Monthly Archives: February 2014

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In the early 1990s, while studying at the Wharton school of

My first 10 Bagger: In college, I was more of a growth (Canslim) Investor than a value investor. In the early 1990s, while studying at the Wharton school of business, I began subscribing to Investors Business Daily and buying Home Depot (NYSE:HD) shares. As one of the best stocks of the decade, it became my first 10 bagger..

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Guy ArochThe scar on my forehead? I was four. My brother Michael has me by the ankles, spinning me around and around the kitchen, singing “Fly Me to the Moon.” I feel the rush of air, glimpse the blur of linoleum floor—bam!—my head nails the counter edge. I see stars. Bawling. Three stitches. This scar right here on my upper inner thigh? Five years old. I scale a built-in bookcase to steal the Red Hots my sister Mary hid behind John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage, grab them victoriously, fall, catch the tender flesh on the curved metal pull of a drawer I’d opened to aid my ascent. Screaming. Five stitches. – Continue Reading BelowThe gnarly knee scar? Thirteen. I’m running downhill through the woods—a shortcut—late for a babysitting gig, trip, and land hard on a rock. Cursing. Seven stitches.The red scar near my left nipple? Three months ago I walk into a bank, make a deposit, see the flash of a gun, take a bullet for the teller. Fainting. Eleven stitches.You’re not buying it? Well, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it, because the real story—mammogram, biopsies, complications, weeping, 11 stitches—is…icky.I’d never given my breasts much thought, but now the one is all I think about. When an old college beau says he’s coming to New York to see me, my friend and neighbor Marlena Kowalski, a Polish Sophia Loren–like beauty, is, as usual, full of heavily accented advice: “Whatever you do, don’t bring up you-know-what.” What? “You know. The tumors!” she says. “The scar. That stuff freaks men out. Trust me. They don’t want to know. It’s not a turn-on, it’s turn-off. I’m telling you, Holly, this is the truth.” More advice: “Don’t go to bed with him. This would not be good message. Too easy. But if you must,” Marlena continues, “wear fancy bra and leave it on. He will think so sexy. This is the truth, Holly, I’m telling you.”Jim shows up, looks familiar—great, actually. Twenty-five years have passed, and I realize if I don’t see him for another 25, one of us will likely be dead. I pop an Ativan and the cork on a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. We reminisce about things I can’t recall, and I’m about to crack wise about a “senior moment” when an apparition of Marlena appears shaking her head, No!We go to my favorite restaurant, Rosa Mexicano, and I eat too many chips and order another margarita. Jim asks what’s new in my life, and I blurt, “Tumors,” because at this point I’m bloated from the salt, not feeling sexy, not wearing a fancy bra, and have discovered he’s come from Philly to bring his daughter to a bat mitzvah sleepover, making me, I suppose, a good layover plan. I can hear Marlena screaming for me to run like the Russians are on the corner. – Continue Reading BelowI run and catch the first flight to San Francisco to find Jane and Jean Ford, the twin creators and founders of the Benefit cosmetics company, which makes Dr. Feelgood complexion balm, Lemon Aid color-correcting eyelid primer, She Laq makeup sealer…. Surely these raven-haired sorceresses can stir up something to erase surgical scars.In a pink lobby a woman sits behind a desk with a plaque stating her job title: DIRECTOR OF FIRST IMPRESSIONS. (True.) I tell her I’m a Beauty Adventuress who’s trekked from Manhattan in search of…relief. So she leads me down candy-color corridors, past desks topped with candy jars, to a candy-filled corner office where the twins offer me a seat and Skittles and M&Ms and Cheez-Its. Clearly, I am among my people.Sitting on an overstuffed couch, stuffing myself, it strikes me I’ve seen these ladies before—undressed. Calgon, take me away…. They’re the twins in the ’70s Calgon Bath Bead commercials! “Quel correct,” says Jean, popping a Skittle in her mouth. Their trip into and out of the tub began when, after graduating from Indiana University 1:1 quality prada , the six-foot-tall identical twins moved to New York to model, supplementing their I.Magnin and Macy’s catalog work with sales clerking and apartment cleaning. In 1973, they packed up their station wagon and moved to San Francisco. “I came to find a husband,” Jane admits. Confesses Jean, “I came because I’d burned every bridge with my partying. Oh, honey—reckless abandon. I loved every minute of it. Whatever happened to Quaa­ludes?” She sighs. “Those were great days. And disease-free.” Jane concurs: “The world had no panties on.” – Continue Reading Below – Continue Reading BelowA year after moving, the brunettes scored the national Calgon campaign. “They’d wanted blond twins,” Jean says, “and couldn’t find any that could talk. So they showed us a script and said, `They can speak! Sign them up!’ It was a major gas.”After receiving a lecturing “Don’t waste your education” letter from their mother, the two got down to business. Sitting on a curb, they flipped a coin: heads they’d open a casserole café; tails a cosmetics store. They pooled their modeling money and opened the Face Place in 1976, branding themselves Benefit in 1990 to sell to department stores. “Benetint was the first thing we cooked up,” Jean remembers. “One morning, a worn-out stripper walked into the store—””Her shirt, some tie-dyed thing,” Jean says. “The fishnets broken up. She was wasted. She put both arms on the counter, and she said, `Hiii.’ Drunk. She said, `I need somethin’ special,’ something to keep her nipples pink. Apparently, whatever she was applying was wearing off mid-performance because, `when I dance, I sweat.’””So Jane and I looked at each other and said, `We have that. It’s just not here right now. Come back tomorrow,” Jean recalls. “Jane came over to my apartment, and we got a bunch of red food coloring—””Mother had sent all that cookware that you always get when you get your first apartment,” Jane says. “We got glycerin, rose petals…and we put it in the blender and boiled it down to a reduction. It was so strong!””And Jane took a little vial that had a cork in it, and we fill it, and she draws a rose and paints on the words rose tint and glues it on the bottle.”Jane nods: “We made two bottles. The gal comes in the next day—same outfit—to get her goods. She came back a week later and said, `I’ve run out, and all my friends want it.’ She said, `My tribe needs this.’ We said, `Friday we’ll have 24 more bottles for your weekend.’” – Continue Reading BelowDemand was overwhelming, Jean says. “Strippers, ballerinas, gay guys, all coming in: `I want that Rose Tint.’” Renamed Benetint in 1990 and marketed as a lip and cheek stain, it’s still their best-seller, with 10 million bottles sold to a clientele that includes Sarah Jessica Parker, Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, and romance novelist Danielle Steel. There’s no telling what those gals are tinting, but it occurs to me that Moulin Rouging my aureolas might make a great trompe-l’oeil diversion from my you-know-what.I hadn’t had a mammogram in 10 years. So I go to a fancy-schmancy “out of network” practice and discover I have a “cluster.” I’m to come back ASAP for a stereotactic core biopsy. Thanks to my old friend Ativan, I am calm as I lie facedown on a table with a hole through which my breast is exposed. My doctor, whom I’ll call Dr. X, numbs my breast with Lidocaine, and I feel a slight punch and then an uncomfortable sensation of drilling. What was thought to be one cluster turned out to be two sites. So now I have to have a second punch, second drilling. And my chances for having a malignancy (which are one in five given my age, family history, test results, and the very fact that I’ve been ordered to have this type of biopsy) have doubled. In 24 hours I’ll find out if I have cancer.Finished, Dr. X uses Steri-Strips to close my “nicks,” assuring me they’ll heal within seven days, leaving at most a tiny scar. I muse aloud, “Maybe I should write about this.” Dr. X looks up, “You’re a writer?” She tells me she’s working on a breast-cancer benefit, and after I’ve gotten dressed, she hands me a flyer for an upcoming event called Tickled Pink! Teens for the Cure. “It would be great if you could ask your editor to donate 300 issues of ELLE for our gift bags,” Dr. X says, smiling. Uh…okay. But what I want to say is, “You know what would be really great, Dr. X, is if you could call me tomorrow and say, `Holly, you do not have breast cancer.’ ” (She did. And reminded me to ask about the magazines.) – Continue Reading Below – Continue Reading BelowAt the front desk, I am handed the bill for the two biopsies—$5,075. My eyes pop cartoonishly out of my head, and the cashier says with a smile, “Just think of the frequent-flier miles.” You know who else is grinning? Veronica, in the claims department of my health insurance company, because guess who didn’t think in a million years I’d have to get preauthorization to have a biopsy? And guess who feels like a chump for not asking more questions about my procedure and recovery? Because despite coming from a family of doctors, despite being a journalist who asks questions for a living, despite having access to the best doctors in New York, my faculties shut down, and all I heard was C-A-N-C-E-R.”Don’t beat yourself up,” says my internist , Joseph Mulvehill, MD. “When you’re given a serious health diagnosis, you’re emotional, not thinking straight. I always tell my patients to go home, take time to digest what they’ve been told, do some research, write down questions, and make a follow-up appointment to discuss the options.”Mulvehill gives me the phone number of Healthcare Navigation, a group that helps patients deal with insurance companies. “America is coverage-illiterate,” says Maura Carley, the company president and a former regional director of Kaiser Permanente. “We evaluate your coverage, protect you. You should always appeal a significant denial.” When you’re sick, depressed, and demoralized, Healthcare Navigation can “recoup something for you,” Carley says. “You can just hand off everything to us.” Hired!The scar. Eight days after my biopsies, I looked down and saw blood on the front of my shirt. Panicked, I rushed to my dermatologist, Dennis Gross, MD, who takes great physical and emotional care of me. He peels off the Steri-Strips—”Oh my God, I can see halfway into your breast tissue”—numbs my breast, sterilizes the area, and gives me six internal stitches and five top stitches, closing my wounds. “Do you know how lucky you are that you didn’t get a major infection, sitting open like that?” he says, handing me a prescription for a powerful C-Pak antibiotic. – Continue Reading BelowThe stitches didn’t leave the scar—the biopsy punches did. I have two round red spots near my nipple. The twins take a peek.”Oh, that’s nothing to worry about—they’ll fade!” Jean says, lifting up her own shirt, showing me her right breast (lovely, I must say), with the faintest of lines beneath it. Nearly two years ago, during a routine mammogram, her doctor found a tumor.”My cancer was treatable,” she says. “I’m a breast-cancer survivor, but it doesn’t define who I am. I am a mother of two, cofounder of Benefit Cosmetics.” And one of the coolest chicks on the planet.”Juliette,” she says, addressing the beautiful blond whose business card reads MEDIA DARLING, “Please get Holly a tube of Stay Don’t Stray concealer, and a bottle of Benetint.” Juliette returns and Jean says, “Try that on your scar. It hides anything. And tint your nipples—the eye is drawn to the darkest part of the body. I started using Benetint on my right nipple because in radiation it lost all of its color. And you know what? The wound didn’t bother me because all the attention was drawn to my nips!” I use the concealer and stain, and wow, it works! Scar? What scar? I could start topless dancing.Inspired, I jump a cable car with Benefitters Juliette and Alison, whose own card reads HEAD CHEERLEADER, and we go to the Condor Club—a historical landmark in the North Beach district. A brass plaque on the brick wall reads: “The Condor, where it all began. The birthplace of the world’s first topless and bottomless entertainment. Topless June 19, 1964. Bottomless September 3, 1969, starring Ms. Carol Doda. San Francisco, CA.” Next to it is a sign: “Open for lunch.” Along with the legendary Doda, who measured 44-24-36, performance artist Karen Finley got her start here. – Continue Reading Below – Continue Reading BelowUpstairs, beautiful girls of all shapes and sizes are undressing, getting ready for work. There’s the tough and tender Sierra, known as “The Pole Princess”; Sophia, a Mila Kunis look-alike; Ryan, who is studying to be a psychologist; the pixied Jenni, whose “edge” is being flat-chested; Daisy, who could pass for a young Courteney Cox; and Fallon, a baby-voiced Vanessa Hudgens.The dressing room, the lighting, the mirrors are not unlike Flashdance, Showgirls, or Striptease. The girls are friendly and open, sharing secrets and dreams. Some have breast implants and show their faded scars. I reveal mine. “It will disappear over time,” says Sierra, lifting her top. “See, mine were underneath, and now you can’t see them.””I had 12 stitches in my head from a Patron bottle, and it faded,” Ryan says encouragingly, adding, “Remember: Even if you’re wearing a bikini top, put sunscreen on because the UV rays will go through it and that will make it scar more.” A voice from the back: “Mederma [cream] works wonders for scars, and it has SPF 30.”Sophia had a friend, Violet, with a scar like mine, “and she still danced, and even though one of her breasts was different from the other, she made a lot of money and was really sexy. She was Showgirl of the Year.””Would you consider getting a tattoo over your scar? Ninety percent of it is owning it,” Sierra tells me. “The more self-conscious you are, the less your energy glows. Guys don’t notice the little things you worry about. They see you has a whole.”The girls don their itty-bitty, shiny, ruffly, sparkly outfits and put their makeup on—lots of false eyelashes. No body glitter? “No!” Ryan says. “Glitter gets on guys that have to go home to their wives.” Adds Fallon, “And perfume—no perfume!” – Continue Reading BelowI ask them to give me an exotic-dance education. How much money can a dancer make a night? Split with the club, $500 to $1,000. “It’s like being a hairdresser,” Sierra says. “You’re renting the room to work here.” Can you drink on the job? Yes. The customers like buying dancers drinks. But if you’re like Sophia and don’t imbibe, say “double lime” to the bartender, and he’ll give you a shot of water instead of alcohol. “I don’t drink, and I don’t sit down,” Sophia says. “When I come to work, I stay on my feet all night because I’m here to make money, not play around. I have a family to support.” Daisy, staring at her own reflection, says, “Eventually we’re going to have to switch jobs. You can’t do this forever.” Watching everyone primping in the mirror, Benetinting their nipples, checking their front and rear views, it dawns on me that I’m overdressed for the occasion. Hey, Mar­lena’s 5,000 miles away! I pull off my top, I unzip my jeans…. “Woo, hoo!” Sierra cheers, “You go, girl!” Now I’ve got a band of sisters outfitting me from the “grab box,” and the next thing I know, we’re all onstage dancing to A Flock of Seagulls—”and I ran, ran so far away”—and I’m free and having the time of my life and thanking God the place is empty.In a taxi back to Candyland, Alison gasps, telling the driver, “Stop here!” It’s a sign, literally: CAROL DODA’S CHAMPAGNE & LACE BOUTIQUE. The legend is now a proprietor of a lingerie shop, still wearing her thick blond hair long; still cat-eyed and full-lipped, buxom and petite—still beautiful. We tell her of our adventure, and of seeing her name on the plaque outside the Condor. “My blood, sweat, and tears went into all the bricks in that building,” Doda says. “I didn’t make as much money as I should have. I try to keep a good sense of humor, though.” – Continue Reading Below – Continue Reading BelowBeing the country’s first-ever topless dancer, Doda did make history when, on April 22, 1965, she was arrested and charged with “indecent exposure”; the case was thrown out. “The women’s movement didn’t want our boobs showing,” Doda recalls. “They said, `Burn your bras!’ I said, `I’m not even wearing a bra!’ I got a lot of publicity. I guess that made me iconic. I mean, please. Boobs? It’s not like they were jumping out and attacking the audience.”After a year of topless dancing, “I said, `There’s got to be more to this, so I did a cabaret act. I sang show tunes like “Big Spender” or rock tunes like Stevie Wonder’s “For Once in My Life.” It was fun. Sammy Davis Jr. came one night, Sean Connery….” Doda still showed her assets; she simply “put more clothes on to take more clothes off.”Doda left the Condor in the mid-’80s and joined a rock band: Carol Doda and the Lucky Stiffs. (She performs a solo act now once a month in North Beach at the Amante club.) Ten years ago, she opened her lingerie shop. “You can’t go wrong with a thong,” Doda says. I like the red silk panties. This exasperates her: “Those are men’s boxers!” She puts a hand on her hip, sizing me up.”Listen, go and get a new style. Go get your makeup done. Get a new dress. Bleach your hair. And meet someone.” She plucks a pale pink satin scalloped-cup bra from the rack, and leading me to a dressing room says, “Scalloping is tres magnifique!” Marlena would approve. It’s femme and fancy, the kind of brassiere I’d be happy to leave on, and if I met the perfect gentleman—the one who would see and love the whole of me?—then I might just take the bra off.”This scar?” I’d say. “The one here on my left breast over my heart? I turned and saw you for the first time, and out of the blue I was struck in the chest—boing!—by an arrow stamped CUPID. Swooning. Eleven stitches. I’m telling you, this is the truth.”

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