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BEAUTY; Batting a Thousand

JOHN KIM IS FEELING OPTIMISTIC. AS THE president of the 20-year-old Beautee Sense (the maladroit spelling allows him enough characters for an 800 number), a Manhattan-based importer of false eyelashes, he’s seen some hard times over the past two decades. The 80’s weren’t kind to the genre, as Liza and Diana — those paragons of perky, pointy lashdom — saw the waning of their icon status and Tammy Faye lost her empire. “In the early 70’s, it was, how you say?” — Kim hesitates for the right word — “fabulous, fantastic . Lots of business. And then it was not so good. But now we are maybe going to be all right again.” Maybe it’s because Liza’s at Radio City, or because the photographer Steven Meisel is remaking the world in his own glam-queen image. Whatever. False eyelashes are suddenly enjoying a felicitous, albeit rather quiet, comeback.

“Nineteen years ago, I was putting eyelashes on people all day long,” says Ilana Harkavi, president of Il-Makiage, the Manhattan boutique that’s makeup mecca to models, makeup artists and those bold-faced names in the gossip columns. “Then it stopped cold. Now, it’s an everyday thing again. I get all kinds: teen-agers, girls in their 20’s, ladies . One designer came in the other day. Very sexy, very animalistic. She wanted to look like Shana, you know, the old Guess jeans girl. So I gave her the lashes and she was thrilled. ‘Perfect!’ she told me. ‘Just right for the Hamptons.’ ”

It should be noted that these revisionist eyes are not purely the result of frantic late 60’s referencing. Deee-Lite’s Lady Miss Kier, with her flip and her “butterfly launching pads” (Kier-speak for false eyelashes), is a perfect visual example of such misconceptions. “I prefer not to even mention the 60’s,” says Kier, a little annoyed. “I didn’t learn about beauty from the 60’s, I learned about it from the drag queens, from Lady Bunny and Glamamore.”

Certainly, this is a culture that thrives on fake eyelashes. At Manhattan’s Patricia Field, where the wig and makeup counter is presided over by Steven Field — a.k.a. Perfidia, his drag queen, night-life alter ego — there’s always been a healthy business in the things. “It’s been consistently steady for us,” says Field. “But, of course, we get the sexy push-up-bra crowd. The Pat Field Girl. But hey, lately, business is picking up. I guess it’s because false eyelashes aren’t taboo anymore. You don’t have to be Diana Ross to wear them.”

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