"President Carter looked at me and said, ‘Please keep the makeup light, I don't want the press to think I am totally unscathed,'"
This is but one of the many interesting, anecdotal incidents that have occurred over the past 22 years in Jerry Weitzel's fascinating and colorful career.
Weitzel is President of CRO and Syd Simons Cosmetics, Inc. The company has five Chicago area Makeup and Skin Care Studios and a number of retail outlets throughout the country. In addition to an intuitive head for business, he has established himself as one of the most respected and internationally known makeup artist and beauty authorities.
His list of clients reads like the list of Fortune 500 Corporation, the who's who of politics and show biz, and all three television networks plus PBS and the Canadian Broadcasting Company. He did the makeup for Playboy Magazine for nine years and has done makeup work for over 300 print ads, and over 200 television commercials. He has been a frequent guest in TV and radio talk shows including NBC's Today.
Mr. Weitzel is currently a member of NCA's Esthetics America and the Chicago Cosmetology Association's Esthetics Committee. He has taught classes at numerous aesthetic congresses dating back to 1972. His most recent appearance was teaching at the Aesthetics' World Expo ‘88 in Dallas, and has become a Member of the Academy of Legends with this issue.
This interview took place just prior to Mr. Weitzel teaching a makeup class at the "Aesthetics" World Expo ‘88".
. How did you get started in the cosmetic industry?
A. My background was in business management. Syd Simons who was originally a Hollywood makeup artist had established a business in Chicago. That was, for many years, the only place in town for the professional services we offer.
The winds of change and competition were beginning to blow and he was looking toward expansion so he offered me a position as business manager.
Q. And did you decide to accept the job?
A. Well not at first. I did a little research and discovered that there were not many people in the business who stressed professional service. I felt it was unique opportunity and after about a year I went to work.
Q. What was the first thing you did?
A. I told him to teach me what he did. He said, "I hired you as a business manager not a makeup artist." I said, "I know, but if I am going to understand what we sell, I better know what we do," I had a background in art of photography and that helped a lot in mastering the craft.
Q. But if you didn't intend to do this work how did you get involved with it?
A. It wasn't until 1968 when Syd was asked to travel with Hubert Humphrey as his makeup man during the presidential campaign. He had an established list of commercial accounts and we didn't have anyone to handle those clients. So I jumped into the fray.
Q. Well, you learned the art of makeup but what about the rest of the cosmetic business?
A. The company always stressed skin care and had a good line of face care products when I came on board. I felt, however, that there was something missing in the dialog between us and the chemists who were formulating our products. They didn't understand our needs and we didn't understand their problems. So I took some courses in pharmacology and cosmetic chemistry at the University of Illinois. That helped a great deal. I also read every trade publication about the industry I could find.
Q. Would you recommend that to others in the business?
A. Absolutely. Knowledge is a powerful tool and it is also a commanding weapon against some of the outrageous claims made by some people in the industry.
Q. You don't believe "what you don't know won't hurt you"?
A. No, just the opposite.
Q. Tell us more about those early years. Tell us about the nine years at Playboy.
A. Back in ‘68 one of the accounts we were just getting started with was Playboy Magazine and that turned out to be one of our major accounts with billings exceeding $30,000.00 per year which back then was good money.
Q. Now tell the truth. Are the center fold retouched or not?
A. Everyone asks that question and the truth is no. They will retouch covers of pictorial photo but not centerfolds. Besides, if they were going to do that they wouldn't need me.
Q. Was that the most exciting of your accounts?
A. May be the most fun but not the most exciting. I think one of the most thrilling assignments for me was a week doing Walter Cronkite's makeup for CBS evening news just at the height of the Watergate crisis when all hell was breaking loose. There was so much turmoil that most times I would do his makeup while he sat at the anchor desk. One night there were constant changes and it got to two minutes to air time and the director suddenly realized his makeup hadn't been done. I stated his makeup with my kit behind the anchor desk and sat down on the floor behind the desk when he went on the air. When they broke for the first commercial, I finished the job.
Q. There must have been others. What about when you did makeup for the President of the United States.
A. That was fascinating primarily because of all the security. I preciously had a secret clearance but had never experienced protection to this degree. I must also say that President Carter went out of his way to be cordial.
Q. What with Playboy, the networks and politics what do you do for excitement?
A. Still the most stimulation aspect of this business for me is teaching our regular clients to do their makeup properly. These are fascinating women who lead interesting lives and each of their faces is different and requires individual attention.
Q. Tell us why you feel that way?
A. There has never been a perfect face. Every face can benefit from corrective makeup. Believe me; I've worked on some of the most beautiful faces in the world. They all need some help. At the same time, I must tell you every face has some beauty and it is the entire makeup artist job to bring it out.
Q. How many faces have you done?
A. Someone asked me that a few years ago and I sat down and tried to figure it out. Somewhere around the twenty thousand.
Q. With all those faces doesn't it get sort of ho-hum?
A. No, not at all. Each face and each person is different and therefore a new challenge.
Q. You have been in this business a long time and you have seen many changes. Where do you think the industry is going?
A. I'm very optimistic. I think the American public is much more aware and knowledgeable about professional makeup and skincare services. I have seen an increase in professionalism amongst our colleagues. I believe the National Cosmetology Association's acceptance of aesthetics has been a major step forward in getting the leaders in the field together and moving in the right direction.
Q. What more needs to be done?
A. We have just scratched the surface of the potential available. More than anything else we need better education starting at the beauty school level.
Then, we need to increase the knowledge of the people in the field about new products and techniques. People in this business spend a great deal of time and effort fighting their competition and don't realize their competition is ignorance, not the guy down the street.
If the public understood what can be done for the, we would be open around the clock.
Q. Speaking of around the clock, what do you do in your spare time?
A. I have many interests; I play golf, race sail boats and shoot skeet. I do some bird hunting in the fall and usually go to the Caribbean and scuba dive every winter. I also enjoy cooking and like to entertain in small groups of two or three couples.
Q. Are you a gourmet cook?
A. I don't know what that means but I do pretty well.
Q. Tell us about sailing.
A. I've always liked racing of any kind. Years ago I racing sports cars and in the past ten years. I have been heavily involved in racing sail boats.
Q. Where do you race?
A. We have a small body of water in Chicago called Lake Michigan. It is about 40 miles wide and 350 miles long. My office is about five minutes away from the yacht club so its pretty convenient.
Q. What about your family?
A. I'm divorced. I have three children, two boys and a girl. My youngest, the girl, Courtenay, has recently come to work for me and it's a great joy.
Q. Is she going to take over the business?
A. Of course and spend my paycheck to a P.O. Box in the islands. No, quite seriously I don't have any desire to retire and probably wont for many years. I have put her to work in the office and I want her to learn every aspect of this business. When the time comes, she will learn makeup and skin care and she will be great at it. But I want her to get her degree at the same time she learns the business.
Q. Some time ago you did the makeup trend for NCA. What do you think about the fashion trend for this fall and winter?
A. Come to one of my classes and find out or better yet read my article on page xx! I discuss the colors for the coming holiday season.