I love a good Hollywood story, and since the Academy Awards are tonight, I thought it would be a good time to talk about Erno Laszlo. You may know his products from Saks, but you may not know the story behind it.
Erno Laszlo was a Hungarian-born medical doctor who, more or less, fell into dermatology after the notoriety he gained for improving the complexion of Princess Stéphanie of Belgium, who suffered severe emotional distress and even humiliation due to the state of her skin. Thus, Dr. Laszlo was a "celebrity doctor" long before they were a dime-a-dozen. His clientele was a Who's Who of royalty, society and Hollywood lore: the Duchess of Windsor, Gloria Vanderbilt, Doris Duke, Greta Garbo (below left), Lillian Gish, Paulette Goddard, Audrey Hepburn, Jacqueline Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, whose Laszlo beauty products were on the bedside table next to her death bed.
In the late 1940s, the Erno Laszlo Institute had over 3,000 clients, not one of whom bought their way in because Laszlo products were not for sale to non-members. In order to be a member you had to be recommended - by at least two people - and each consultation was $75.00. To give you an idea of how expensive that was for the time, the price of a television in 1950 was around $200.00.
Dr. Laszlo was not enamored of his storied clientele. He asked about their personal lives and refused to continue treating them if they stopped follow his advice. He told Jacqueline Kennedy not to put any more oil or cream on her face and famously told Ava Gardner (above right) that she was lying about following his instructions. "Your skin tells me," he told her. As the story goes, she refused to leave his office and they had a bit of a standoff before she finally agreed to go back to the routine.
Today, you don't have to be a member of a club to use Erno Laszlo products. In fact, I'm not sure how Dr. Laszlo would feel about it (he died in 1973) you can simply use the Laszlo-matic to see which products are right for your skin type. The iconic Sea-Mud Soap pictured above (often referred to simply as "the black soap") is one of several products developed by Dr. Laszlo that are still available today.