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Toeing the Line: Sampling secrets of movie makeup

October 25, 2013|By Ray Richmond

This is a good week to be Cinema Secrets, the Burbank institution that has been keeping people in makeup since 1984. On Saturday, there will be lines of Halloween celebrants waiting to pay hundreds of dollars to the professional makeup artists on hand to turn them into wizards, zombies, aliens, or even those most frightening of all characters, politicians.

Whether you're in the market to look like one of the dudes from "Twilight," a killer clown or Miley Cyrus, the folks at Cinema Secrets can make it happen. The shelves boast every kind of prosthetic, mask, costume, makeup kit and visual FX supply imaginable. And if you don't want to do it yourself, they've got a pro that is more than happy to do it for you.

But Halloween season ends, unfortunately, and come Nov. 1, the challenges of being a non-essential business coming out of a recession will resume for Cinema Secrets. Not that its founder, the renowned Hollywood makeup artist Maurice Stein, is especially concerned.

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"We had a 3 1/2-year period during this downturn that nearly broke us," the now semi-retired Stein admitted to a visitor earlier this week. "Things are getting better now."

What's happened to his business is the same thing that's impacted so many other areas of the Hollywood community — namely, runaway production. Stein estimates that until recently, roughly 40% of his company's business — which includes the Cinema Secrets make-up line he founded 20 years ago — came from the studios. Over the past five years, it's dwindled to a fraction of that.

"The writers' strike in 2007 and '08 just whacked us in the stomach," Stein says. "It's almost like it stopped overnight. But fortunately, we also supply to the medical industry. And our store has really helped keep us going during a very tough period."

That store has been a Stein family affair since day one. (It's been in the current location on Riverside Drive, across from the legendary Bob's Big Boy, since 1988). His daughter, Debra, and sons, Michael and Danny, run things now, and a handful of his grandkids can be found there on any given day trolling the floor.

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