FIRE AND ICE
The Story of Charles Revson - the Man Who Built the Revlon Empire.
"Women Are Liars and Cheats"
"When you own a $2 million apartment at the Pierre
and you close the door behind you and you're alone -- you are alone."
-- Dave Kreloff,
Beset by deep-seated insecurities, Revson was a different man in many respects from the
image he chose to project. Manly, stern, tough, crude -- much of this was a front. He had
an almost pathetic yearning at times to be a warmer, more accepted person. When Lester
Herzog was dying of cancer and someone reminded Charles how much it would mean to him if
he would only call or visit, he replied, in the most touching way, "Joe, I know. I
just can't." He bought Ancky a "beautiful, gorgeous diamond bracelet" (as
she described it); but rather than present it to her directly, he turned and handed it to
Helen Meresman. "Do you think Ancky will like this?" he asked. He was
embarrassed by his own warmth. He once did manage to compliment an executive on a job well
done -- jaws dropped -- then said: "There. I did it. Now don't ask me to do it
His emotional straitjacket, like his extraordinary drive, stemmed from insecurities the
basis of which are not hard to imagine. His size, his lack of athletic prowess, the
femininity of the products he always seemed to be selling (ladies' shoes, dresses,
cosmetics), the nail enamel he wore, his self-styled "sensitivity,'' his hypochondria
-- reasons aplenty to have to prove oneself a man. (As for the classic cause of
male insecurity, however, Chares felt so secure he was able to joke about it. A magnifying
mirror was affixed to the toilet in the guest men's room of his Park Avenue triplex, such
that anyone relieving himself would come away with greatly renewed self-esteem) Then there
were his growing up Jewish among Gentiles, his lack of education or polish, his tenement
upbringing, the narrowness of his interests -- added to whatever less obvious reasons he
may have had to feel insecure, it was a lot for a man on the forty-ninth floor of New
York's General Motors Building to cope with. (He would have been on the top -- the
fiftieth-floor had not the hum of rooftop air conditioners led him completely to revise
the corporate floor plan midway through construction.) He was even insecure about his
breath, gargling Cepacol by the gallon. And he would do anything to avoid embarrassment.
He drove all over Manhattan before a formal dinner once to find Mandel proper shoes to go
with his tuxedo -- not because he was a perfectionist or because he felt badly for Mandel
(who had thought black loafers would suffice), but because he didn't want to be
embarrassed by Mandel's gaffe.
His insecurities fell roughly into two sets: those that led to the striving for
manliness and those that led to a striving for class. He would be rough and crude to be
one of the boys; proper and genteel to be classy. The friction between these not entirely
compatible sets of insecurities must have generated some psychological heat. And sometimes
the wrong set got the upper hand. At a small luncheon in his honor in Chicago, which
included Mayor Daley, top financiers and retailers, a leading clergyman and the publisher
of the Chicago American, he discarded the well-chosen words that had been prepared
for him and -- perhaps taking his cue from Daley's own tough-guy image or from the
all-male composition of the group -- launched into a fond reminiscence of his early days
in Chicago. What Charles remembered best about Chicago, he said, was Carrie Finnell, who,
he needn't have reminded his audience (but did, at length), could twirl her betassled
bazooms in opposite directions simultaneously. (Much harder than walking and chewing gum.)
He also remembered the Windy City beauticians he had bedded in the course of his work.
It was a disaster, this speech, and from the same man who had what Mandel called
"a mortal fear of embarrassment."
(In another speech once he was doing beautifully until he got onto the idea of how he
wished he could be nine people instead of just one, and thereby get involved with even
more of the goings on of the company. That started him musing about what it would be like
to have nine penises, and it was all down hill from there.)
Insecure, Revson hid behind his business in a world he created for himself, venturing
outside only with trepidation, sticking closely to established routines and familiar
places and, as far as possible, taking his environment with him. Riding down in the office
elevator he seemed almost to shrink into himself. Up there, he was king of the mountain.
Outside, he was alone.
He was lonely because he couldn't open up; he couldn't open up because he didn't trust
people; and he didn't trust people because he wouldn't believe they liked him -- or even
could like him.
He felt eternally ill at ease, with strangers especially. Arriving, alone, at Kay
Daly's for a party, he sent his driver in to ask: "Is this a good time for Mr.
Revson to arrive?" He was nervous, unsure he was really wanted and anxious to have a
familiar face greet him at the door. (It was his way, also, of demanding special
The years between his estrangement from Ancky and his marriage to Lyn were, with the
year of his death, the loneliest. "I don't know how many times I walked the
streets and had dinner with him because he had no place to go," Mandel says."
But even married he was a lonely man. His wives did not share his life -- his life was his
business, and they were carefully excluded. He had never learned to make friends with
women -- they served a different purpose. He married three times. Lester Herzog, Bill
Heller, and Jack Friedman, one after the other, were the people he was closest to.
(Mandel's was strictly a business relationship, and a competitive one at that.)
He would become comfortable by establishing himself in a dominant position. A
straightforward, giving, peer relationship was very difficult. "He didn't know
how to love," governess Katie Lowery believes. His love, like the rest of his life,
was reduced to routine. For months he would call Boochie at Deerfield every night at
exactly 10:15 (until Boochie finally asked him not to call so much and, wounded, he
stopped calling altogether). He went about lovemaking, women who slept with him said, as
though he were going through an exercise class: ten minutes of this, fifteen of that, five
of the other, orgasm, no repeats, off to the showers. Whether this was true where his
wives were concerned, one has not the temerity to ask. But it would not have been out of
character. "Everybody should pace themselves," he believed of intercourse as of
everything else. He was a man of control, not passion. In his youth, embarrassed by his
sexual naivete, he told one woman, he had paid a professional to help him improve his
technique. He was so... practical. "Marry a Eurasian," he advised an
associate. "They make the best wives." "Any man can wear out three wives in
a lifetime," he told another. When Eugenia Sheppard asked him at dinner one evening
on the yacht what he thought of women, he said: "I think they're all 1iars and
cheats." "It's not one of my favorite anecdotes," Ms. Sheppard says,
"because I liked him very much. But I think it was an insight to his character."
His view of women and wives was at best utilitarian. Under the slogan, "You don't
hire a man, you hire a family," Revlon wives in the fifties were summoned to special
"wives clinics," at which they were told of their husbands: "If he
doesn't feel like playing bridge or is too tired to go to the movies, you get your
bridge-playing and movie-seeing in during the afternoons. If he gets home most nights too
late to see the children, let them stay up now and then and make it up with longer naps in
the afternoon -- it won't kill them. If he has a lot of paperwork to do, learn to type if
you don't know how, and then give him a hand with the reports if he wants the
"Woman in the abstract he idolized," an associate from the forties feels
certain. "He put her on a pedestal and paid tribute. But individually, women
were to be trampled on and cast away like you would a cigarette." He had,
incidentally, the unusual habit of calling women -- and referring to them -- by their last
names. Even those he knew well.
Writing of blue-collar workers in The New York Times Book Review, a Boston
psychiatrist said: "They hate Jews and blacks and homosexuals and people on welfare.
They hate protestors and do-gooders and outsiders. But more than anyone or anything else,
what they really hate most is women. They spend much of their time pursuing women, but in
their heart of hearts there is a dim rage at the claims of lust on their emotional freedom
. . ."* Charles did not come from a typically blue-collar background -- he certainly
did not hate Jews -- but the essence of the statement seems to apply. "I don't
know," says Mandel, "But guys who like whores have an unconscious hatred of
women." Why else would he, upon finishing with two women at the Beverly Hills Hotel,
throw their money on the floor?
At Old Oaks Country Club one afternoon, two competent women golfers, mother and
daughter, happened to arrive at the first tee at the same time as Revson, the pro, Harry
Meresman, and Victor Barnett. Because any golfer knows that two women play faster than
four men, the younger woman naturally quickened her pace to tee off first and get out of
the foursome's way. Revson, enraged, said, "What do you think you're doing? .... I'm
teeing off as quickly as possible to get out of your way," she said. "No, you're
not," Revson snapped, and proceeded to tee off ahead of her, followed by his three
partners. As he started off down the fairway, he turned back to the woman and snarled.'
"This club is for men, you know."
His definition of the male and female roles was exceedingly rigid, even by pre-lib
standards. He, Ancky, and the omnipresent Lester Herzog were taking John out in his
carriage. Charles, to be chivalrous, was helping Ancky push. But when Ancky and Lester
gradually fell behind, as a joke, and Charles realized that he was pushing the pram all by
himself, he flushed with embarrassment. "What are you doing to me?" he
whined. Thirty years later, when the ladies on the Ultima II asked that some
romantic titles be included in the fare of nightly films shown on board, he overruled
them. His taste ran strictly to good guy/bad guy shoot-'em-ups. Among the paperbacks in
the Ultima II library were Trail Smoke ("No man is bigger than a .45
slug"), Law Man ("A blood-mad town and a condemned law man"), and The
Texan ("When they took away his badge, they enforced the law -- with blazing
With his parents both long gone, Joseph and Martin out of the company, the boys off at
Deerfield, Lester married and Ancky actually going through with the divorce, in the spring
of 1960 Charles relied for companionship most heavily on Bill Heller and then George Beck.
Heller first showed up at Revlon in 1948, in a powder-blue suit and light suede shoes.
His hair was solidly greased and he sported a thin mustache. He looked a little shady, and
people described him as "crude," but he had a mind for figures and a great
desire to get ahead. Soon the powder blues had been mothballed and Heller was going to the
same tailor as Charles, the same shirt-maker, the same accountant, the same lawyer, the
same doctor, the same dentist, and eventually to the same Rolls-Royce dealer. (He got a
sizable chunk of Revlon stock at the public offering.) To make the transformation
complete, and to please Charles, he divorced his first wife and moved into Manhattan. ("Careful,
Bill," Charles would occasionally say, in front of others, "the Brooklyn's
As Lester had, Heller would eagerly do anything for Charles. He waited around the
office every day until "C. R." was ready to leave, often went out to eat
with him, served as his "beard" (so Charles could pass off as Heller's
the girl he was with), ran out for sandwiches, carried the money and the margarine,
secured and paid off women, took the wiretapping rap, wrote Johnny's term papers for
Deerfield -- anything. If he wasn't as altruistic in his devotion to Charles as Lester had
been, Charles didn't seem to notice. Heller became his closest companion -- not to mention
secretary/treasurer of Revlon, and then head of its international operations. It
was not your standard intercorporate relationship, as might prevail between the chairman
and the international vice president of General Motors or Xerox, but neither was Revlon
your standard corporation.
For ten years Heller's life was simple. Then in 1959 he met Iris Segal. They fell in
love. Suddenly Heller found himself torn between two much stronger, more talented people,
each vying mightily for his devotion. It took him all of three years to collapse and die
under the strain.
Heller was forty-seven when he met Iris, then vice president and director of Seligman
& Latz, the leading beauty salon operator (headquartered, like Revlon, at 666 Fifth
Avenue). Charles had known Iris from that day in 1933 he had come to Seligman & Latz
looking for his $48. He respected her success and ability; but because he didn't want her
breaking up his relationship with Bill, he was given to making derogatory remarks behind
her back. He told several of his executives to try to discourage Heller from seeing her.
Bill, for his part, was so terrified of displeasing Charles -- and, incidentally,
jeopardizing his chances for the top spot in Revlon's international division -- that he
underplayed considerably the love he felt for Iris. He didn't mention, for example, that
they had gone off and gotten married.
They had done this secretly in a town that did not require that legal notice be
published in the papers. Bill pretended he was still just dating Iris as Charles
enumerated all the reasons he shouldn't marry her. He hadn't the nerve to come to his
wife's defense. Months later, after the international job was his, Heller announced the
second, public ceremony. Rather than face Charles directly with the news, however, he
wrote him a letter and ran off on a business trip.
"Charles called me up to the office," Sid Fread, who was financial vice
president at the time, remembers, "and he acted like he had gotten a Dear John
letter. It was the most amazing thing I had seen in my life. He turned to Jerry Juliber
and said: 'It isn't that he couldn't tell me himself -- he has to write me a letter, like
he don't know me. He writes me a letter! Look at this! Look! Go find me a
new head of international.'"
Eventually, Charles cooled off. Bill was kept on as head of international and as
Charles's very close friend. Charles was even best man at the (second) wedding. But now
things were more complicated. Even bizarre. At the wedding, for example, in front of the
ark at Central Synagogue in New York, Rabbi Seligson performed a standard Jewish ceremony
in which the bride and groom each take a sip of wine. At the conclusion of the ceremony,
as they were preparing to leave the chapel, Charles leaned over and drank the rest of the
wine. "Evidently he was thirsty," Iris says. "The fact that it was a
ceremonial glass deterred him not one whit. And I looked at the rabbi and he said to me --
he was a very funny man -- he said, 'Do you, Iris, take thee, Bill and Charles ...'
Because he had never seen them apart."
After the wedding, Charles may not have demanded from Bill more than his standard
measure of fanatical devotion, but it seemed for all the world to the newly betrothed Mrs.
Heller that her old friend Charles was doing his best to break up her marriage. (As he
had, for example, broken up Lester's first marriage.) "Charles," she even claims
to have confronted him once, "are you trying to break up our marriage?"
"Yes," he replied.
He was forever calling Bill at home -- "the call of the wild," the Hellers
used to call it -- and, naturally, whenever Charles went abroad, he expected the head of
his international operation to come with him. Not for business reasons so much as to keep
him company. They enjoyed gambling and kept joint safe-deposit boxes in some of Europe's
finest hotels. Bill would do much of the betting, with Charles looking on, under an
arrangement whereby he would get to keep 20 percent of their winnings but sustain none of
the losses. Winnings were left abroad to avoid taxes.
They were given to other vices as well, which led Iris to place detectives on Bill's
trail, and then to write poison pen letters to a number of Left Bank bar girls. "Iris
was a brilliant woman," a contemporary notes, "but rough -- rougher than the
Revsons." Charles later assigned one of his own vice presidents to track down and
retrieve some of the letters.
It was a highly charged situation, and it took its toll.
"I was married twenty-five years the first time," Iris recalls,
"and only twenty-five months the second time. [To Bill.] It was a rather tempestuous
marriage. Bill would get calls from Charles at two in the morning asking him to come down
to his apartment. He used to tell me it was because Charles wanted to discuss something,
but later he admitted that Charles used to get midnight frights." Iris says Bill
would sometimes sleep with Charles in his huge bed -- a matter not of sex but of
loneliness. On such occasions Bill would come home with a little 'chr' monogram on his
shirt instead of the 'wdh' he had left with. (Their shirts were in other respects
identical.) Charles's loneliness could be acute. "One night he called from Premium
Point," Iris says, "and I heard his voice. It was a strange kind of -- almost a
sob -- resentment thing in his voice about being alone. My Bill had a cold ... the snow
was up to your navel ... Charles didn't know we were married at the time, I'll give him
that. Anyway, I drove up there with Bill and then I drove back. The last thing I could see
was Bill trudging in that snow up the hill to the house to be with Charles, and that was
one of the nights he came back with another shirt. It was pathetic."
Iris's memory may be colored by her readily acknowledged hatred of Charles Revson --
mellowed though it has been by a dozen years and by their earlier long-standing
friendship. But the gist of her story is entirely consistent with those told by others who
were intensely loyal.
The upshot of all Bill's trudging and traveling and trying to keep Charles happy and
trying to keep Iris happy was a massive coronary. He had recently returned from a trip to
the Orient with Charles, then flew off for Mexico and Chicago with Iris. He was going to
Chicago for a job interview. He had decided, with a good deal of prodding, to abandon the
Revlon life-style -- it was killing him. Their plane was due back around seven, but the
weather caused delays. Charles called Bill's number-two man in the international division,
Sid Stricker: "Where's Bill?" Stricker told him that Bill was on his way back
from Chicago. "Chicago? What the hell's he doing in Chicago? He told me
he was going for a weekend in Acapulco." When Bill finally did get in, around
midnight, he phoned Stricker and told him he felt "tired, real tired," but that
he'd be in the next morning for their eleven o'clock meeting.
"That night, when he got into bed," Iris remembers, "he expressed
exhaustion and I said, 'Promise me that you won't go in tomorrow -- at least not until the
hour that Charles goes in.'" But it didn't do any good. Bill apparently was terrified
not to make an appearance and to say he was tired -- at forty-nine you do not say you're
tired, you just march on. When he got to the office that morning, he was feeling pain in
his back. He called Steiner, who instructed him to come to his office. "I hooked
him up to the electrocardiogram machine," Steiner says, "and saw right away he
had had a heart attack. While he was here in the office, he went into what we call
ventricular fibrillation." Steiner didn't have the equipment to shock the heart back
into action. Within minutes Heller was dead.
Charles was distraught. Iris was disconsolate -- and very bitter. She was accusing him
of killing Bill -- of knowing about but concealing Bill's heart condition, and of driving
him mercilessly until he dropped. Charles was saying that Heller killed himself running
around the country trying to meet Iris. But he was shaken. He ordered Mandel to arrange a
meeting with the rabbi who was to perform the funeral service. In his paranoia, according
to Mandel, Charles was afraid Iris would get to the rabbi first and persuade him to say
that Charles had murdered Bill. "We talked for twenty or thirty minutes," Mandel
says, "and Charles was nervous. He fiddled with his glasses and his knuckles were
white on the armrest. We went through this whole thing about how wonderful his
relationship with Bill was and about Bill's value as a person and so on, and when the
rabbi left I said to Charles, 'Well, I've never done that before.' He said, 'What?' I
said, 'I never fixed a funeral.'"
And now life was lonelier than ever. Fortunately, there was George Beck to help fill
the void. George was a swinger among swingers. He was married five times. Indeed, he was
married to his second and third wives contemporaneously. One lived in Long Island, the
other in town, and neither knew about the other for nearly eight years. (There may even
have been another wife at this time also -- no one knows for sure.) Beck divorced
his third wife and then his second, in that order, to marry his fourth, who thought she
was only his second. John Revson was best man at that fourth wedding, in 1964; Charles
Revson gave away the bride and sponsored a champagne-and-caviar reception. The marriage
lasted until 1969. It was nine weeks after marrying his fifth wife on Christmas day, 1970,
that he (fifty-one) and she (thirty-one) were murdered in the nude aboard Beck's
fifty-seven-foot houseboat, the Bachaven (short for "Bachelor's Haven").
Some of his children met each other at his funeral for the first time. Even as this is
written, wife number four and one of Beck's former mistresses work in the same department
at Revlon. Their relationship is not warm.
(The murder remains unsolved. The sleeping couple were bludgeoned and stabbed so
violently that blood hit the ceiling. Valuables were left untouched. A team of detectives,
perhaps overwhelmed by the size of Beck's "little black book," got nowhere. A
psychic of sorts did appear after some months to announce that a civil servant named
Charles B. Stackhouse, whom he had never met, was their man. "Don't ask me how,"
the psychic explained, "I just know these things." An investigation
proved this accusation to be totally groundless. But in the meantime it so badly shook
Stackhouse that he committed suicide.)
Beck's remarkable life-style was facilitated by his good looks -- "the blond
Adonis," he was called, though his hair would go gray around the roots from time to
time; by his access to a twin-engine Beechcraft QueenAir that each financial official in
turn tried to persuade Charles to unload, but which George always managed to persuade him
to retain; and by his influence over Charles himself, the basis of which was a source of
He had joined the navy at seventeen and become a crack pilot. Tiring of the discipline
to which pilots had to conform, he attained a succession of highly social and comfortable
assignments, and after twenty years, aged only thirty-seven, was able to retire. Admiral
Halsey, retired also, took him on as his aide. It was when Charles met the Admiral on the
golf course that he met George Beck as well. The chemistry, apparently, was excellent.
George was one of those tuned in to Charles's wavelength. And being as calculating as he
was outgoing, George knew a good thing when he saw one. He was soon working for Revlon.
Just what he was doing for the company could not always be defined (any more than just
what he had been doing for the navy), but his services were valued highly and he had
himself a marvelous time.
Revson was drawn to Beck for his youth and good looks, his intelligence, his war
record, his self-confidence, his zest, his women, and his ability to get things done.
Others in the company were not nearly so enthusiastic. He and Mickey became great buddies
-- they were in much the same line of work, as it turned out. (A photo of George, Mickey,
and James L. Goddard, then chairman of the Food and Drug Administration, hangs in Mickey's
office.) But others resented his instant success and influence.
In the summer of 1960, when Charles first purchased his home in Premium Point (Ancky
having gotten the house in Rye as part of her settlement), he decided to commute to work
by seaplane. George was Charles's chief pilot. Charles persuaded his neighbor, Alfred
Perlman, then head of the New York Central Railroad, to allow him to establish
runners for his seaplane from the water up onto his beach. He saved twenty minutes'
commuting time in each direction -- and it was different (or ridiculous, depending
on your point of view). Charles was not one to do things like everybody else. When the
copilot crashed the plane into the East River on a practice flight one day, Revson
reverted to his chauffeured Rolls-Royce. But George still had the much more substantial
Beechcraft QueenAir to fly around in. (It was this plane he used each weekend to fly down
to the houseboat in which he was killed.)
Technically, George should not have been flying at all. He was a diabetic. But he had
apparently learned, through a balance of insulin and a certain pill, to arrive at a
doctor's office symptom-less. Or else it may have been the financing he helped one of his
On a strictly business level, Beck was soon running a sales program to the military and
was later given charge over certain department stores. But George Beck's importance to
Charles lay elsewhere. One of his first assignments concerned Ancky. The Revsons had
agreed on their divorce settlement, but they remained on reasonably good terms. Charles
was still asking Ancky to reconsider; she would later say it was a case of "loving a
person but not being able to live with him." Anyway, she had agreed to wait a while
before actually considering the divorce final. It was Easter weekend, and Charles had
asked Bill Heller to have a special arrangement of flowers delivered to Ancky; it was very
important to make just the right impression. Word soon came that the florist had been
unable to deliver the flowers -- Mrs. Revson was not there to receive them. And the next
evening, according to Iris Heller, "We were all at dinner at his apartment in the
Pierre and the phone rang. It was Ancky. Charles went out to take the call and when he
returned he was in a blithering fury. Apparently, Ancky had asked him if he would like to
buy a set of Royal Doulton china with the letter 'R' and a set of crystal with the letter
'R' and some monogrammed silver -- and Charles, falling for it, said, 'Why?' And Ancky
said, 'Because I now have a crest. I am the Baroness Van Boythan, and he is younger than
Whatever the exact dialogue, the baron was real enough -- well, he was a fake,
actually, but Ancky had really gone out and married him. And this is where George Beck
comes in. Concerned that Ancky had rushed into something without knowing what she was
doing (which she had), concerned for his two boys and, one can only assume, spiteful -- as
Ancky must have been to marry this man in the first place -- Charles set George about
investigating the baron. By flying to Austria, wandering through graveyards and
photographing nursing homes, he was able to compile an extensive report.
Stephan Van Boythan, Beck found, had been born Otto Feldmann on April 2, 1907 (which
made him a mere six months Charles's junior), in Vienna. He had come to the United States
in May 1941, enlisted in the air corps and was honorably discharged as a private
first-class on December 21, 1944. "Service record," Beck's report read,
"reveals no disciplinary action and entries are routine. A national agency check is
essentially negative. Subject . . . pays a monthly rent of $400. He previously was
employed by Harry Winston, Inc. as a jewelry salesman, however he currently is
unemployed." There followed his passport number, his bank balance, and a photograph
of his mother, whom Beck had found in the Altersheim der Israelitischen Kultusgemeinde, a
charitably supported Jewish home for the aged. The "baron," Beck reported, had
been unwilling to provide the $100 a month in support the charitable home had requested,
but had agreed to contribute $38 a month. Neither his deceased father, Jacob Jack
Feldmann, nor his mother, the Czech-born Ernestine Benturn, made any claims to royalty.
The baron, according to one Beck intimate, was paid off to bug off. It was a very brief
marriage which Ancky makes no effort to conceal or defend.
George was too good at his work to leave many traces, but a reliable source states
categorically that he arranged, on Charles's behalf, for scores of bugs and wiretaps, both
in the office ("every major executive was tapped"), at homes, and at
various apartments Revlon executives had occasion to frequent. He would not actually place
most of the bugs himself; he would direct one of Revlon's security men to do the work.
"There is no question about it," this source states.
It was Beck, too, who helped mastermind the capture in mid-indiscretion of the third
Mrs. Revson ... but that came later. For the moment, Charles was very much a bachelor, and
George helped keep him company and keep him entertained. He channeled a great many
attractive women Charles's way. One was Cristina Austin, whom Beck was hoping might become
Cristina Revson but who became Cristina Ford (Henry's wife) instead. They did date for a
while and spent at least one weekend up at Premium Point. One of Charles's closest
associates at the time double-dated with them a couple of times, and says that "she
was the first woman who gave him a hard time. This was a woman with tremendous class
and elegance . . . she was so unlike Charles. She was the ultimate in refinement and she
wouldn't give him the time of day. I think that's what intrigued him about her."
Earlier, he had been intrigued by another sensational woman, Eartha Kitt. If Charles
was not in the forefront of equal-opportunity employers -- and he wasn't ("He was
terribly prejudiced,'' says one current, white Revlon executive) -- he was nonetheless
exceedingly turned on to Ms. Kitt. London, Puerto Rico, the Plaza -- the sets for their
rendezvous were as glamorous as the lady herself. But for fear of endangering Revlon's
image, especially with distributors in the South, the relationship was kept as quiet as
possible and terminated perhaps as much for business reasons as any other. One evidence of
his regard for the lady was a $28,000 diamond watch he had Bill Heller buy for her.
What George or Bill Heller couldn't come up with -- most of it much less glamorous and
sophisticated -- Billy Reid did. Billy Reid's Little Club was by far Charles's favorite
hangout when he outgrew Bill's Gay Nineties. It was described by one occasional patron as
"a high-class pimping academy."
It was only with his marriage to Lyn, in 1964, that his days as ladies'-man-about-town
came to an end. In the meantime, his most intense emotional relationships were probably
with his executives.
* Matthew P. Dumont, May 18, 1975, on Blue Collar Aristocrats by E. E.