'SCTV' hair stylist Judi Cooper-Sealy remembered as 'magician' with scissors
TORONTO — Over her four decades as a hair and wig designer, Judi Cooper-Sealy coiffed all kinds of characters on screen — a blond beehive fit for Queen Latifah in "Hairspray," Kate Beckinsale's brown bob in the 2009 Alaska-set thriller "Whiteout," and braided, bowl-cut and bouffant hairdos as wacky as Martin Short's many impressions.
As news spread of the 77-year-old's death in mid-December after a battle with dementia, Cooper-Sealy's husband said condolences have been pouring in from the comedians she worked with during her time at "SCTV."
Joe Sealy said he woke up Wednesday morning to find a bouquet of white roses from Eugene Levy on his doorstep, one of many fragrant tributes that have turned the Toronto home he shared with his wife of more than 45 years into "a flower shop."
Sealy said he also received an email from Short, who worked with Cooper-Sealy throughout his career, mourning the loss of her creativity and company on set.
"Kids in the Hall" alumni Scott Thompson and Dave Foley, who also collaborated with Cooper-Sealy, shared their sympathies on Twitter, saying her hair creations were essential to the show's comedic process.
"She was truly the greatest hair artist I've ever worked with," Thompson said. "Quite often we wouldn't know how we were going to play a character until the hair."
After youthful stints as biochemist, model and alternative-magazine editor, the Halifax-raised hair stylist decided to sharpen her scissors in her hometown, Sealy said, briefly living in Ghana to pick up new techniques.
In the mid-1970s, he and Cooper-Sealy moved to Toronto so she could work on a show with broadcaster Peter Gzowski, where she impressed John Candy with her styling skills and was asked to join "SCTV."
Costume designer Juul Haalmeyer, who worked with Cooper-Sealy on the comedy series, said Cooper-Sealy was a hair "magician" who would comb through hundreds of wigs in order to find the 'do that brought a character to life, sometimes stitching two or three together.
Haalmeyer said Cooper-Sealy was so close to many of the cast members, many of them used her as their personal hairdresser.
"You could hear them laugh miles away while they were trying out different (wigs)," he said. "Some of them even wet their pants while they were trying to figure out a character."
Cooper-Sealey earned praise for her reviving period hairdos in blockbuster musicals "Hairspray" and "Chicago," winning her second Emmy in 2011 for her work on "The Kennedys" miniseries. Her first Emmy was for "My Mother Was Never a Kid," a 1980s after-school special.
Sealy said his wife would often work 18-hours days to make sure every hair was in place before the crew started shooting, doing extensive research to create wigs in keeping with the setting.
But beyond her work ethic, he said it's Cooper-Sealy's kindness that will be missed by those who had the pleasure of sitting in her chair.
"She was very loved, you know. People just gravitated to her," he said. "She was an artist in her own effect."
Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. Scott Thompson and Dave Foley were cast on "Kids in the Hall."