Wednesday, November 18, 2020

MGM, Louie B. Mayer, and the Star Factory is very much part of The Maybelline Story


My Grandfather, Andrew Mac Donald, known as Mac at MGM started his career in 1915 at Metro Pictures and when Metro joined Goldwyn and Mayer he continued working in the construction department and went on to oversee 7 departments altogether.  Upon his retirement in 1968, MGM gave him this beautiful pin and a gold watch for his lifetime service. He was a Motion Picture and Special Effects Pioneer for over 55 years.

Mac, shown in his white overalls, ran the construction department at MGM. His crew was responsible for building every set and sound stage at the Studio. He was closely connected with Louie B. Mayer and was known for always coming in under budget, after Cedric Gibbons, MGM's Art Directer, gave him the set designs to be used for a picture. I'm very proud of My MGM roots and love this amazing piece of Film Industry History. 
My Great uncle Tom Lyle Williams, founder of the Maybelline Company in 1915 also had a history with MGM and Louie B. Mayer.

Louis B. Mayer, the Godfather of The Hollywood Star System, created Super Stars out of starlets. But not without the help of Tom Lyle Williams and Maybelline.

The star system was the method of creating, promoting and exploiting movie stars in Classical Hollywood cinema.

MGM was one of the most powerful and most prestigious of all the major motion picture studios.

Studios would select promising young actresses and glamorise and create personas for them, often inventing new names and even new backgrounds.

Louis B. Mayer, the most powerful , highest paid man in Hollywood, created the Hollywood myth, "that anything is possible, regardless of class or money."  He didn't want real life scandals to tarnish that dream, and diminish his audiences. 

The star system put an emphasis on the image rather than the acting. Women were expected to behave like ladies, and were never to leave the house without makeup and stylish clothes.

Part of creating the ideal image of emerging stars, was to promote them in Maybelline ads,

Jean Harlow on the cover of Picture Play, would also appear in a Maybelline ad inside the magazine.

Tom Lyle Williams kept his private life hidden from public scrutiny, to protect Maybelline's image.  However, he was as big, if not bigger, than any Hollywood Studio head and like Louis B. Mayer,  created Super Stars, by  grooming and promoting them in Maybelline advertisements.  

Jean Harlow, illustrated in a Maybelline ad, appeared in all the popular gossip, Hollywood movie magazines, in the early 1930s.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Beautiful On His Own Terms: Maybelline Started In Chicago By LGBT Pioneer


 Maybelline cosmetics was invented right here in Chicago by a man who, only after his death, would come to be known as the LGBT business pioneer that he was.
Maybelline Origins

EDGEWATER — New information offers to answer the age-old question: Was she born with it, or was it Maybelline?
As it turns out, the namesake of Maybelline makeup was indeed born with eyelashes and eyebrows — until she bleached them to the point of oblivion. 
The woman for whom the famous makeup brand is named, Edgewater resident Mabel Williams, accidentally over-bleached her lashes and brows one day, forcing her to make due with what she had: Vaseline and coal powder.
Her brother, Tom Lyle Williams, discovered his sister applying the concoction to her face in a way he'd only known Hollywood's most dazzling starlets to do.
Two years later, a cosmetics empire was born.
That's according to Sharrie Williams, the great-niece of Maybelline's founder Tom Lyle Williams and author of "The Maybelline Story And The Family Dynasty Behind It."
The author said there have been several versions of the brand's story circulated over the years, but Mabel's own daughter recently confirmed it was a serendipitous over-bleaching that led to the brand's invention.
The three-story building at 5900 N. Ridge Ave. that housed the company's headquarters for more than 50 years is still emblazoned with a cursive "M" above a street-facing entry. 
But Maybelline's Chicago roots, and Tom Williams' legacy as a pioneering — and fearfully closeted — gay entrepreneur have mostly been forgotten. 
With the help of Williams' book and a new exhibit featuring Maybelline's early days at the Edgewater Historical Society, the true story of her great-uncle and the family's history now is emerging.
Interest has piqued so much that Williams is also in talks with Sony Entertainment over a potential television series on Tom Williams' life, she said.
"It's just beginning to get a little bit of an understanding of who he was," she said. "He really wanted to stay hidden because of the shame that was put on him, and he didn't want it to reflect on the family."
"Only after he died, really, could his story be told."
Tom Lyle Williams and his sister Mabel, for whom the business was eventually named and who served as Tom's original inspiration. [Provided/Sharrie Williams]
'The most handsome man' and his makeup
After seeing his sister coloring in her brows and lashes after the accident, Tom Williams asked if there were any beauty products on the market that could perform the same function. 
Though skin creams, rouge and lipstick were all big sellers, eye makeup had to that point largely been ignored, he learned. 
With a friend and a chemistry set, in 1915 Williams created his first product: Lash-Brow-Ine.
Williams was sued for the Lash-Brow-Ine name and its likeness to similar products. In 1917, he changed the name to Maybelline, after his sister.
For a time his budding business was headquartered at 4750 N. Sheridan Road in Uptown, but it moved to 5900 N. Ridge Ave., where Williams developed the distinct black makeup "cakes" that would put him on the map.
Chicago in the 1910s and roaring 1920s was the perfect place and time to launch a business that made Hollywood's exuberance and glamour seem accessible to everyday women.
It also made it easier for Tom Williams, an eccentric man and sharp dresser who flaunted his money with custom cars, fabulous clothing and his own makeup, to be himself to some extent, his great-niece said. 
In a larger world that did not yet understand LGBT people, jazzy Chicago was a safe place to fit in. 
"In the '20s, it was flamboyant in general, with the speakeasies and all the crime going on and the front pages, it was just a lot of drama," Williams said. Tom Williams "was kind of known for wearing his own makeup, hats and llama skin coats.
"My grandmother, when she first met him, said he was the most handsome man she'd ever seen."
An original Maybelline cake tin. [Provided/Sharrie Williams]
"Everyone had to be in the closet"
Tom Williams' family grappled with his relationship with beau Emery Shaver. 
While some were accepting, others staunchly denied any allegations the cosmetics founder was in a loving union with another man.
Williams said her family always knew her great-uncle was "different" but lacked the context and societal acceptance to fully understand or come to terms with his sexuality. 
When the Great Depression hit and the era of glitz and grandeur began to fade, the Williams family had a more difficult time blending in. 
In 1934, Tom Williams had a custom car like one he'd seen at the The Chicago World's Fair delivered to Maybelline's Edgewater offices, infuriating the people starving and scrounging around them. 
Tom's flamboyancy in attire and attitude also put a target on his back during a time when the government was conducting nationwide "witch hunts" to keep gay men from influencing the public, in particular women, his great-niece said.
Tom Williams suddenly found himself in a dangerous place.
"There were not designers like there are today that were gay and out in the '20s and '30s — it just wasn't done," Williams said.
Eventually, he and Shaver picked up and headed West to California, where Tom Williams bought Rudolph Valentino's former home in Hollywood Hills.
There, among the Hollywood types he aspired to rub elbows with, Tom Williams could be with his love and had beautiful women to hide behind.
Iconic actresses like Betty Grable and Viola Dana became the faces of Maybelline. In a signed photo, Joan Crawford said it was the eye makeup she "would never be without."
Like countless other LGBT pioneers throughout history, Tom Williams is virtually unknown despite founding one of the world's most famous makeup brands.
"It's a story you don't hear about because everyone had to be in the closet," said Andrew Clayman, creator of the Made in Chicago Museum that contains original Maybelline products. "So the LGBT community doesn't really have these pioneers of industry, when really they were there, probably in the same percentage as anybody else."
Tom Lyle Williams and Emery Shaver in front of their Hollywood home. [Provided/Sharrie Williams]
"When everything exploded"
In 1964 Shaver died and Tom Williams soon after sold the company to Plough Inc., a pharmaceutical company.
"That's when everything exploded," Williams said.
Despite a promise to keep the company in Chicago and to retain its workers, Plough moved Maybelline to Little Rock, Ark., where for the remainder of Tom Williams' life he watched his company swell into a beauty conglomerate. 
Old, alone and unwell, he also looked on in dismay as his family lavishly spent money from the makeup empire as he watched it transform from the company he built, Williams said. 
In retrospect, he regretted selling it and wished he had groomed another family member to be his successor.
"He was very sad seeing the way Plough was changing everything," his great-niece said. 
Tom Williams died in 1976 at age 80.
Today the company is owned by L'Oreal and known as "Maybelline New York" — "almost as if to spite Chicago," Clayman said.
Maybelline now tells a very different origin story. According to Maybelline today, Tom Williams' sister, spelled "Maybel," had been "in love with a man who was in love with someone else" and trying different beauty regiments to lure him.
"The rest is history," the company writes. 
And under Williams' tenure, history was indeed made: Maybelline was the first cosmetics brand to plug advertisements over radio, offer before and after photos in ads, utilize the faces of movie stars to drum up publicity and use someone other than the founder's name.
Thanks to the younger Williams' book and supplemental research from Clayman, that story is now being told.
"It's a part of American history, and it's just been brushed under the rug," Williams said.
The Maybelline building in 1932 [Sharrie Williams]The Maybelline building today [Sharrie Williams]An "M" is still engraved above the Ridge Avenue door frame. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]The former Maybelline building at 5900 N. Ridge Ave. in Edgewater [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

 Maybelline cosmetics was invented right here in Chicago by a man who, only after his death, would come to be known as the LGBT business pioneer that he was.
Maybelline Origins

The Maybelline building today [Sharrie Williams]An "M" is still engraved above the Ridge Avenue door frame. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]The former Maybelline building at 5900 N. Ridge Ave. in Edgewater [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

Saturday, October 24, 2020

The Origin Story of Why We Call It "Vampy" Beauty


The Origin Story of Why We Call It "Vampy" Beauty

Image may contain Skin Face Human Person Cosmetics Lipstick and Kristen Stewart
Chanel/YSL/Getty Images

Going vamp is as much of a fall tradition as grabbing a Pumpkin Spice Latte or re-watching Hocus Pocus with a litter of black and orange candy wrappers scattered down your shirt front. But while a lot of people love to uncap the plum lipstick once the air goes crisp, not a lot of people know what vamp actually means.

The term caught fire in 1935, when an edition of Vogue featured Turkish women outlining their eyes into heavy, almond shapes. Women took notice and embraced the “vamp” look — which took the name because of the similarity between the eyes in the glossy pages and the dark-lined eyes of a vampire.

But prior to Vogue popularizing the phrase, vamps came before flappers in the 1910s, and they were the original bad girls of the generation. Called the "slinking sisterhood with the deadly eyes,” they smeared on red lipstick and painted their eyes soot-black, transforming themselves into a dangerous female archetype: bloodthirsty, and more than happy to separate men from their money with no lack of finesse, sucking them dry. In Greenwich Village, they would throw on their leopard skin coats, Parisian pumps with white anklet socks, and head out into cafe society, seeing which man they could wrap around their finger for the evening. They would party all night and sleep all day, just like the undead, but their penchant for champagne cocktails wasn't their defining feature — their predatory eyes were.

Magazines and movies painted them as unnatural, with carmined lips and beauty spots, drooping eyes that gazed through heavy lashes, and long jade earrings accessorizing their ears. “Oh the vamp, she's a witch, she's a terror, she's a menace. She's the one who leads our men astray,” a female reader wrote into the Oakland Tribune in 1922. “They are little helpless darlings."


But women enjoyed that. Vamps thought it was no less than men deserved, especially seeing how they were the daughters of repressed Victorian mothers. Theda Bara, one of the original vampires with her dark-rimmed eyes and wild curling hair said, “The vampire that I play is the vengeance of my sex upon its exploiters. You see, I have the face of a vampire, but the heart of a feministe.”

Image may contain Theda Bara Human Person Skin Accessories Accessory and Bead
Theda Bara in the 1917 movie Cleopatra. Photo by: (Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images)Universal History Archive / Getty Images

Theda Bara alone could be credited with starting the vamp trend — before appearing on the flickering screen of black and white movies, she was just Theodosia Goodman, a Jewish girl from Cincinnati, Ohio. But once she starred with heavily kohled eyes in movies like A Fool There Was, she became Theda Bara — quite literally an anagram for “Arab Death.” Images of faraway castles, coffin beds, and powerful women paralyzing respectable men started circulating, and women were into it.

It became a modern pastime among them, where most girls took it up “along with their algebra and their high school French, and are post-graduates by the time they reach their coming-out parties. The man who looks into a pair limpid, innocent debutante eyes is looking into the eyes of a skilled amateur vamp, whether he knows it or not,” Miami News wrote in 1931. Ads and magazines helped to push the aesthetic, where popular movie magazines like Photoplay featured heavily shadowed eyes that looked up from underneath black lashes, and Maybelline ran ads with dense, almost spidery lashes with blood red lips.

It was all very glamorous, and women were both fascinated with and wanted to be them, while men both loved and feared them. And rightfully so. The first vamp to ever make it into the court system found herself on the defendant side because of a philandering man's wife. The vamp charged up “a $15,990 account against her husband in three short months, and left him with nothing but her bills as a keepsake.” In 1921 that was the equivalent of $218,000! They were meant to be calculating, cold-hearted women, and many enjoyed playing the character.

It was so out of control, that people thought laws would soon be turning out of Congress to regulate these women. Police were instructed to hunt the streets for them, forcibly washing off their painted cheeks if caught. They were such a threat to men that one Newark judge even appealed to the Director of Public Safety to create a “Vampire’s Gallery,” which was quite literally a hall of mug shots, just filled with sulky-eyed sirens.

“By stern public posting of naughty eyes that will not behave, of hair that is too golden, of cheeks that are too pink, the Magistrate hopes to rid his town of the flirtie girlies and make that part of the world safe for domesticity,” New York's The Evening World reported in 1919. They were monsters hiding in plain sight, and you could cross paths with them anywhere if you weren’t careful, from your "chum's sister's fudge party" or during a "clinging waltz at Mrs. Gotrox's ball." She was lethal because she was the I-understand-you-and-no-one-else-does sort, and once she got you under her spell and "drunk her fill of triumph she will step back and disappear, like a genuine ghost-vampire in the gray of the dawn."

In a way, every time we put on vamp makeup, we pay tribute to these women — which explains why so many of us feel powerful, slicking on so-plum-it’s-almost-black lipstick or layer on smoky eyeshadow. It makes you feel like a femme fatale, and that archetype comes from a place of anger-turned-power. Just look at recent beauty campaigns featuring vampy looks, and you’ll notice the same merciless determined glare.

They’re vampires, and they won’t be messed with — much like us everytime we uncap a blood-red lipstick. The women of 1910 made sure of it.