Thursday, March 15, 2018

Maurice Made "Golden" Magic

Recently, I learned of the passing of makeup artist and inventor, Maurice Stein.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Maurice in 2006, inside Cinema Secrets, the Toluca Lake, California store which sells not just cinema-quality makeup, but also many of his ingenious innovations.

Talking with Maurice was one of the most memorable experiences I had in researching Golden Girls Forever -- and that's really saying something, because I also got to sit for a day each with Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Betty White!  But for one thing, makeup artists are often privy to the most intimate details of stars' personal lives, spending so much time with them each day.  And Maurice's memories of the groundbreaking show, and his storytelling skills, were both superb. 

But the most interesting thing I learned that day was about how, out of Golden Girls necessity, Maurice ended up inventing a brand new cinema technique that is still used to this day.  Below, a featurette that didn't make it into Golden Girls Forever, due to space constraints.  (Hopefully it will someday, in some kind of expanded edition.)  I think it's a proper tribute to a funny, warm guy whom I had the pleasure of meeting, and who helped bring the world laughter via Sophia Petrillo.

As The Golden Girls progressed, the series’ hair and makeup crew would be tasked with some very specific challenges, such as turning Estelle Getty and Bea Arthur into a convincing Sonny and Cher. But by then, such sartorial switchups were old hat for costume designer Judy Evans, hair stylist Joyce Melton and makeup artist Maurice Stein.  After all, they’d already been convincingly transforming Estelle – actually a tiny bit younger than her co-stars Betty and Bea – into an old lady for years. 

For the earliest episodes in season one, Estelle's hair was merely sprayed gray, as the actress herself had done to perform her shtick for producer after producer during her many auditions.  But very soon, as it became clear that The Golden Girls would be an enduring hit, it also became obvious that some things had to change.

And so, not far into the first season, the show's producers commissioned Sophia's trademark -- and expensive -- curly white human-hair wig.  But the larger problem was, the prevailing old-age makeup technique at the time, a process called “stretch and stipple,” took over four hours to apply, and as Maurice remembers Estelle saying, “an hour and a half, and a couple of vodkas, to take off.”  Each week, that added up to five or six hours of expensive production time – and an extra headache for an already nervous Estelle.

And so, Golden Girls producer Marsha Posner Williams had made a call to Maurice, luring him out of his early retirement; as luck would have it, Maurice had spent his newfound spare time inventing a new waterproof, oil-free foundation.  Now, instead of putting his star through the time-consuming application, blow-drying and powdering of layers and layers of latex, Maurice was able to cover Estelle’s face with several strata of the fast-drying foundation, and followed by accentuating her natural wrinkles with a makeup pencil (and, after Estelle’s facelift between seasons one and two, creating those lines anew.)

Today, Maurice still sells his Cinema Secrets Ultimate Foundation to the public; and because it's one of the only products medically approved to cover radiation burns, he donates his time and product to kids in burn units and to women with cancer.  As Maurice jokes, his products “aren't tested on animals…but on actors.”  So really, he adds, in the end, it was partly Estelle's ambition to play Sophia that has resulted not only in an innovative new product, but also in charitable work that has benefitted people around the world.

Jim Colucci, Golden Girls Forever, copyright 2016 HarperCollins Inc. 

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