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THE STYLE FILES: THE PAIN : Magnificent Obsessions : Just how far do some women really go to look good?

March 19, 1994|LAURIE DRAKE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The things we do for love? They pale in comparison to the things we do for vanity. Here, the real-life stories--honest--of seven women with magnificent obsessions.

In 1975, Janet Mizrahi found the perfect eyeliner when a friend came back from Europe with a glass vial of powdery gray kohl, bought at an Algerian pharmacy in Paris. "You dipped this little pencil into the granules and outlined your eyes," says Mizrahi, an aspiring novelist. "It was the best eyeliner I'd ever had, it never faded or smeared. I used it for 10 years, and every time my friend went to Paris she would bring me back more kohl."

But in time, the friend stopped going to Paris. Then Mizrahi's kohl bottle broke. Life hasn't been the same since. "I've tried pencils, I've tried liquid liners, I've tried cake," Mizrahi says. "I've spent hundreds of dollars on various eye-lining materials, to no avail."

Three years ago, says Mizrahi, "Rumor had it that a grocery in North Hollywood carried beauty products from the Middle East. So I drove over there--and, of course, they did not. As I was driving home, I had a terrible car accident, with $8,000 worth of damage to my car. The lawsuit is still going on. And had I not been in search of that damn kohl this might never have happened."

That's when she abandoned the search as too costly. "Now I walk around looking like an old lady with nasty eyes," says Mizrahi.

If ever a cosmetic was jinxed, it may be this kohl. Mizrahi's jet-setting friend and original source of the kohl lives in the San Francisco Bay area. She lost her vial of kohl in the Oakland fire.

In the late '80s, when Angela Friedman, a British insurance agent living in Los Angeles, would phone her mother in Liverpool, the first order of business was blush. Specifically Sun Stick bronzer from Ultima II and where to get their hands on it.

"We really loved this blush," says Friedman. "It screwed up from the bottom like deodorant, it was creamy and had a sheen to it. We both used the same shade, and we'd put it not only on our cheekbones but on our nose and brow and chin--it really gave our pale English skin a sun-kissed glow."

Friedman speaks lovingly of the blush's other assets: it was inexpensive, stayed neat in her purse, lasted a long time. Too long--by the time mother and daughter ran out, the Sun Stick had been discontinued. "We tried to buy it, but it was too late," says Friendman, who looked in L.A. department stores, drug stores and discount stores.

"My mom would take the bus all over Liverpool. When we'd speak on the phone we'd say, 'Did you find it?' It was an international affair. We're talking $60-, $70-phone calls, all about this silly makeup."

She still pines for the blush that faded. There is a glimmer of hope, though: When a Revlon spokeswoman heard about this mother-daughter obsession, she promised to look into the possibility of a product reintroduction. See, they do care.

All beauty quests aren't in vain, although they may take years to realize. In 1984, publicist Prudence Baird was sitting in a restaurant when she saw a woman at another table. "I kept staring at her beautiful skin, which seemed back-lit, it was so translucent," says Baird. "My companion said, 'That's Barbra Streisand.' I said, 'No it's not.' I didn't recognize her, I was so mesmerized by her skin."

The search was on to find the facialist responsible. "I asked everyone who had ever dealt with Streisand," says Baird. "The woman who runs her foundations. A senior v.p. at a major movie studio. A woman who brought Streisand to a party once. Her make-up person. I left my name on answering machines all over town. And because my last name isn't Spielberg or Lucas, I guess I never got a call back."

Baird had facials at posh salons in both New York and Los Angeles, always asking the inevitable question. A decade passed. She had just about given up hope when she mentioned her search to a reporter friend, who made a few phone calls. Twenty-five minutes later, Baird had the facialist's name. And it wasn't one of the famous skin fraus she expected.

"She's just a fine facialist who sells a terrific line of all-natural products," says Baird.

She immediately made an appointment, "which, by the way, I could not get for 11 weeks. So if you're going to ask me the name of this facialist, I will not tell you. Because I will not wait that long for my next appointment."

There's a small refrigerator tucked inside an etagere in actress Diahann Carroll's bedroom, stocked with whole milk. She doesn't drink the stuff, she bathes in it.

"It's not really as glamorous as it sounds," she says. "I dump two quarts of milk into the bathwater, along with some unscented vegetable oil. Years ago, a dermatologist recommended that I bathe in milk because my skin is lacking in fatty acids, and so ever since the '60s I've been doing this, twice a day."

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