vehicle gets 50 MPG.  Also, there's a crashed flying saucer in our front yard for some reason.

Prymaat and the young one survey Area 52 and a half...

...and then gave out mass quantities of candy later to complete strangers.

(More saucer pics and the "making-of" here.)


Bye!
See you next year!

Copyright 2010 Alexplorer.  Some pics by Marcie, Shanna, and Cori.
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