“Ask him about the movies.” I’m sitting in Dreamers Coffeehouse with Ezzy Dame, 55, discussing his job at Sierra Arts, and the guy at the table next to us, local artist David Dory, is listening. Dory’s comment provides an opportunity to shift from a discussion of Dame’s present to his past. Dame’s face, square and tawny and slightly impish, takes on a serious, distant expression as he reflects on his life adventures. “You know, when you talk about the good old days, the good old days could be 10 years from now,” he muses. “But the past was very exciting.”
What are your duties with Sierra Arts?
Manning the front desk, answering phones. … If we need things, we go up into my kitchen [in the Riverside Artists Lofts] and grab things.
Are you an artist yourself?
I think we are all artists. Am I good? I would say, I don’t think so, compared to the other artists in the lofts.
What’s your medium?
Acrylic, film. I was a makeup artist.
Tell me about that.
I was raised in the beach areas [of Southern California]: Manhattan, Redondo, and I always had great desire to be in the films. I started with clown work. I went on to do Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie. The last film I did was Under the Rainbow with Chevy Chase and Carrie Fisher. It was a remake of The Wizard of Oz.
I heard that you were in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Yes. I was an Oompa Loompa. There were nine of us.
I also heard that you’re the last remaining Oompa Loompa.
Ah, no. I’m the only one in Reno.
What was it like?
I was very young. It was very exciting. I had a great attraction and interest for Gene Wilder, because he was wild, so unpredictable. I grew up in Hollywood, [I knew] Paul Lynde, Rip Taylor. They were personal friends. One of my really close friends was Billy Barty. [One time] he said, “What are you going to do this summer?” and I said, “I’m going to be a movie star,” and he said, “You better think twice, because I’m not giving you any of my work.” There was quite a competition for little people back then. The next week I enrolled in cosmetology school.
Did you resent him for saying that?
No, it was a slap of reality. … I had this ego, I did not want to do costumes. I had this thing that I wanted to be known as me. I could have been Oscar Meyer, driving around on the Weiner Mobile. … A really big letdown was, I had applied for a movie called Willow. I had actually gotten a call from Ron Howard, and he asked me how tall I was, and at the time I was 4 foot, and he said, “You’re just too tall!”
When did you come to Reno?
I came to Reno when Hello, Hollywood, Hello reopened. … Friends of mine from Hello, Hollywood, Hello called me and said, “Come up here,” and I fell in love.
You still do hairstyling on the side?
Yeah, I just had too good a time to save any money. I always thought I’d be dead 20 years ago. One of the artists in the building here, she said, "My daughter is 53," and I said, "What year was she born?" and she said, "1950," and I said, "How’s that? I was born in 1948," and she said, "You better do your math." How did two years slip away?