NEW YORK — Hundreds of the beauty industry’s leading executives gathered at the Unitarian Church of All Souls on the Upper East Side Thursday morning to remember Joseph Spellman, who died Sept. 22 at age 71 after a brief bout with pancreatic cancer.
“It should have been him up here [speaking] and not me,” said a visibly emotional Leonard Lauder, chairman emeritus of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. of the much-loved Spellman, who served as a senior consultant for the company for more than 15 years. “Joe was one of the most creative and conceptual-thinking people I’ve ever met. Every time I’d see him, he had a torrent of ideas and concepts. It was as if he opened a faucet and they poured out. When I went to his office, I would always bring with me a piece of paper to capture those words and ideas.”
Lauder called Spellman “a fireman” who always stepped in to any role when the corporation needed him to do so — serving as the interim president of MAC Cosmetics and heading up Tom Ford Beauty and Bobbi Brown Cosmetics when there were management shifts. “He was called to action countless times,” said Lauder. “In every case, he did it willingly with a smile and brilliant execution. He will shine as brightly as the stars in our hearts and memories. Joe, you will always be with us, because your star shines brightly for so many.” In fact, his nickname internally was Cardinal Spellman, because of his unfailing good humor, his ability to get along with everyone in his path and his versatility, said Lauder.
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Spellman was a vice president of marketing at Estée Lauder in the Seventies, later working for a dozen years at his own marketing and creative design firm before joining Elizabeth Arden in 1988. Under his watch, the company launched the blockbuster scent Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds, still a holiday bestseller. He rejoined Lauder as a senior consultant in 2000.
“Joe Spellman was my dear friend and colleague,” said John Demsey, group president of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., “He was there for me 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Every Sunday, I’d get a call on my cell phone, asking about my week. We would see each other every single day. He always greeted me with a smile and a kiss. I didn’t know before today that his middle initial was X, but it seems appropriate, as it’s the symbol for kisses. He worked with all of the major brand-builders, the legends — from Estée Lauder to Leonard Lauder to Charles Revson — during the course of his career. My favorite story about him was that he was sitting with Charles Revson in his office, and Charles asked him what their next fragrance would be. Joe said, ‘Why don’t we call it Jontue?’ And Jontue was born. Joe was also a consummate deal-maker.”
Demsey pointed out that Spellman met his wife of 20 years, Victoria Spellman, while both of them were working at Elizabeth Arden. In addition to his wife, Spellman is survived by two children, Luke and Chloe. “He loved his wife and children. It always impressed me that every single day, he walked his children to school. He took great pleasure in talking about his kids, whether it was Luke making the team or Chloe dealing with the mean girls at [the] Nightingale [Bamford School]. He was a source of inspiration for me when I had my daughter.”
A third speaker, David Stoop — Spellman’s friend of 37 years and godfather to Luke Spellman — called Spellman “a friend to all, irreverent, one of a kind and the older brother I never had.”
The audience included Gilbert Harrison, chairman of Financo; Pamela Baxter, president and chief executive officer of LVMH Perfumes and Cosmetics, North America, and president at Christian Dior Couture Inc.; Terry Darland, president of Parfums Christian Dior North America; former Bloomingdale’s ceo Michael Gould; Jane Hertzmark Hudis, global brand president of the Estée Lauder brand; Peter Lichtenthal, global brand president of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics and Bumble and bumble, and Karen Buglisi Weiler, global brand president of MAC Cosmetics.