May 11, 1998 12:00 PM

London, 1940. A cozy pub during the Blitz. You see her illuminated by candlelight. Those tousled auburn ringlets of a pre-Raphaelite angel. Those finely limned features. Those smoked-almond-colored eyes sparkling with wit enough to stop Papa Hemingway in his tracks. And that laugh—a perfect dry martini of a laugh, shaken, not stirred. So J. Peterman might describe the eclectic impact of Seinfeld’s leading femme, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, 37. “I’m a fan of all her parts,” says her Deconstructing Harry ensemble-mate Richard Benjamin. “I think she’s just beautiful.”

True to her Elaine Benes alter ego, though, the Saturday Night Live alum isn’t falling for any of that mushy stuff. “Who really thinks about themselves?” she says. “I mean, you live with yourself, you’re sick of yourself! That’s not to belittle the superficial.”

Through the hoopla surrounding the last episode of the NBC hit sitcom, which airs May 14, Maryland-raised Louis-Dreyfus stays on the low road to loveliness. She favors cosmetics-maker Carol Shaw’s lipstick, but not always the hue named after her: “I like the shade called Laura [Dern] for evening.” The 5’3″ actress needs only three items to get through the day: her deodorant (“it works”), her Tweezerman (“I pluck my eyebrows as frequently as possible”) and her Eau de Guerlain perfume. Though a former spokeswoman for Clairol, Louis-Dreyfus, who is “taking a huge amount of time oil” post-Seinfeld, isn’t a maneliner. “I like cheap shampoos and conditioners,” she says. Busy with producer/writer/actor-husband Brad Hail raising their sons Henry, 5, and Charles, 1, she rarely has time to pamper herself. “When I’m an old lady,” she muses, “I’m going to get my nails done twice a week.” But she’ll be careful. “As good as red nails look, when they start to chip, it’s like the cheap-prostitute look.”

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