For years artist Mark Schilder hoped his brush with fame was coming, but he never expected it to be soggy with toothpaste. Then Schilder, 26, decided to do a series of portraits featuring stars' actual toothbrushes alongside their faces. "I wanted to paint them in a way that would show their ordinary, human side," he says.

To start with, Schilder rounded up a bunch of home addresses with the help of show business friends. Then he mailed out his requests, thoughtfully enclosing replacement brushes. Some celebs bristled, among them Robert Redford, Steven Spielberg, Alan Alda ("There are some things I just have to keep to myself") and Nancy Reagan, whose secretary declined "in light of the many similar requests she receives each week." But more than 60 notables, including Michael J. Fox, Farrah Fawcett and Bob Hope, responded favorably. Now Schilder is putting the finishing touches on a toothsome, 400-square-foot mural covering one wall of his Hollywood studio.

Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp; Schilder still awaits brushes from Marlene Dietrich and Prince. "Then we're done," says the artist. He claims he's already rejected a $150,000 offer for the work—because he wants more. Hey, this is mass market stuff. "Toothbrushes are an obvious thing that everyone shares," he says. "I mean, we all brush our teeth."