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Museum of Beauty Rescued From Ugly Prospect of Closure

Sally Rand liked Max Factor. She even took her clothes off for him. But it was all very innocent.

There’s a picture of the disrobing at Hollywood’s Max Factor Museum of Beauty, which had been on the brink of closing but won a three-year reprieve Wednesday.

In the 1931 photo, the stripper took off her ostrich feathers so one of Factor’s white-coated technicians could paint her famous body with zig-zag stripes.

Those were the days . . . when movie stars and society ladies often frequented Factor’s salon near the then-fashionable corner of Highland Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard.

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Hollywood has changed since the days of Factor, a Russian-born immigrant who revolutionized movie makeup. The museum was created in the old Max Factor building to provide a tourist attraction during the 1984 Olympics. Its exhibits included gleaming bottles of Brillox hair oil and Trocadero cologne accenting testimonials and photographs of actresses from Clara Bow to Jaclyn Smith.

The museum drew as many as 1,000 visitors a week, but Procter & Gamble, which took over in 1991, decided to shut it down.

Faced with widespread protests, Procter & Gamble now intends to keep the museum open in an innovative partnership with a private developer. Under the agreement, the museum’s contents would go to a yet-to-be-built Hollywood Entertainment Museum after three years.

“We’re very pleased that we discovered the solution that respects the needs and wishes of the Hollywood community,” said Ed Rider, Procter & Gamble’s corporate historian.

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The deal calls for Colony Bancorp of Malibu, a development firm, to buy the four-story building for $1.5 million and rent out the top three floors and basement to a newly created History of Hollywood Museum. There would be a restaurant in the old wig shop, and the building would have a 99-seat theater for the Bob Baker Marionette Theater.

The proposal was the brainchild of Hollywood activist Robert Nudelman, a longtime critic of City Councilman Mike Woo, who declined to join in the applause when Nudelman’s name was mentioned Wednesday at a press conference announcing that the museum would stay open.

“I’m glad that all the participants who are here helped to make this possible,” said Woo, “but I’m not here to do advertisements for Mr. Nudelman.”

But he hailed the project. “Hollywood, your prayers are answered,” Woo said. “Compared to what could have happened . . . what we have is a great victory.”

“Maybe (Woo) had a cramp in his arm,” joked KCET-TV personality Huell Howser, who served on separate committees named by Woo and Procter & Gamble to try to save the building. “This museum and its history is a real class act and it really stands out in Hollywood.”


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