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Makeup Aside, Billy Always Gets Her Goat

April 19, 1999|IRENE LACHER | Los Angeles Times

Courtney Thorne-Smith is the kind of famous face a girl could go shopping with. She's fresh faced and unintimidating, kind of a TV star next door. Of course, being unintimidating doesn't mean she wasn't unintimidated when she was courted by a major cosmetics company for a one-year contract.

"When I first got a call and they said, 'It's Revlon,' I thought, 'I couldn't stand next to Cindy Crawford in a picture. Then they said, 'It's Almay.' Oh, thank God. Thank God because I could do the pictures alone."

Who couldn't relate? (OK, not counting Pamela Anderson Lee.) These days, the "Ally McBeal" co-star really is a girl's best friend. That's because her new gig as the face of Almay means she's a walking drugstore.

"I do nothing but yammer at my friends about how they have to try it. Luckily Almay sends me big boxes of stuff so I can hand it all out. I'm very popular all of a sudden among all my friends."

That's because there's nothing better on the planet than free makeup. Ask any Oscar winner which was more fun to tote home--her little golden date or her goody bag?

"Free makeup is so much better, but it's worth it even if you have to buy it," Thorne-Smith says, batting her Almay mascar-ed eyelashes prettily.

The actress has been navigating the halls of L'Ermitage Hotel in Beverly Hills like a foreign potentate who's taken over a wing. For most of the day, Thorne-Smith moves from suite to suite in her Manolo Blahnik kitten heels to meet the press with her Almay handlers.

We caught up with her over a morning cup of tea (hers) and high-test coffee (ours). She talked about how women react differently to the two television characters she's known for--Georgia, the cuckolded lawyer on "Ally McBeal" who's married to a guy named Billy, and Alison , the flaky "Melrose Place" resident who dates another guy named Billy.

"I get treated differently, which is interesting. With 'Ally,' women treat me almost like a peer, like they relate to Georgia quietly, like they seem to feel her pain. Whereas with Alison, people were yelling at me to get it together, with Georgia, there's just a ton of compassion. Whatever show I'm on, people are mad at Billy."

Fortunately, in real life, she's marrying Andy. Thorne-Smith and Andy Conrad are planning a June 2000 wedding. She met the genetic scientist of her dreams on a blind date after she swore she'd never go on another blind date.

"As an actress, a blind date isn't a reality. It isn't blind for them. It's blind for me. It's not fair. And my brother-in-law, who is so uninvested in anything romantic, wanted to set me up, and only from him would I do it. Because it was just so odd that he would be trying at all."

What does the actress have in common with the scientist? Among other things, actor friends. His.

"He grew up in Malibu and he has many more friends who are actors than I do. His best friend is Rob Estes from 'Melrose Place.' I spend more time with actors from 'Melrose Place' now than I did when I was working on the show."

After Thorne-Smith sorts out the caterer and the flowers, she has another nuptial conundrum to grapple with. What does a good second-generation feminist do with her hyphenated last name when she's presented with yet another last name?

"It's so long, isn't it? Thorne-Smith-Conrad. That's an ongoing debate. My mother gave her maiden name to my sister and me as our middle name, which is Thorne. And then when I became an adult and joined [the Screen Actors Guild], I changed it to Thorne-Smith to honor both families. I hyphenated it. My mother was already hyphenated.

"I think it's romantic to take Andy's name, but Courtney Conrad is a little perky. And he calls me Corky. No one can ever call me Corky Conrad. I just can't go there. But I think Smith-Conrad is a really beautiful name. Today that's what I'm thinking. Tomorrow may be different."

Irene Lacher's Out & About column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on Page 2. She can be reached by e-mail at

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