For makeup designer Eryn Kruger Mekash, every day was like Halloween on “American Horror Story: Hotel,” with a gallery of ghouls ranging from Lady Gaga’s fashionista vampire, the Countess, to Alex Ward’s creepy Addiction Demon with his a drill bit dildo, to Denis O’Hare’s scene-stealing transgender bartender, Liz Taylor.
Plus, there was an assortment of victims— most of them junkies— either sewn together or to the mattress of a bed, requiring challenging prosthetics.
“We had a lot of blood gags this season— more sliced throats than we usually do,” Mekash said. “So getting all those rigged and keeping the challenges of actual production up was a lot of work. They shot two or three episodes a day with three units, which meant a lot of prosthetic organization.”
The 111-year-old Countess runs the mysterious Hotel Cortez in Hollywood, and Gaga had the opportunity to show off 65 glam looks throughout the 20th century. The actress’ personal makeup artist, Sarah Tanno, collaborated with Mekash on the designs, and Mekash’s husband, Mike, did all of the blood-related prosthetics.
“She was turned into a vampire in the late ’20s, so we established all of the looks with Rudolph Valentino and his wife, Natacha Rambova [the costume and set designer],” Mekash recalled. “We saw ’30s makeup and the ’70s, which was her big heyday with disco, and then there was a time in the ’80s with Angela Bassetts’ character [Ramona Royale]. Then we had the modern-day stuff, which was incredibly glamorous.”
Speaking of Bassett’s Royale, her look ran the gamut from Diana Ross in “Mahogany” to various Blaxploitation actresses.
But, of course, Gaga’s Countess wasn’t the only vampire. There was also the young brother and sister. “I wanted to keep the vampire children subtle with pink, shiny makeup with dark circles to make it seem like there was extra blood in their bodies,” added Mekash.
The biggest challenge was The Addiction Demon, which took four-and-a-half hours to apply each day with a team of three artists. Created by Dave Anderson of AFX, he was wrapped in layers of sheets and covered in transparent jelly.
“Initially, it was all foam with prosthetics underneath, and there were layers and layers of silicone and also silicone liquid that could be made into sheets,” Mekash explained. “There was a chest piece and arm pieces and a facial mask that was glued down. Alex was covered from tip to toe— it was almost total sensory deprivation.”
For Liz Taylor, O’Hare endured a total body shave and showed off gold, red, black and blue sets of nails throughout the season.
“His look was patterned after Taylor in ‘Cleopatra’ and the eye makeup was inspired by an old bartender that [creator] Ryan Murphy met a long time ago,” Mekash said. “It was the first time that Denis ever wore such makeup.”