You might think hairdressers and makeup artists are mere hangers-on in the world of celebrities, but the outpouring of high-profile grief after the mysterious death earlier this week of Paul Starr -- the makeup artist who counted Rosanna Arquette, Anjelica Huston, Jennifer Garner and Angelina Jolie among his clients -- would appear to shoot that theory.
In writing an obituary, itÂ¹s often difficult to get anything more than a generic one-liner (to the effect of, "Ms. So-and-so is deeply saddened") from a celebrity's publicist. Not so with Starr.
Longtime best friend Arquette (who, sadly, discovered Starr's body) offered a heartfelt tribute to him, while Huston, Garner and Michelle Monaghan also expressed their sorrow. Half of Hollywood seemed eager to tell Starr stories and make sure his memory wouldn't die.
I'd put Starr and the late Kevyn Aucoin in the same category -- amazing artists who happened to work in makeup, and who were made happier by making women feel beautiful. The two shared a number of other similarities: Both turned multiple clients into close friends and confidants; both were authors (Starr of "Paul Starr: On Beauty" and Aucoin of "The Art of Makeup," "Making Faces" and "Face Forward"), and both worked on makeup lines (Starr was reportedly developing his own, while Aucoin's launched shortly before his death in May 2002). And, certainly, both died too young -- Starr was 48, Aucoin, 40.
I first met Starr in 2003, when he was establishing the EstÃ©e Lauder brand's first national makeup team. He was already a top celebrity makeup artist -- working on hundreds of noteworthy women, ranging from Arquette and Garner to Joni Mitchell and Jolie -- but it was clear that, for as much as he adored his clients, his interest in them wasn't to build his own celebrity. A makeup artist in the traditional school of Seventies legend Way Bandy, Starr felt strongly about the artistry of his work. He paid his dues by learning from the masters, like his idols Bandy and Max Factor. And, like many great makeup artists before him, he tried to teach those skills to others -- whether he was teaching a counter representative or a beauty editor who was all thumbs, he was patience personified.