The Wall Street Journal-20080112-Remembrances
SHU UEMURA (1928-2007)
Makeup Artist Transformed Stars,
And Founded International Boutiques
By Miho Inada and Stephen Miller
When the singer Madonna wanted to add some bling to her gaze for a recent tour, she turned to makeup artist Shu Uemura for diamond- encrusted mink eyelashes.
The Tokyo-based founder of a chain of 350 boutiques in 18 countries, who died Dec. 29 at age 79, had a long history of making stars more luminous, including Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra. In 1962, he transformed Shirley MacLaine into a traditional courtesan for the film "My Geisha."
As the only man enrolled at a Tokyo school of beauty in the mid- 1950s, Mr. Uemura was recruited by American filmmakers to assist with makeup on a troop-training film being shot on Okinawa. From there, he went to Hollywood for a decade.
Tony Tanaka, Mr. Uemura's former assistant, recalls working with him on a 1960s photo shoot on a sand dune. Despite a raging sandstorm that covered him and the model, Mr. Uemura soldiered on, saying "Not good enough." Says Mr. Tanaka, "Mr. Uemura had always uncompromising attitude toward his work."
Returning to Japan in the late 1960s, Mr. Uemura opened a makeup- artist training school in Tokyo and founded a company to distribute imported cosmetics. In 1983, he opened a boutique to sell his own products in Tokyo's posh Omotesando shopping district. The chain grew quickly, expanding internationally for the first time in 1985, when it opened an outlet in Hong Kong.
Specialties included a cleansing oil and products made with natural products including "Deepsea Water, a concentrate of the purest water extracted from the deep sea." He also opened a tony spa on Japan's sea-whipped Shikoku Island.
Mr. Uemura became known in fashion capitals around the world for his semiannual makeup shows. He eventually expanded to 350 outlets. The company doesn't release sales figures, but estimates hover in the range of $100 million annually. A unit of Paris-based cosmetics giant L'Oreal SA acquired a stake in the company in 2000 and took a majority holding in 2004.
Mr. Uemura was known for looking after his staff. Makoto Kamata, 57, is a longtime assistant who runs Mr. Uemura's makeup-school business. Mr. Kamata recalls visiting the home of his mother after she died two years ago. There he found many letters that Mr. Uemura had written to the Kamatas assuring them that their son was doing well in Tokyo.
In 2001, Mr. Uemura handed over the reins of management to his son, Hiroshi Uemura, but he continued to work on his makeup shows. "It was striking to see him -- the artist -- applying makeup on a model as a painter does on a canvas," says Stephan Brezy, general manager of Shu Uemura Cosmetics Inc.
Among his clients in recent years were Oprah Winfrey and Jennifer Lopez, who sported Shu Uemura fox-fur lashes in her appearance at the Academy Awards in 2001. His eyelash curlers are fashionable enough to have merited a mention in "The Devil Wears Prada."
"People always tell me how they love my brushes and that they have had the same ones for decades. On the one hand I'm very flattered," he told Women's Wear Daily in 2003. "But I'm running a business here. They should replace them."
EDDIE 'BOZO' MILLER (1918-2008)
'World's Greatest Trencherman' Ate His Way
Into the Guinness Book of World Records
By Stephen Miller
A living rebuke to the surgeon general and the diet doctors, Eddie "Bozo" Miller was once listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the "world's greatest trencherman."
Mr. Miller, who died Jan. 7 at age 89, managed to outfox the actuaries even while consuming quantities of food and drink that might have put Diamond Jim Brady to shame.
He once won a contest in Idaho Falls, Idaho, by eating 30 pounds of elk and moose meatloaf. He boasted of downing 25 bowls of minestrone and 30 pounds of shrimp, and drinking a whole bottle of gin in a single chug on a bet, then offering to buy the loser a drink. His Guinness records -- in categories no longer recorded in the book -- were for eating 27 two-pound pullets of chicken, and for downing 324 raviolis, each at single sittings in 1963. Guinness noted that he downed the first 250 raviolis in 70 minutes. Then there was a delay while the Rendezvous Room restaurant in his home town of Oakland, Calif., replenished its supply.
Always stocky, Mr. Miller in his prime was a jolly ball of a man, 5 feet 7 inches tall and 57 inches at the waist, making him, wrote one of his many friends in the press, almost as easy to walk over as to walk around. He was born to San Francisco vaudevillians and eventually became one of Oakland's most prominent men about town, driving a bright-yellow Cadillac with boxes of perfume and pearls in the trunk as presents for the ladies.
He traveled the country to attend horse races and recalled seeing Seabiscuit best War Admiral in 1938 at Pimlico. He was a regular at the track into his 70s.
But his real obsession was food, as many as 11 meals a day and 25,000 calories. Abjuring a few smaller creatures -- rabbit, duck, snails -- he chewed a mighty swath through the East Bay. And he boasted of seldom suffering indigestion, except once, in 1942, when a snack of 10 pounds of cheese crackers made him ill. He said he often sank a dozen martinis before his first lunch of the day.
"His hobby was getting people drunk," says Steve Blackman, his son- in-law. Weekly dinners at his home that he held for guests, often including Hollywood royalty, challenged each diner to ingest ludicrous quantities of cuisine cooked by the host. After dinner, his three daughters -- Candy, Cooky, and Honey -- would present a selection of more than 100 liqueurs. On the wall was a framed slogan from his hero, W.C. Fields: "Nothing exceeds like excess." Mr. Miller's other tastes tended to the extreme as well. He boasted that he owned 10,000 records.
A competitive spirit drove him, he said. Too often in periods when he tried to diet, someone would challenge his gustatory supremacy and he would suddenly find himself downing 25 7-Ups or three steaks. "A friend will say, 'Hey Boz, eat a jar of white horseradish for my wife,'" he told the Los Angeles Times in 1972. "I can't say no."
Mr. Miller liked to imagine that he would have outeaten Diamond Jim Brady (1856-1917), the Gilded Age financier and gourmand. "I understand he was strong, mighty strong in the meat department," Mr. Miller told the Fresno Bee in 1944. "But he was vulnerable in pastry. Me, I have no weaknesses."
He likewise regretted not being in his prime to take on Takeru Kobayashi, the terror of the Coney Island boardwalk who has dominated hot-dog-eating contests in recent years. "He said he would have ate him under the table," recalls Mr. Blackman.
George Shea, chairman of the International Federation of Competitive Eating, says the organization will have a moment of silence to honor Mr. Miller at its Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island this July 4.
After owning and managing bars in the 1940s, Mr. Miller became a liquor distributor. By the late 1970s, the advice of his latest doctors (previous ones predeceased him, he declared) and the death of a daughter began to limit his hunger. He slimmed down to about 175 pounds from more than 300 at his peak.
Sometimes suspected of stretching the truth about his achievements as a gurgitator, he habitually exaggerated his age by a decade. Although he wasn't quite into his nineties, as he claimed, it was still no mean feat for him to sit down with an Oakland Tribune reporter last month to take on a French-dip sandwich. Mr. Miller complained of having no appetite and quipped of his funeral, "They're going to stuff me."
Corrections & Amplifications
Stephan Bezy is general manager world-wide of Shu Uemura Cosmetics Inc. His last name was misspelled as Brezy in a Remembrances article Saturday about Mr. Uemura.
(WSJ Jan. 16, 2008)