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Corona native, cosmetics queen Estee Lauder dies

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Lauder died at her home on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, her family members announced.

Lauder, who competed with such cosmetics titans as Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein, Sam Rubin of Faberge and Charles Revson of Revlon, understood the promotion of products.

Among innovations she introduced in the industry was the offer of free samples to customers who spent a minimum on cosmetics in what became known as the “gift with purchase” concept.

She parlayed her beauty aids and marketing skills into a $10 billion enterprise whose products now are sold in more than 125 countries around the world under the labels of Estee Lauder, Clinique, Origins, Prescriptives and Aramis for men.

Josephine Esther Mentzer was born on Hillside Avenue in Corona on July 1, 1908, the ninth and last child of Hungarian immigrants Rose Schotz Rosenthal Mentzer and Max Mentzer, Lee Israel wrote in “Estee Lauder, Beyond the Magic,” an unauthorized biography.

“When Estee was growing up, the streets were unpaved, most of the Italians who settled there had factory jobs and the placed smelled horrifically,” Israel said. While Corona was country-like in some respects, it also was near an area where refuse and ashes were dumped.

“For the woman who would claim to have taught the American woman how to wear fragrance, there were no sweet smells of childhood,” the biographer said.

Lauder attended PS 14, a red brick school a couple of blocks from her father’s store, a supplier of hay for horses and seed for gardeners.

Israel said the young Estee “loved to make everyone up” and to brush her mother’s hair — sometimes twice daily.

“I was always interested in people being beautiful — the hair, the face,” Israel quoted Lauder as saying.

Her career in the cosmetics industry was born in the kitchen of her parents’ home in the 1920s when her uncle, John Schotz, put together a facial cream concoction on a stove.

She attended Newtown High School and later married Austrian Joseph Lauter in 1930. The name was eventually changed to Lauder. He died in 1982.

After Lauder established herself as a cosmetic industry giant, she was not happy to learn that Cindy Adams, who is now a New Post gossip columnist, was doing research for a biography of her.

“She was as smart as she was tough,” Adams recalled in a column Tuesday. “Never an acrimonious discussion with me, never an edict. The woman’s refusal to sanction this work had no fingerprints. The heavy lifting came from others — an assistant, a public relations persons, an executive.”

Adams said the campaign against her book progressed to the point that attorney Roy Cohn, whom she described as “a mutual friend,” “began leaning on me.”

Nevertheless, Adams said: “Her genius lives on forever.”

In the end, Lauder produced her own autobiography, “Estee, A Success Story.” In it, she offered evaluations of her competitors, some less than kind. For instance, of Charles Revson of Revlon, she said he was “my arch and implacable enemy.”

Two of her most popular brands were Aramis for men, which was introduced in the mid-1950s, and Clinique.

Lauder is survived by her sons, Leonard, the chairman of the Lauder companies; Ronald, the chairman of Clinique Laboratories, who lost in the Republican primary for mayor of New York City to Rudolph Giuliani in 1989; four grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

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