July 6, 1997 in City

Would You Like A Milky Way In The Kitchen?

By The Spokesman-Review

Like so many Fourth of July weekend campers, I also enjoy quality time under the stars, gazing in awe at the majestic heavens.

Has the night sky ever been so gin-clear?

The moon, a pale orb, floats a few inches over the horizon. Look, there’s the Big Dipper, suspended just above my head.

And the gauzy, shimmering Milky Way …

“That’s extra,” says Steve Zachary, his voice booming out of the darkness.

“Excuse me?” I mutter, my reverie shattered.

“My promotional Starscapes price is $50,” he adds, “but the Milky Way is $30 more.”

Oh, well. Why wish for the moon when 80 bucks buys you the stars plus the Milky Way?

Zachary - aka “Starman” - operates what might be the strangest new business in Spokane.

For a modest fee, the South Hill resident will come into your home and paint an astronomically correct night sky on the ceiling and walls of your choice.

It’s called Starscapes. Unlike Michelangelo, another ceiling painter, Zachary’s work is invisible in the stark shine of day. But flick off the lights and you’re suddenly lost in glow-in-the-dark space.

Comets. Constellations. Galaxies … .

Do not mistake what Zachary does for those cheesy glowing star stickers you buy at toy stores. This is cool-o-rama. The effect is eerily three dimensional, like having your own planetarium.

No clouds roll in to spoil your view. No muggers stick a Saturday night special in your face.

I’ll bet Michael Foale, our marooned astronaut, would rather view the stars the Zachary way than from that smelly, busted-up Russian space station.

“I’ve always been a ‘Star Trek’ fan,” says Zachary, 38. “I’ve always been sort of an astronomy buff. So when I heard about this I had to check it out.”

Starscapes is the brainchild of Arizona-based Voyager Industries. According to company hype, having a glowing space mural in your bedroom is educational for kids, romantic for adults and always relaxing.

Zachary bought a franchise. He took some training and now paints heavenly bodies to supplement his day job with a machine and tool company.

“It’s a good, fun business. I think there’s a market for it,” says Zachary, who has only done six jobs so far. “I could paint ‘em all day.”

He can paint the exact star pattern of the day you were born. Just don’t ask to watch him at work. Zachary prefers to keep his technique in the dark.

“Knowing would spoil the illusion,” he adds. “People don’t want to know about Santa Claus. They don’t don’t want to know about the Easter Bunny.

“They shouldn’t know about Starscapes.”

That’s fine with West Side residents Jim and Mary Hanson. The Hansons recently had their bedroom Starscaped. They couldn’t be happier.

It figures these people would be suckers for anything cosmic. The car they drive daily is a 1963 Mercury Comet.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Mary of the faux stars, not the Comet.

“I grew up in the Valley where you can look up at night and see stars,” adds Jim, who builds computer networks for a living.

“In the city you look up and can’t really see anything because of all the lights. Here you can sit and stare. It’s like there’s a depth and texture to it.”

Maybe this is the inevitable way civilization is headed. Someday nobody will venture out at night. Everyone will watch the celestial wonders from the safety of their unlit pods.

Zachary switches on a tape recorder. Sounds of chirping crickets and rustling leaves fill the dark room.

The tapes, says Starman, are two bucks extra.

, DataTimes MEMO: Zachary can be reached at 536-0911.

Zachary can be reached at 536-0911.

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