Hidden amongst the closing credits to the Irwin Allen productions is the title 'Assistant to the producer Paul Zastupnevich'. Whilst the stars have featured occasionally in magazines and reviews over the years, less has been seen about those behind the scenes. Few realise that Paul was one of the unsung heroes behind Irwin Allen's movies and television series. His contributions to the creation, the look, the atmosphere of the productions is now finally being recognized. This profile is indeed a tribute to all those who worked behind the scenes to make this special programme a reality.
Paul Zastupnevich was born on Christmas Eve in the steel town of Homestead in Pennsylvania. He was educated at Carnegie Tech and gained a Bachelor's Degree from Duquesne University and a Master's Degree from University of Pittsburg. In addition he was awarded a Master's and Bachelor of Theatre Arts Degree from the Pasadena Community Playhouse. He was interested in costume design at a very early age. He also has a degree in fashion design from the Louise Salinger Academy of fashion of Pittsburg. In the Army Paul was co founder of the Fort Benning Theater Guild and he designed costumes for many productions including their performance of the musical 'Oklahoma'. He was the designer for the Pittsburg Civic Ballet and also designed for the Pasadena Playhouse. He is also an accomplished actor having starred in many of stage productions.
A meeting with actress Rhonda Fleming paved the way to the start of Paul's career working with Irwin Allen. Rhonda Fleming was signed up to play Helen Harrison in Irwin's 1959 film production of 'The Big Circus', and Paul was assigned to design the costumes for the film. This single assignment led to over thirty years working with Irwin Allen. Many people do not realise that Paul was not only the costume designer, but also Irwin's right hand man, assisting in every aspect of production. Paul's calm manner put him in a good position to smooth out problems and calm frayed tempers. He kept things running smoothly on the set, on a day to day basis, and dealt with any crisis with patience and resourcefulness. Budgets were always very tight especially on expensive shows such as 'Land of the Giants' where the money was usually invested in the special effects rather than in the costume designs. Paul often had to improvise to make a costume work (below he recalls how he hand painted Deanna's boots). Sometimes he would even be called upon to appear in episodes of Irwin's science fiction television series. Did you spot him in the pilot episode of 'Lost in Space'? Paul acted under the stage name of Paul Kremin.
Paul, deservingly, won the award for THE BEST DESIGNED COSTUME TV SERIES for both 'Lost in Space' (1967) and 'Land of the Giants' (1968). For an assignment for the Gardner Display House in Pittsburg, Paul's display for the giant figure of Paul Bunyan at Chicago's railroad fair on the lake front was featured in LIFE magazine. He created the shirt from ten full size blankets and the buttons were the size of pie plate tins! Fox Movietone shot footage of him as he crawled over the 50 ft. figure of Paul Bunyan and secured his clothing on the figure for he had to sew it in place on the figure while dangling from a derrick (a hoisting machine). As Paul said, "Little did I dream I would be working on 'Land of the Giants' later in my career!"
After 'Land of the Giants', Paul continued to work with Irwin Allen. As Irwin Allen returned to producing major motion pictures such as 'The Towering Inferno', and 'The Poseidon Adventure', Paul had opportunities to design clothes for some of the top actors and actresses in Hollywood, such as Jennifer Jones, Fred Astaire and a lovely lady who Paul greatly admired as a real trooper, Shelley Winters. While on assignment with 'When Time Ran Out', Paul designed for Valentina Cortese whom he believed to be truly a legend. In his own words, "When they made her, they broke the mold. As they say in Italian, 'Baci!, Baci! Con amore!" He was President of Costume Designer's Guild (C.D.G.) from 1971 to 1974 as well as being one of the original charter members. A great challenge for Paul in the mid eighties was Irwin Allen's costume extravaganza 'Alice in Wonderland' for which Paul designed a large variety of unusual and imaginative costumes.
In later years, Paul spent his time making personal radio and television appearances and lecturing to wide audiences. Paul was notably a freelance gown designer for Olivia De Havilland who he visited yearly in Paris, designing ball gowns for awards presentations. He also ran a beauty boutique called 'The House of Z' with his sister Olga. In his honour, a display of Paul's work was set up in Paris at the Museum Cinematheque. Well deserved recognition. To his great joy, Irwin Allen fans honoured Paul as principal guest at the Voyage 94 convention where he met many loyal followers of his considerable career.
In early 1997, Paul contacted us and said that he hadn't been well,
and soon after we received the very sad news from his family that
he had passed away. So touched had fans been by his life and work,
that IANN spent the next few months writing and dedicating the Voyage
Tribute Book to Paul. Paul had hoped to be the star guest at the
Voyage 1997 convention in the UK, but that was not to be. So whilst
Voyage 97 was taking place, we went out to California to go and
pay our respects to Paul's family. It was a sad, but meaningful
trip, which we repeated later. Paul will live long in our hearts.