ESTEE: A Success Story by Est‚e Lauder

ESTEE: A Success Story

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Est‚e claims she never intended to write about her life, but finally did so ""because so many myths have been told about me I wanted to set the record straight."" (Lee Israel's upcoming distinctly unauthorized biography, above, might have more to do with it.) Her scenario is like an old Hollywood movie full of dream scenes in soft-focus, slow-motion Technicolor. There is her childhood in Corona, Queens, where little Josephine Esther Mentzer brushes her beautiful mother's hair and admires her clothes. There is her father, dashing Max, a ""Czechoslovakian horseman"" who hobnobbed with Hapsburgs but owns a hardware store and invests in land. (The real estate seems to be a would-be cemetary in New Jersey where he kept his horses.) There's also ""charming, erudite"" Uncle John Schotz, who shows teen-aged Est‚e how to make Super Rich All Purpose Creme in a stable behind the family home. Then there's Joseph Lauter (later Lauder), who sweeps her off into matrimony. Joe lost various jobs and businesses so Est‚e, now a young mother, began peddling Uncle John's products in a beauty salon. She promoted sales by redoing customers' faces while they sat under the dryer. (Throughout her life Est‚e couldn't resist dabbing her products on unsuspecting women,) Her business expanded and then, unexplained here, she divorced Joe--only to remarry him four years later. Finally, she persuaded Saks Fifth Avenue to buy her wares. She and Joe set up a factory in a former Manhattan restaurant and cooked up face creams on the stove. Then, while Joe handled production, she went on the road to peddle her line. In 1953 she created Youth Dew (a highly scented bath oil) and Est‚e Lauder, Inc. began to make real money. Perfumes, the Clinique skin care and cosmetic line for sensitive skins, Aramis products for men followed. Money poured in and the Lauders bought town houses in Manhattan and London and homes in Palm Beach and the French Riviera. Soon Est‚e is close to the likes of the Duchess of Windsor, the Begum Aga Khan, Princess Grace and Nancy Reagan (who make cameo appearances here and sing the praises of Lauder products). Although a multimillion-dollar business is being built, the reader gets little sense of anything but Est‚e's peripatetic activities, be it fighting for the best department store counters or designing packages. She does mention spotting her name on a factory while tooling down the Long Island Expressway and that the company employs ""hundreds"" of chemists--but that's about it. Her older son. Leonard, is now president--a fat cry from the days when he worked after school delivering orders and typing bills. Younger son Ronald left the business for a Washington post. Est‚e's beloved Joe died in 1982. In sum: as evanescent as Aliage: no deeper than face powder.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Random House