"I did not like him."
As one of the largest advertisers in the fashion
business, Revlon's appetite for beautiful women was insatiable. Just as a great many of
New York's ad men and designers passed through Revlon's mill at one time or another, so
did a great many models. Candice Bergen was at school in Philadelphia when Revlon's Sandy
Buchsbaum "discovered" her and spread her across the pages of Vogue. Barbara
Feldon came rolling out of a rug in a commercial for Chemstrand when Revson happened to be
watching television. She was signed to an exclusive contract. (After three years with
Revlon, she became Get Smart Agent 99.) Mary Bacon was a jockey and, it
turned out later much to Revlon's embarrassment, a Ku Klux Klanswoman before she
became a "Charlie girl." Most models were sent to Revlon by agencies for
specific assignments. Model mogul Wilhelmina herself posed for Revlon. Just four women
Dorian Leigh and her sister Suzy Parker, Barbara Britton and Lauren Hutton
became so closely identified with the company over a period of years that they were, in
effect, "the Revlon girl."
Dorian Leigh, the stunning redhead in the Fire and Ice ad, was already a top
model when she did Fatal Apple, her first Revlon spread, in 1945. From then on
Revson considered her "lucky" and used her in shade promotion after shade
promotion. But he barely knew her while she was "the Revlon girl." "He only
became very very friendly with me," she says, "when I came to Europe and he came
here." In Europe still, running a restaurant she calls Chez Dorian about an hour
outside Paris, she says that in the fifties Revson became "very romantic"
with her but that he didn't get very far. "He was used to buying
everything he wanted," she says, as though writing jacket copy for a pulp novel,
"and in me he met someone he couldn't buy."
Still, there was the weekend in 1959 when she kept inviting him down to her place in
Portofino, letting it be known, according to one of those at lunch, that she was wearing
no bra. (In 1959 that made Ms. Leigh a swinger.) So they were at least, as she says,
"very very friendly."
"When I knew him," she says, "he couldn't make up his mind whether to
really divorce [Ancky]. He didn't want to divorce her until he found something better, you
see?" One candidate who apparently crossed his mind was Dorian herself an
excellent cook, very well spoken, cultivated, glamorous, and beautiful.
"The last time I saw him in Paris, in 1959," she says, "I was get married again. And he was advising me against it,
naturally. [Because he was interested himself? "Yes, that's right, more or
less."] And he sent me a tremendous thing of orchids I think probably there
must have been forty different varieties of orchids. I don't know where he bought it, but
a tremendous thing. And I called him up and said, 'Charles, that's just about the most
vulgar thing I ever saw in my life!' And he said, 'Well, I didn't want to send you the money
. . .'"
He did have a tendency to overdo. Having become so rich so fast, it would take him a
while to develop a light touch. When Barbara Britton, Revlon spokeswoman, opened on
Broadway in Thee and Me, co-starring Derwood Kirby, Charles sent two enormous, waist-high
vases of roses. "One would really have been more than enough." Ms. Britton can't
help smiling. Particularly as the play closed that same night.
Later, when she and Revlon parted on friendly terms after twelve years, she got not so
much as a thank-you note from Charles. She was no longer important to the business, so
what was the point? "I must admit I was a little bit piqued," she says.
She had, in the early years, been anchoring nine commercials a week: three each on The
$64,000 Question, The $64,000 Challenge, and The Walter Winchell File. Models
would play out the scenes in the ads, but she did all the talking. In her busiest year she
earned $130,000 more than twice what the president of TWA was making. Her work load
diminished after the quiz-show era passed, and when taped commercials replaced live. But
her famous line "If it's the finest of its kind it's by Revlon Revlon
London, Paris and New York' opened The Ed Sullivan Show week after week.
"And now here's the star of our show," she would continue, a gracious
version of jolly Ed McMahon, "Ed Sullivan?'
While Barbara was integrity-grace-and- beauty on television, Suzy Parker was the same,
only with a dollop of elegant come-hither thrown in, in print. Born "Cecilia"
Parker (in 1932), she now lives in California with her husband, actor Bradford Dillman.
She became an even better-known model than her older sister, Dorian. Life magazine
devoted a cover to her in 1957, and no less an authority than The New York Times, in
their obituary of Kay Daly, incorrectly credited her with the Fire and Ice ad.
Charles was wild for Suzy Parker, at least professionally. "They don't make combos
like that anymore," he said of the two sisters. But when B.B.D.&O., the ad
agency, suggested that she be put under exclusive contract a novel concept
at the time he said no. The agency was talking about a lot of money; Charles
wouldn't even throw out a counteroffer. "He thought I should be working for
the sheer joy of working for Revlon," she says. Her $120-an-hour fee might have been
more than fair for most kinds of work, but these Revlon shade promotions involved a
single session, three or four hours, and that was the ad for the season. "So I
finally said screw him," she says. "The next time they wanted me for an ad I
said no thank you. Then the war was on. He hated me. He absolutely hated me. He said, 'I
can't stand the girl's face, I don't want to see it anymore.' Which was okay by me
I had other accounts and I was interested in movies.
"As time went on it became really very funny. They did this particular
Cleopatra ad and shot it with ten or twelve different black-haired girls, at great
expense. It wasn't the photographer's fault; it was just that they couldn't choose the
model. So they had to keep paying Avedon for the pictures. It was a disaster. Finally, at
the last minute, they brought me in and put a black wig on me and they never let Revson
know it was me in the ad. He never realized." (He doubtless realized full well. Out
of pride he may have pretended he didn't.)
Earlier she had done a similar last-minute bailout retake on Stormy Pink. "We
worked at night [double the fee] off Montauk Point, in the ocean, and I had to hold a
stallion. We really did that. It was very dangerous because it was windy and the pebbles
kept rolling out from underneath the horse's feet, and I'm trying to hold him down. We
worked on that for almost six hours in the middle of the night, in the middle of the ocean
[well, not quite], and I was in a chiffon dress. I think the reason I was such a
good model wasn't that I was such a particular beauty or anything, but that I was as
strong as a horse. And that occasion proved it!"
The Revson/Parker relationship was such
that when Time sent a photographer around in 1960, Charles had to pay her to appear
as if it were a modeling session and not a simple publicity shot. (See photo.)
While the photographer was setting up in Revson's office, Parker was dressing in the
ladies' room and putting on her false fingernails. "I wore false ones in all
the ads because I've never had long fingernails," she says. "I had gotten
them all glued on, rather unsatisfactorily, and I was trussing my white mink, and I make
my entrance and everyone says, 'Wow, wow,' and all that and I lose one of the damn
"I'm crawling under the desk and the Time man says, 'What are you
doing?' 'I'm looking for my blinking, bloody fingernail,' I said and Charles turned
absolutely beet-red. 'You mean you wear false fingernails? the photographer asked.
He thought it was a riot. I thought Charles was going to explode with rage, because I
said, 'Of course I do, I always have in all those ads.' At which point Charles
turns to me and says, 'All right, let's change the subject.' He thought I had done it
deliberately . . . and I don't know that I didn't."
And yet, even after he turned her down for the contract she wanted, she kept
doing the ads. "It was my own vanity, I suppose . . . my own challenge that I
could come in after they'd spent all that time and money trying with other girls and in
two or three hours do the ad."
In terms of exclusive contracts, she says, she paved the way for Lauren Hutton.
"But," she adds, laughing, "Lauren should really get her own expression.
She's still using mine."
Mary Laurence "Lauren" Hutton, as practically any red-blooded American knows,
is Ultima II and gets a bit more than $200,000 a year to play the role. Less well
known is that before he signed Lauren, Revson was considering Racquel Welch for a similar
job, presumably at a higher price. He got as far as summoning her then husband, Patrick
Curtis, to a meeting in his office at which he proceeded to tell him, in front of several
others, that Racquel had no taste or at least came off appearing as if she
had no taste and that she didn't know how to dress. He would have to make her over.
Curtis played along, saying he would be willing to allow Charles to buy her a new
wardrobe, and from there they went over to the Waldorf Towers to meet the sex symbol
herself. Whether Charles was unimpressed, the money was too much, or Curtis/Welch nixed
the idea most probably the latter-it went no farther. Had it, Revlon would have
taken on a rather different image from the ones projected around Barbara Britton and
Contrary to publicity photos, and certainly contrary to rumor, there was nothing
between Lauren Hutton and Charles Revson beyond a friendly mutual respect. She was not
Revson's discovery; she was, she says, just the logical choice: "I was the
only big brand-name model in the country." Nor did she meet him during the five
months of negotiations that led to her exclusive Revlon engagement. It was only at the
signing, in 1973, that they met for the first time and established a rapport.
It was photographer Richard Avedon who had sold Revson on the twenty-eight-year-old
one-time Playboy bunny. And now, for the signing, he was asking her to be on her
best behavior to appear, not in jeans, which was more her off-camera style, but in
"high drag," as she puts it. She complied. She even agreed to wear her
"tooth," the dental falsie that bridges the gap in her smile. She didn't want
to, "because it always creates an artificial situation," but she wore it anyway.
They were all sitting around stiffly she and Avedon, Charles and Paul Woolard,
agents and lawyers having tea. When the crumpets came around, she grabbed one,
completely forgetting about her tooth. Naturally it got caught in a wad of crumpet
and she cracked up. She looked over at Avedon, who was a nervous wreck, and gave him a
grin with a big black gap in the middle of her teeth. He sort of choked on his tea.
Not knowing what else to do, she just made an announcement. "You'll have to forgive
me," she said in her backwoods-Florida, liberated-hip mellow-dy, "but my tooth
is stuck in a wad of crumpet here and we'll have to do something about it because it cost
fifty dollars and I'm not going to lose it." Charles laughed. (Yes, Charles laughed.)
Lauren retrieved her tooth. She went back to behaving, she says, and sitting there
silently. Avedon, trying anything he could think of to make conversation, and knowing that
Revson liked to vacation in Mexico, mentioned that Lauren was trying to buy some land
there. Charles asked where. Suddenly she got this vision of the monster tycoon going in
and stealing her land. "Outside Acapulco," she said reluctantly. "Where
outside Acapulco? I know the whole area." "Down the coast." "East or
west? .... East." Eventually he got her into a corner. "I got real
paranoid and I said: 'All right, I'll tell you where but you better not get my
land.' And that really cracked him up. Here I am telling this giant tycoon to lay off my
land. I think it was basically that thing that made us become friends."
Revson liked her candor and her spunk. He used to refer to the "chicory in her
As for her having an affair with him or with Julie Christie, as was also rumored
she says that their total contact was confined to five or six "high
teas," like the first, and to one dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel at which
several others were present. She was in Mexico (not on that land, she never did get
that land), virtually incommunicado for two or three months, when the story broke
that she and Julie Christie were buying a house in New Jersey and living together. She had
never even met Julie Christie, she says, and only found out about the story when she
called the Ford modeling agency to find out whether she had any business to attend to.
("What are you doing in Mexico?" her agent joked. "You're supposed to
be living in New Jersey with Julie Christie.") She ignored the story, which took on a
life of its own, and eventually returned to New York, where she was ushered in to another
tea with Charles to discuss her next picture session. At the end of the
meeting he said: "I just want you to know that I don't care what you do with
your private life . . . I just think you should be a little discreet." "I had
no idea what he was talking about because I had forgotten all about it. And I kept looking
at him and he kept avoiding my eyes. He kept talking around it and finally I caught
on. I started laughing." She assured him there was nothing to the rumor.
A couple of weeks later, the news of his own divorce broke, along with the word that he
was leaving Lyn for Lauren. (Or else Lee Radziwell, which was equally absurd.) At their
next meeting she told him that a friend had called to say he didn't care what she did with
her private life, but that he thought she ought to be a little more discreet. She
suggested that they run an ad with the three of them he, Julie, and she in a
big four-poster bed, peeking out from under the ruffled coverlet. "He didn't
go for it, but he thought it was funny."
Lauren Hutton is one of the few who credit Revson with having had "a wonderful
sense of humor. We always joked back and forth," she says. She also appreciated what
she saw as his courtliness.
If only he had been as charming with everyone else.