Dottie Ponedel knows how to amuse with rouge. Her autobiography, the story of a pioneering woman make-up artist, whose career spanned the entire length of Hollywood’s Golden Era from silent movies to the great films of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, puts a new foundation on the stars.
Sinners and saints without greasepaint make for memorable close-ups. Enjoy Dottie’s confidential revelations about Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, Carole Lombard, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Joan Blondell, Paulette Goddard, Barbara Stanwyck, and others.
“No stranger is going to pat this puss,” Mae West once declared. Mae, and Dottie’s other clients, often demanded her services, but tomcats and contracts seldom blended. Dottie constantly fought all-male make-up departments at the studios to get the recognition she deserved. Amazing challenges facing a woman at the top of her craft play poignantly against her straight-talking, heartwarming, hilarious encounters with famous faces.
Dottie Ponedel. The designer with eye liner.
“About Face, the sparkling new book about Dorothy (Dottie) Ponedel, is jaw-dropping in content and in its total lack of pretense in pursuit of it subject. Ms. Ponedel was a ground breaker in the motion picture business, arriving in Los Angeles in the 1920s, and first finding a varied career as an extra and actress in small roles in the fledgling motion picture industry. Through a series of happenstances, she evolved into the major female make-up artist in pictures through the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s—becoming pals with her famous subjects, who included Dietrich, Helen Hayes, Mae West, Carole Lombard, Paulette Goddard, Judy Garland—as she gave them the iconic faces that would make them huge stars.
“As much as anything, About Face is a book about finding identities. We are there as Hollywood grows from its infancy, the stars evolve into themselves, and Dottie goes on her journey of rich self-discovery as a creative artist and a debauchee of life, both of which reach a kind of culmination in her relationship with the great Judy Garland. Where other books concern themselves with the high drama and so-called tragedy of Garland’s life, Ponedel offers a portrait of what it was like to be a real Garland pal—no particular drama, just true intimate times with the spontaneity of everyday life.
“I was awestruck with the first half of the book which concerns itself with Ponedel’s early career and offers a detailed portrait of her personal and profession relationships with the greats, including breathtaking, never before seen photographs, many inscribed to Ms. Ponedel with straightforward, unconcealed gratitude from her stars.
“The balance of the book is primarily focused on her relationship with Judy Garland. I have read every possible book about Judy Garland, and the relationship with Ponedel is unique and refreshing. Truly intimate and sometimes even uneventful, except that it concerns one of the towering legends in the history of the entertainment industry.
“The breezy, casual, matter of fact tone is perfect for the book, never weighing it down, always making you eager to turn the page for the new delight you know will be awaiting.” -Albert Poland, New York Producer and Founding President of the Official Judy Garland Fan Club
“ABOUT FACE is perhaps one of the finest manuscripts in the oral history/autobiography tradition. I became the five-year-old child sitting at the edge of Dottie Ponedel’s bed, listening to and being mesmerized and fully entertained by this pioneer woman’s life stories. Told in first person to her captive audience (niece Meredith Ponedel), I hear Dottie’s voice and see her animated delivery on every page. Of course, she talks about some of my most favorite people, so that too most certainly kept me turning the pages. Along the way, Dottie too became one of my favorite people. Now, I have been for many years familiar with Dottie and her ingenuity and workmanship in the area of motion picture make up during the Golden Years of Hollywood, but to finally learn about her life, in her own words is a total treat. Hers is the true Hollywood dream story, rags to riches, “the” Cinderella story. From humble beginnings to coming to Hollywood, where she was open to whatever opportunities came her way, to saying YES and believing she could do anything—and so she did. She is truly a study in positive attitude, ingenuity, and perseverance. Working on many biographies, documentaries, and delving into the lives of those she talks about, I knew of her, but her stories! They are real, they make these iconic people real. you will gain great, great respect for her line up of eccentric personalities. You will discover the true human side of them. Who are they? Well, Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, Maurice Chevalier, Gary Cooper, Lucille Ball, Joan Blondell to name a few. Then there is Judy Garland. The book is part bio of the great legend. Dottie was her confidante, and she and Judy traveled together and hung out at Dottie’s little Beverly Hills home and shared life. Dottie helped Judy stay grounded, as best she could. You will laugh and cry with her stories of Judy and the fun they had. Dottie’s thoughts and impressions and memories of all her friends are positive and again, you will learn wonderful new things about these people. Meredith Ponedel is a great storyteller, too, as she relays her memories of growing up with her aunt’s eccentric friends, who often used the little house as their home away from home.
“I believe you, too, will become the child sitting at the edge of Dottie’s bed, spellbound by her stories as you look through her big box of photos and you too will fall in love with her.” -Woolsey Ackerman
About Face: The Life and Times of Dottie Ponedel, Make-up Artist to the Stars is much more than a glimpse into the beginning of Tinsel Town. It is a recollection of a time when Hollywood was a much more tight-knit community than it is today. It’s a chance to peer through the looking glass and see the real people behind the grease-paint. Miss Meredith Ponodel surely used her Aunt Dottie’s written memoirs, but she refined and honed those words with the aid of Mr. Danny Miller. The result is as much artistry and magic as the manner Dottie Ponedel applied make-up to the stars. Meredith painted with words, breathing life into her aunt’s recollections.
And yet, even that isn’t all About Face is. It’s so much more. It’s a tale of perseverance, of determination, and most importantly friendship. Ms. Dottie Ponedel’s friendship with the great Judy Garland is told in gentle language and with the benefit of perspective. When Miss Meredith Ponedel writes of her childhood memories of Miss Garland visiting her Aunt Dottie and the friendship she struck up with the star, there is poignancy to her words. The image of a young girl listening to Miss Garland’s records after learning of the star’s death is told in haunting simplicity.
Perhaps that is how it should be. Strip off the make-up, turn off the cameras, and power down the spot lights, and those stars Dottie Ponedel knew and became friends with were just people with the same desires and foibles as the rest of us.
Lynda J Cox
Review by David Marshall James