Paula Crist is a stuntwoman and actress who toured with makeup artist and actor Bill Blake in their 'Zira and Cornelius' live performances in the 1970s.

After Paula put on an exhibit at the 'World Science Fiction Convention' in LA (September 1972) on the Planet of the Apes movies - using borrowed makeup appliances and a costume she made herself - producer Arthur P. Jacobs offered her a part in the next sequel, Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Jacobs, however, became ill shortly before production began, and Paula's intended acting role was downgraded to appearing as a non-speaking human girl imprisoned by Aldo's gorillas, as well as "a nondescript chimpanzee extra in the background".[1] After her experience on 'Battle', she began a career as a stuntwoman, doing her first stuntwork on 1974's Earthquake.

Paula then contacted Bill Blake after seeing some of his makeup work and asked if he could help design some makeup for a convention appearance. Bill flew out to Los Angeles and they found that they worked very well as an ape double-act. During this time, Paula was working as one of the primitive people on the David Wolper Productions/ABC-TV four-part documentary series Primal Man, and Bill accompanied her to the locations in Southern California to shoot some pictures. During filming of the final episode in March 1974, Paula was scheduled to go further North to get some wrap-up shots in colder regions, but at the last minute was told she would not be required. As the cast and crew returned from the shoot to Los Angeles, their chartered plane crashed, killing all on board, including Janos Prohaska and Robert Prohaska.[2]

Paula and Bill obtained their own license from Twentieth Century Fox and performed their first official Apes appearance together in October '74, which was a huge success. By this time the Planet of the Apes TV series had begun broadcasting and Bill had a role in an episode ('The Interrogation') filmed sometime before 29 October 1974, although his scene was later cut from the episode. The TV series soon hit problems with poor ratings and Star Trek producer Gene Roddenberry, having seen the Apes live show, reportedly suggested to Apes TV producers that they should reboot the show by reprising the characters of Zira and Cornelius played by Paula and Bill, but the show was cancelled shortly afterwards.[1] In 1975 they both auditioned to do voice acting in the Return to the Planet of the Apes cartoon series, but were turned down because they sounded "too much" like Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowall. In 1976 the duo filmed a demo reel for a proposed independently-made further sequel to the Apes films titled Salvation for the Planet of the Apes. Altogether, Paula and Bill did their stage show for around six years, touring extensively, before their partnership ended. Paula made a further appearance as Zira, along with Dan Morgan as Cornelius, in 1982.

Salvation for the Planet of the Apes

Salvation for the Planet of the Apes

Paula in a 1976 demo reel titled 'Salvation for the Planet of the Apes'

Paula Crist-Pickett was a regular at sci-fi conventions, particularly for her involvement in 'Star Trek' (she was recognized among the 8,000 people at the 1973 'Star Trek Con' in Los Angeles by a 'Famous Monsters' reporter soon after her brief Battle role, confirming "I was in it! One of the prisoners in the compound!"),[3] and she wrote an article about her involvement with Planet of the Apes in the 'Simian Scrolls' fanzine in 2007.[1] In recent years, her involvement in fan circles has been greatly reduced. She has changed her name to Qeldas Pickett (a Klingon name) and now works as a professional costumer, displaying costumes of her own design at various conventions.

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Paula in 'Zira' makeup at one of her shows


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