SIMI VALLEY, Calif.—It wasn't a large crowd that came together at a private home in Simi Valley Sunday night to honor the late Lee Garland, but everyone there felt a deep connection with the adult industry's most respected makeup artist, so much so that several had difficulty expressing the impact he'd had on their lives.
"I really loved Lee," sobbed Vivid contract star Briana Banks toward the end of the evening. "Even with all the stuff I've gone through in my life, he never gave up on me. And I just want to tell him so much, 'Thank you for always, always having my back.' That's what I want to say."
The evening was hosted by three of Garland's closest friends: Actresses Shay Sights and Dyanna Lauren, and costumier and talent agent September Dawn. Mourners began arriving at about 7 p.m., and were served drinks and food as they chatted with each other about their memories of Garland, and in some cases became reacquainted with old friends with whom they'd lost touch over the years.
"I remember very clearly my first meeting with Lee," said screenwriter/photographer/art director Raven Touchstone. "It was on an Ona Zee shoot—I can't remember the name of it, but Lee was the makeup artist on it, and what he was doing with the hair and the makeup was so outstanding, I had never seen anybody in this industry do anything that great. I was working a lot at that time with Michael Zen, and I knew Michael would love him. So I took Lee to Michael Zen—it must have been in the late '80s, very early '90s—and from that point on, every single thing that Michael and I did, Lee worked on. Lee and I did a ton of stuff together over the years."
"We did this series for Vivid; it was called Michael Zen's Stardust, and I think we did 12 episodes, and Lee did all of it," she continued. "He was so brilliant with his makeup and his hairstyles, and he was a great guy. We had a very good time together over the years. We would do costuming together; we did a movie called Babylon that Michael Zen directed; sort of an Alice in Wonderland thing, and we both worked on the costumes for that. He did the grand stuff because he was phenomenal with that. What he could do with rhinestones and sequins and fluff—he made everything beautiful. He was a great, great talent; he was an amazingly gifted individual. We were fortunate to have him in this business. He was full of stories; he was funny and he was fun, and I was so sorry that this has happened to him, that he is gone at 62; way too young for him."
Garland had long worked "both sides of the hill," gradually replacing his early career of making Hollywood starlets beautiful for magazine and movie shoots—he had planned to publish a book of photos of some of his best mainstream work—with using his talent to do the same for starlets in the adult industry.
"I know that everybody that sat in his chair when he did makeup was honored to be there," said photographer Scott St. James, who met Garland during a shoot in Hawaii in 1995. "This was a true artist working, and he did his best to make them look their best, and when they got in front of the camera, whether it was mine or somebody else's, they really shined; they became a star. I think that was his gift to this industry, that he made girls in front of the camera really shine. I've seen the work that he's done; it was really mind-blowing. He really took people from plain and ordinary to superstar. I loved him; he was a great friend of mine. I'm just glad to have known him."
Garland's resume lists few mainstream credits; mostly low-budget thrillers like Reel Horror (1985), Dead Girls Don't Tango (1992), and Revenge of the Sun Demon (1983), directed by Gregory Brown, better known to the adult world as Greg Dark. But considering how few of his many adult titles are listed on the Internet Movie Database, it's likely that he graced many more Hollywood sets that we are likely to know.
But what Garland will most be remembered for is how he made the women under his temporary care feel.
"This was somebody that took all of the Vivid girls and all of the Wicked girls and Jenna Jameson and he made everybody a star, but nobody knows how much of a star this person was," reflected Dyanna Lauren. "He made all of us feel so important... We had just the best time with that man. Even with the pain he was in, he still wanted all of us to have a good time. He knew that the light that he shone to all of us was the most important thing; that the light that he gave all of us was the most important thing."
"I know that we all know what an incredible artist he was," added director Kelly Holland, "but his personality is what I remember; particularly about 3 o'clock in the morning [dealing with] six PMSing Vivid bitches, five ranting Wicked bitches, and Jenna, which counted for all of those bitches together. He would keep them smiling in the chair and the directors would walk in or I would walk in or whoever would walk in, saying 'Oh my God, I need that girl, and I've got to have her in 20 minutes, and she's PMSing and she's this and that,' and he was like, 'Don't worry about it; I've got it'—and he had it. And I will tell you that the only thing that we will miss, more than the young faces coming up in this business will miss, is the brilliance of Lee Garland's makeup and being surrounded by his amazing spirit, because I think that he did a lot to instill a lot of confidence in those girls, not only when he was putting on their faces but what he was putting in their minds and their souls. That's going to be missed, and so I feel sorry for the younger talent that will not experience the magic of Lee Garland."
Shay Sights was one of the last people to see Garland alive, and the weeks she spent by his side, nursing him as the prostate cancer from which he suffered slowly ate away his vitality, clearly took their toll, making it that much more difficult to express to the assemblage her feelings at his final passing.
"I don't know how I can thank the man for everything he's done, because he's done so much and touched my life so deeply," she said. "There is not an hour that has gone by, let alone a day, over the last two weeks that I have not been reminded of your loving heart and your artistic genius. From the way I put my makeup on and blow my hair in the morning, to the metaphysical books I read before bed, you're there with me every step of the way. It's been painful to see everything around my home that you've given me ... but even in your passing, you're still helping me along, and helping me deal with these emotions. I can hear your voice and guidance in my ear, and I take great comfort in knowing you're in very capable hands and know nothing but love. ... I just miss you so much. I miss you ..."—at which point she began sobbing heavily, and had a friend read the rest of a statement that she'd prepared in Garland's honor.
Several others spoke before the memorial concluded, and each tried to express how Garland had touched his or her life—and often, his love and friendship changed the course of their careers.
"I've known Lee for 15-plus years," recalled Wicked director Brad Armstrong. "He was with me from the third movie I ever did, and was with me for quite a while, and his catch phrase was, 'I'm a makeup artist, not a magician.' But I have to disagree with that: He was in fact a magician. He had a makeup brush for a wand, and his little designer bags full of potions and lotions and everything else; he was indeed a master. You could always tell when Lee was finished his final girl; he'd disappear just long enough so that you'd notice he was gone, and he'd come back with his squinty glazed eyes and his grin, and we knew he'd just smoked his off-duty joint. It was like he'd put his 'Gone Fishing' sign on his makeup chair and said, 'I am done for the evening.' ... He will be missed."
"I start talking about him and I can't breathe," said the evening's final speaker, September Dawn. "It's like such a pain that I've never felt in my life... He came to me in a dream, and he said, 'You know I'm here, right? No, I'm really here; you know that, right?' So I know he's with me. I know that he, like everyone that was close to him—but me in particular, he made me who I was in the business as a designer. He's the one who screamed, 'Oh, my God, you have to hire September Dawn! Don't you know who she is?' I mean, all the movies we did together, every major costume I did, he did the hair and makeup. I mean, we were like this creative team. I'm getting ready tonight, going, 'Every event I've ever gone to, every red carpet, every event, he was my date. Who am I going to do this with?' So what [Shay] was talking about, about the loss and looking around at everything and he's touched everything, the candlesticks on my dining room table, the box on my living room coffee table, the clothes in my closet—I mean just everything in my life, and I'm going to miss him more than anything. But I know he's still there and I know he helped make me who I am as an artist and taught me a lot about everything—I mean everything."
Besides those mentioned above, some of the more recognizeable guests at the memorial were actresses Jessica Drake, Alexandra Silk, Lindsay Meadows and Syren; actors Evan Stone, Frank Bukkwyd and Frank Fortuna; directors Luc Wylder, Will Ryder, Axel Braun, Erica McLean, Jonni Darkko and Red Ezra; writers/editors Lisa Massaro, Renee Preston, Dan Miller and Steve Nelson; producer Mark Nicholson; and makeup artist (and former actress) Shelby Stevens.
(Pictured: Lee Garland making up Chris Johnson on the set of This Ain't Avatar XXX.)