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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.

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About Face, the sparkling new book about Dorothy (Dottie)Ponedel, is jaw-dropping in content and in its total lack of pretense inpursuit of it subject. Ms. Ponedel was a ground breaker in the motion picturebusiness, arriving in Los Angeles in the 1920s, and first finding a variedcareer as an extra and actress in small roles in the fledgling motion pictureindustry. Through a series of happenstances, she evolved into the major femalemake-up artist in pictures through the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s—becoming palswith her famous subjects, who included Dietrich, Helen Hayes, Mae West, CaroleLombard, Paulette Goddard, Judy Garland—as she gave them the iconic faces thatwould make them huge stars.

“As much as anything, About Face is a book aboutfinding identities. We are there as Hollywood grows from its infancy, the starsevolve into themselves, and Dottie goes on her journey of rich self-discoveryas a creative artist and a debauchee of life, both of which reach a kind ofculmination in her relationship with the great Judy Garland. Where other booksconcern 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—noparticular drama, just true intimate times with the spontaneity of everydaylife. 

“I was awestruck with the first half of the book whichconcerns itself with Ponedel’s early career and offers a detailed portrait ofher personal and profession relationships with the greats, includingbreathtaking, never before seen photographs, many inscribed to Ms. Ponedel withstraightforward, unconcealed gratitude from her stars. 

“The balance of the book is primarily focused on herrelationship with Judy Garland. I have read every possible book about JudyGarland, and the relationship with Ponedel is unique and refreshing. Trulyintimate and sometimes even uneventful, except that it concerns one of thetowering legends in the history of the entertainment industry.

“The breezy, casual, matter of fact tone is perfect for thebook, never weighing it down, always making you eager to turn the page for thenew delight you know will be awaiting.” -Albert Poland, New York Producer andFounding President of the Official Judy Garland Fan Club

“ABOUT  FACE is perhaps one of the finestmanuscripts in the oral history/autobiography tradition. I became thefive-year-old child sitting at the edge of Dottie Ponedel’s bed, listening toand being mesmerized and fully entertained by this pioneer woman’s lifestories.  

Told in first person to her captive audience (nieceMeredith Ponedel), I hear Dottie’s voice and see her animated delivery on everypage. Of course, she talks about some of my most favorite people, so thattoo most certainly kept me turning the pages. Along the way, Dottie toobecame one of my favorite people. Now, I have been for many years familiarwith Dottie and her ingenuity and workmanship in the area of motion picturemake up during the Golden Years of Hollywood, but to finally learn about herlife, in her own words is a total treat. Hers is the true Hollywood dreamstory, rags to riches, “the” Cinderella story.

From humble beginnings to comingto Hollywood, where she was open to whatever opportunities came her way, tosaying YES and believing she could do anything—and so she did. She istruly a study in positive attitude, ingenuity, and perseverance. Workingon many biographies, documentaries, and delving into the lives of those shetalks about, I knew of her, but her stories! They are real, they make theseiconic people real. You will gain great, great respect for her line up ofeccentric personalities. You will discover the true human side ofthem. Who are they? Well, Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, MauriceChevalier,  Gary Cooper, Lucille Ball, Joan Blondell to name afew. 

Then there is Judy Garland. The book is part bio of the greatlegend. Dottie was her confidante, and she and Judy traveled together andhung out at Dottie’s little Beverly Hills home and shared life. Dottie helpedJudy stay grounded, as best she could. You will laugh and cry with herstories of Judy and the fun they had. Dottie’s thoughts and impressionsand memories of all her friends are positive and again, you will learnwonderful new things about these people. Meredith Ponedel is a greatstoryteller, too, as she relays her memories of growing up with her aunt’seccentric friends, who often used the little house as their home away fromhome.

“I believe you, too, will become the child sitting at theedge of Dottie’s bed, spellbound by her stories as you look through her big boxof photos and you too will fall in love with her.” -Woolsey Ackerman

About Face: The Life and Times of Dottie Ponedel, Make-upArtist to the Stars is much more thana glimpse into the beginning of TinselTown. It is a recollection of a time when Hollywood was a much more tight-knitcommunity than it is today. It’s a chance to peer through the looking glass andsee the real people behind the grease-paint. Miss Meredith Ponodel surely usedher Aunt Dottie’s written memoirs, but she refined and honed those words withthe aid of Mr. Danny Miller. The result is as much artistry and magic as themanner 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 muchmore. It’s a tale of perseverance, of determination, and most importantlyfriendship. Ms. Dottie Ponedel’s friendship with the great Judy Garland is toldin gentle language and with the benefit of perspective. When Miss MeredithPonedel writes of her childhood memories of Miss Garland visiting her AuntDottie and the friendship she struck up with the star, there is poignancy to herwords. The image of a young girl listening to Miss Garland’s records afterlearning of the star’s death is told in haunting simplicity.

Perhaps that is how it should be. Strip off the make-up,turnoff the cameras, and power down the spot lights, and those stars Dottie Ponedelknew and became friends with were just people with the same desires and foiblesas the rest of us.

-Lynda J Cox, MA/English , Author

Review by David Marshall James

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