Thompson, Claude Milford
May 24,1923 - August 5, 2012
Claude Milford Thompson, was born in Canton, South Dakota on May 24, 1923 to Clarence Thompson and Helene Hansen. He came to California in 1929 with his parents and brother, Marvin, after his father lost their farm. Clarence died that same year leaving the boys to be raised by their mother, their beloved Aunt Marie and their grandfather in 1930's Los Angeles. In December 1942 a dream came true when he enlisted in the Navy Pilot Training Program. He loved to fly, even after he lost power over the coast of Florida and went down in the Bermuda Triangle. Although Claude believed the impact of that event initiated the onset of ankylosing spondylitis, an arthritic disease he endured for the rest of his life, his cheerful response to the question "how are you doing?" was always, to the end, "can't complain." He maintained a passionate interest in flight and experienced a full life of artistic endeavor in television and film makeup. Claude ran the NBC makeup department in the late 50's and early 60's and received one of the first Emmy Nominations for makeup on Alice Through the Looking Glass in 1966. He was approached by Johnny Carson to become his personal makeup man, and traveled with Dinah Shore and Bob Hope on his charitable missions around the world. Claude left behind a home filled with personally inscribed photographs from Richard Nixon, Bobby Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Nancy Reagan, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Elizabeth Taylor, Dean Martin, Dinah Shore and others, all thanking Claude for his talent and attention. Richard Nixon had Claude make him up for the "Checkers" speech, and though Claude was there at the ready for the Nixon-Kennedy Debate, Nixon insisted that makeup was not necessary. Claude's humility and generosity to friends and family will be remembered with affection, along with his wonderful stories of the political and Hollywood celebrities with whom he worked and traveled. Claude's proudest achievement was his stint as a naval aviator. Claude passed away peacefully in his home on August 5th, 2012. He requested his ashes be buried at sea by the Navy.
Published in Los Angeles Times on Aug. 15, 2012.