The day I helped J.P. Patches remove his face

It’s hard to believe we’re approaching the 7-year anniversary of J.P. Patches’ statue being unveiled in Fremont.
     It’s harder still to believe Chris Wedes, the gentle and mischievous man behind J.P.’s face paint, has been gone more than three years.
     PEMCO supported the campaign to mount Kevin Pattelle’s Late For the Interurban statue on North 34th Street in Seattle’s Fremont district. So PEMCO was my ticket to see J.P. and Gertude (Bob Newman) unveil their likenesses, and afterward attend a private reception held nearby.
     Once there I went to the men’s room, empty aside from one guy standing at the mirror – Chris Wedes, his face still covered in J.P. makeup.
     “I’m having a little trouble,” he said. “I forgot to bring my makeup remover. Would you mind asking the kitchen people if they have any mineral oil?”
     “Sure!” I said, jumping at the chance to help my childhood TV idol.
     The kitchen was empty with all of the caterers out staging the big event hall. So I rummaged around but found only a bottle of olive oil, which I brought to Chris.
     “Couldn’t find anything besides this,” I said with a grin. “But as I recall you’re Greek, so maybe olive oil is more appropriate for you, anyway.”
     Chris laughed hard and said he’d give it a try.
     Yes! I made J.P. Patches laugh!
     He rubbed some on his face, and I could see the white greasepaint starting to thin.
     It turned out that olive oil wasn’t half bad for stripping his thick glaze. Chris thanked me as I walked out, and soon he joined the large crowd waiting in the hall to honor him. His face looked clean.
     Although, as he quipped a short while later when we crossed paths, “I smell like artichokes.”

by  Jon Osterberg

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