“Stop oversunning your face. Hair sprays clog your facial pores. Spend more time taking makeup off than putting it on. Soap dries the skin.”
So admonishes Georgette Klinger, 61, the Czech-born proprietress of one of the most successful chains of skin care emporiums in the U.S. With salons in Manhattan, Beverly Hills and Bal Harbour, Fla. and a line of home-care products, she does an annual business of $5 million helping clients, who include Bette Midler, Candice Bergen, Joanne Woodward and Louise Lasser, fight the facial ravages of time.
“She’s a sorceress,” says Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown, who claims her visits every six weeks to Klinger’s Manhattan salon are “a totally sybaritic experience. If I had had Georgette around as a teenager, I never would have had acne.” Actress Barbara Carrera, a habitué for more than five years, adds, “It’s the best relaxation a woman can put herself through.”
Basically, what Klinger and her personally trained technicians do is give the face a $24 cleansing no soap can manage. “American women,” Klinger says, “have some of the dirtiest faces in the world.” She blames air and water pollution, excessive cosmetics (she favors no makeup except for the eyes, and perhaps a moisturizer), bad food and too many pills, from sleeping to diet. Four years ago she added accommodations for men to her salons; before that they sneaked in the side door. Her Beverly Hills branch, run by daughter Kathryn, 25, now attracts such rough customers as actors Paul Newman and Dustin Hoffman, tennis star Rod Laver and ex-astronaut Scott Carpenter. “It is not narcissism for men to want good skin,” Georgette asserts. “Actors use makeup, sportsmen are overexposed to sun and wind. It all shows up in the face.”
Born in Brno, Czechoslovakia, the daughter of wealthy parents, Georgette turned her normal interest in beauty into a crusade after she developed a persistent acne rash. Its cause: the makeup she had won as a prize in a local beauty contest. She began a two-year odyssey around Europe visiting dermatologists and chemists. She was eventually cured but had become so fascinated by skin care by then that she studied for a degree in the subject. (No equivalent diploma is available here.) In 1939 she set up a skin care salon in Brno.
When Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia, Georgette and her then husband, a lawyer who later served with U.S. Army Intelligence, fled first to London, then to New York. They arrived penniless but with the formulas Georgette had developed in Czechoslovakia. Backed by two friends—the wives of a publisher and a broker—Georgette opened her first salon in Manhattan in 1941.
Klinger’s empire continues to expand, although she does little advertising. Next spring she will open a new branch in Chicago, with others slated for Houston, Palm Beach and London. Repeatedly she has turned down offers to sell her business to big cosmetic firms.
Klinger makes her own rules. One is to try her formulas on herself. “I’m a constant guinea pig,” she says. Another is that all her customers get the same treatment, star or secretary. What about house calls? Absolutely not, says Klinger, who once turned down the Duchess of Windsor. “No exceptions,” she explains. “If a working girl can come in on her lunch hour, why not a duchess?”