This Time, They’ve Created Wonderland
May 24, 2012
by John Long
Anyone who has been following Camp over the last nine years may recall that some of our best covers were done by the creative team of Dusti Cunningham, photographer, and Andy Chambers, makeup artist. In fact, one of our all-time classic covers -- Mayor Kay Barnes dressed like a June Cleaver-type housewife and holding the rainbow cake for our 2006 Pride issue – was created by Cunningham and Chambers.
Chambers has actually worked longer with local photographer Ann Brown – more than 20 years -- as well as with other photographers. For this issue, Chambers and Brown teamed up to create the cover celebrating Gay Pride, with the lovely Cydney Carl as our model.
But the big creative news about Chambers these days is that he and his partner, Alan Dunham, have fulfilled their dream to open a store. The business, called Wonderland, at 206 Westport Rd., specializes in vintage clothes, jewelry, shoes and more. Its tagline is “Vintage, Unique and Curio.”
“Wonderland is a name I’ve always fixated on, and we agreed that it is all-encompassing and could be anything. We have a little bit of everything. We’re just fashion people all around,” Chambers said.
The store has been open about a month and a half, Chambers said. It was a former tattoo shop before they took it over. In fact, there is still a large sign for that former business on the west side of the exterior wall.
Dunham, who is a hairdresser, and Chambers, a makeup artist, were originally hoping to find a spot where they could operate both businesses in addition to Wonderland, but they chose a smaller storefront in Westport for now.
“Location was the hardest part,” Chambers said. “If you’re in a really great location, it’s expensive.”
They looked at other neighborhoods of the city, but have always liked the Westport area.
“I personally fell in love with vintage clothes in Westport, because when I was 16, I came to Westport for the first time and there was a store called November Pink,” Chambers said. “It was owned by a woman named Lou Jane Temple, who is a friend of ours. I was mesmerized that there were ’20s dresses and Victorian men’s suits and hats, and they were actually revered and not thrown in a pile. She had those neon signs that said ‘November Pink’ and I’ll never forget them. I will have pink neon ‘Wonderland’ at some point when we can afford it.”
Dunham and Chambers have been together for 24 years, and they live in the historic Northeast area of Kansas City. Dunham is a hair stylist at Union Hill Hair Studio, 31st and Grand. Chambers had been working at River Market Antiques before opening Wonderland and he still works there two Sundays a month. He also worked at Re-Runs in Westport for five years.
“We’ve been called the Patricia Field of Kansas City,” said Chambers. “Patricia Field in New York is all-inclusive. You get your hair colored, styled, you can buy an outfit, jewelry, and you’re ready to go. Even a wig. I want to carry wigs, at some point.”
They have worked for years with local theaters, such as the former Late Night Theatre, the Unicorn Theatre and Egads.
“I’ve done that Hedwig wig about six times now,” said Chambers with a laugh. “I’ve made about six of them.”
In the latest concert version of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, hosted by Egads Theatre with Justin Van Pelt, they brought in their mannequins to be used for a stage installation in the show and made up several in the image of Hedwig.
“We’re kind of known as the mannequin guys,” said Chambers, “because we own 235 mannequins.”
A recent example of their work was at the Kansas City Auto Show, where Chambers worked with Dusti Cunningham.
“I got hired to do hair and makeup on a photo, and they did a spec shoot to see if they liked it. They actually hired me to do mannequins by vintage cars in vintage clothes,” Chambers said.
He said he was then asked to do the model’s hair and makeup for the five days of the auto show.
“She ended up being a character called ‘Penny Lane,’ and they used her as the mascot for the whole event.”
Chambers, who has never had a driver’s license, said, “They gave us lots of passes, which is funny because I don’t drive. I have no interest in cars whatsoever. I love the bus.”
Chambers’ makeup-artist work has been published in several local magazines besides Camp, and even in Playboy a couple of times.
“I got a phone call from Christie Hefner. … Well, she wanted my address for the check … and she said, ‘I wanted to thank you because your makeup was so beautiful and we didn’t have to a lot of retouching.’ And I thought, ‘Wow, that’s amazing because they retouch everything.’”
Much of Chambers’ work has been doing makeup for drag queen entertainers and drag pageants like Miss Gay America, and others, including “real girl pageants.” He and Dunham spent time April 26-28 at the Miss Gay Missouri Pageant in Columbia doing hair and makeup for local contestants, including L’oreal, who won first alternate. L’oreal will go on to the national contest in Columbus, Ohio, in October.
“I’ve painted most of the queens in this town in one way or another,” Chambers laughed.
If You Go
Wonderland is at 206 Westport Rd., Kansas City, Mo. Hours are Tuesdays through Fridays, noon-6 p.m. and Saturdays 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. On the first Sunday of the month, the store is open from noon to 5 p.m., and on the third Thursday of the month, it stays open until 8 p.m. Wonderland has a Facebook page and will soon have its website up and running.