He's smoothed the angles of Jackie O, disguised the small bump on Audrey Hepburn's nose and made up Judy Garland -- for her wake. But still, it's nice to be asked.
"If you are going to do something, be the best you can be and learn from the best," Peter Lamas, cosmetologist to the celebrities, says. Lamas' recent work includes the blockbuster "Titanic," the Gap clothing commercials and cover models on such magazines as Glamour, Cosmopolitan and Vogue, as well as the Victoria's Secret catalogue.
That tidbit of advice has taken Lamas, a native Cuban, from being an assistant in New York City in the mid-'60s under some of the best names in the glamour world -- Vidal Sassoon, Way Bendy, Paul Mitchell -- to famed hair and makeup guy.
Lamas is in town through Sunday at the Las Vegas Convention Center to inform buyers of his new line of skin care, New Vision, and offer tips on makeup and the lesser discussed skin care, which he says is key to a good face.
Lamas and his parents left their native Cuba in 1960, leaving behind a successful jewelry business. "We started completely over," he recalls.
They arrived in Miami and headed straight for New York, just in time to watch President John F. Kennedy's inauguration on television. Lamas was impressed with the poise and beauty of the new first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, whom he would meet a decade later.
Although he has no family left in Cuba, he does have some fond memories. "I'm dying to go back," he says. "It used to be the Monaco of the Caribbean. Now it's just deteriorated. One day, I'm sure, when Castro goes away, money will go back into the island and it will be spectacular once again."
In the United States, Lamas fell in with the hair set. Although he had considered a career as a commercial artist, he dabbled in hair cutting and styling until he answered the call of the mascara wand, which would be his ticket to fame.
Lamas began his ascent into glamour in the late '60s under the watchful eye of Vidal Sassoon. "Until then there was nothing to hair, it was cutting," Lamas says. "You just picked it up and whacked it off."
He was hooked the day that Sassoon enlisted Lamas to assist him in a very expensive haircut. A limo picked up the awed novice to whisk him to the Pierre Hotel in New York.
"I was nervous, I still didn't know what the event was about," Lamas says. At the hotel, reporters and photographers swarmed the entrance. Sassoon told him to follow his cue as they set up backstage for the mystery guest to appear for her haircut.
Sassoon announced to the reporters that they were about to witness the most expensive haircut ever to be given and the recipient would be ... the long-tressed Mia Farrow, recently married to Frank Sinatra and a star on the scandalous weekly soap opera, "Peyton Place."
"Out comes Mia Farrow and Frank Sinatra, and she had long, long hair, past her tush at the time," Lamas says. "She comes up to the stage and says a few words -- that she is about to do her first film, entitled 'Rosemary's Baby,' and that's what the cut was for. I sectioned her hair."
Sinatra looked on as Sassoon scalped his bride's blond hair to less than an inch from her petite face. "Frank Sinatra was fuming mad! He came in with his bride and long hair and went home with a little boy," he says.
Soon Lamas was snipping stars on his own. Then he was asked by new client Liza Minnelli to make up her newly deceased mother -- the legendary Judy Garland -- for viewing by the masses who adored her.
"I was nervous," Lamas says. "(But) Vidal said, 'What are you worried about? Whether she likes it or not you aren't going to know about it.' "
For two days Garland was viewed by the public and on television and Lamas was incredulous that his work was so revered. "It was an uncomfortable experience," he says. "I tried to do the most outrageous, wonderful work I could."
From 1969-85 Lamas took care of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, which he says deeply affected him. "She became a legend in this country," he recalls. "I was very impressed with her sophistication and intelligence."
But honey, get some eyeshadow on those dark eyes!
"To see her with makeup and without makeup is quite surprising," he says. "Without makeup, if you see her face, her eyes are set far apart. Her bone structure was very sharp and square. With makeup you can bring everything together."
He was like a fly on the wall at her apartment while he gussied her up for public consumption. "I'd go to her apartment and spend most of the day watching her interact with her children and how she brought them up," he says. "She was very involved."
One chilling memory is of Onassis discussing her son John's new interest. "He wanted to take flying lessons and I remember her telling me that 'as long as I'm alive he will not fly a plane,' " Lamas says. "She wanted to keep him on a straight line, but he was like his father, very adventurous."
Everybody needs a lil' help
Lamas makeup tips are not surprising or new, but rarely followed, he says. "You should use makeup to enhance your features, not to cover up the face," he says. "Makeup should not be used as putty.
He says that most of all, women, and, heck, today, even men, should look for balance not only in their personal lives but when choosing the right blush. "You want to create balance in the bone structure of the face -- if your mouth is too thin, lips too narrow, cheekbones too prominent, not prominent. When you landscape (the face) you want it all equal so that it's not distracting, unless (it's a) prominent feature that becomes like Barbra Striesand's nose."
Ah, the nose. Many well-known faces have disliked their protruding sniffers.
"Audrey Hepburn had a complex with her nose a little bit. She was always telling me to slim down the nose and not emphasis the bump so much," Lamas says.
Diana Ross, a woman known for her glamour, is a plain-jane when freshly scrubbed, he says. "Her eyelashes not defined, we need to build them, but when they are made up it's dynamic, it gives them another dimension," he says."Without makeup and without emphasizing the eyes she can look kind of ordinary, plain."
His makeup for the 1974 film "The Wiz" played up her plainness by using just pancake makeup as a base and a bit of powder on the diva.
Now, some stars really need no makeup, but he says the two musts for any woman are lipstick and mascara. The right shade, of course.
Except for Sharon Stone who, although beautiful, still needs a lil' help. "Sharon Stone, makeup or no makeup, her skin is a little bit blotchy, she needs foundation to even out skin tone," Lamas says. "A little mascara and a little lipstick and she looks outrageous. Everything about her is so striking, (but) everyone needs a little bit of balance and work."
To make up the leading ladies in "Titanic," Lamas worked with Tina Henshaw to create the right makeup for each shot. "We would work with the story boards, start creating makeup to go with the color of the gowns, what kind of lighting and hair and color," Lamas says.
Lamas would trouble shoot with director James Cameron when he sought solutions for the makeup in the water scene. "We can't keep taking shots over and over because the lipstick is coming off," Lamas says. "I thought of the Olympics, synchronized swimming. They use silicon water base (foundation), which will seal the makeup."
Problem solved! Except for the actors under the silicon shmeer. "The real problem is taking it off," he says "You need a special chemical that burns, irritates the skin."
His favorite shot is the opening scene as the camera pulls back from a tight shot of the lead actress, Kate Winslet. "That opening scene where she turns around with the wide-rim hat and faces the cameras, that is just such a great close-up and I think, 'I did that!' " he says.
Tips for tomorrow
And ladies, Lamas says, as you get older, don't cover up wrinkles with more foundation. "They need more skin care when they get older. More makeup on an older woman makes her look harder and tired," Lamas says. "It is hair and skin care. Makeup just sits on the lines and emphasizes them more. Foundation, if (worn) heavy, can put weight on skin tissue and can make the skin appear looser."
So, bottom line: "Outside of sun block -- which I always demand to have, if you want to stay attractive looking, the sun is the last thing to have -- mascara and lipstick," Lamas says.
His tips for a stubborn blemish?
"The best thing to do is wash your face with cleanser, then use a septic stick for minute or two. Then take a Q-Tip saturated with Visine and apply that to the pimple a number of times to take away the redness," Lamas offers. "Or Preparation H."
And forget all that winter, fall, cool, warm hooey the industry has flip-flopped over since the dawn of Avon.
"When it comes to color cosmetics -- lipstick, eye, blush, summer, spring, warm and cold -- most people are neutral," he says.
He recommends buying three colors of eye-shadow, one blush and three or four lipsticks that are all in the same family of coloring to go with different outfits, moods, what-have-you.
"It's all about coordination, balance," Lamas says.
And never give up on beauty, style, grace and ambition.
"In life, persistence is the rule of success," Lamas says. "You must continually pursue (your dreams)."