Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Andrew Luster

Max Factor 'Heir'

Luster, 37, had been born under that most cursed of lucky stars: wealth.

He had never had to suffer the indignity of earning a living because he was a descendant of Max Factor, who amassed a vast fortune in the cosmetics industry.

Factor, Luster's great-grandfather, was a Polish Jew who worked as a wigmaker and makeup artist for Russian stage productions in the late 1800s. Factor fled the east European pogroms and emigrated to the U.S. in 1902. He found himself in California ten years later as the motion picture industry took root there.

Factor took work as a makeup and hair stylist for film stars, and in 1914 he invented "Supreme Grease Paint," a face makeup that would not melt under the hot klieg lights on film sets.

Max Factor with Michnometer
Max Factor with Michnometer

After years of further experimentation with combinations of talc, mineral oil, water and chemicals, Factor in 1937 invented Pan-Cake Makeup, which made close-ups possible for movie stars with even the most pocked and blotchy complexions.

Max Factor's product changed the makeup industry, and screen icons such as Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Claudette Colbert became regular clients of Factor's Hollywood salon. Millions of American women clamoring for the beauty secret of the stars bought his retail products, and the Max Factor name became synonymous with beauty products.

His son ran the company after Max Sr. died, and heirs sold the firm for nearly $500 million in 1973. The extended Factor family got rich.

Andrew Luster, known to his family as Drew, was ten years old at the time. His mother, divorcee Elizabeth Luster, was the adopted child of Max Factor's daughter Freda.

Grandma Freda set up a $3.1 million trust in Drew's name. And the boy was set for life.

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