- Whenever John C. Tibbetts, associate professor of theatre
and film, looks up from the desk in his office at Oldfather Studios,
he sees stars.
The portraits of Hollywood stars that adorn his office walls
are a mere sampling of the hundreds Tibbetts rendered during
his years as a radio and television entertainment reporter. Thirty-five
more are on display through July in the lobby of the American
Heartland Theatre at Crown Center in Kansas City, Mo.
A more diverse assemblage of Hollywood's elite is difficult to
imagine. Directors Oliver Stone and Steven Spielberg peer from
one corner of Tibbetts' office. Mel Gibson, Glenn Close and Helena
Bonham Carter-all in Hamlet costumes-gaze regally from one wall,
while Gene Hackman grins from another. Arnold Schwarzenegger,
dressed as Conan the Barbarian, commands attention in the hallway.
Most are autographed by the stars themselves.
"I'm kind of starstruck," Tibbetts admits.
Tibbetts says his portraits began as a way to break the ice with
the personalities he was sent to interview when he worked as
a reporter for CBS Television and CNN and hosted his own show
in Kansas City, Mo. He would prepare a likeness before the interview,
show it to his subject and request an autograph.
"I've never had anybody refuse," he says. "It's
a real good icebreaker. It shows that you've prepared for them
and you care. Many ask for a copy, which I do."
Tibbetts adds that he enjoys watching his subjects' faces when
he shows them his drawings.
"Most will open right up and tell you things about themselves
they never would otherwise," he says. "Julie Andrews
loves to write and draw. Whoopi Goldberg writes fairy tales.
Gene Hackman sketches."
Tibbetts uses a variety of techniques: pen and ink, pastel, gouache,
watercolor-even ballpoint pen for the occasional impromptu sketch.
Drawing faces, Tibbetts says, is a compulsion.
"I've been drawing faces since I was a kid," he says.
"Faces are whole landscapes in themselves."
While Hollywood faces get top billing on Tibbetts' walls, they
hold no exclusive rights.
"Classical music is my passion, so I've drawn many musicians,
too," he says. "Some of my favorite interview times
have been with musicians-Pavarotti, Van Cliburn."
Tibbetts says his current project, an encyclopedia of stage plays
on film that is due out in early spring of 2001, will include
almost 50 of his own line drawings of playwrights and composers.
The next Hollywood star to join Tibbetts' portrait galaxy is
almost a foregone concluscion.
"Steve Allen is here in the fall," Tibbetts says. "You
can bet I'll be there."