Walden Ashe, 26, has launched his own skin-care line in competition with major firms—and in San Diego, of all places. He was born (in Concord, Mass.) as Charles McPhillips and adopted his nom de jar because he thought it worked better on a moisturizer label. The "Walden" came from his literary hero Thoreau, and Ashe was a short form of his middle name (Ashmore). His father is a retired electrical engineer, and the boy was raised by grandparents when his mother died a year after his birth. At Brandeis, Ashe pursued his interest in theater. "I realized I couldn't support myself on stage," he says, "and I went backstage to do makeup." While studying for his cosmetology license, he got on-the-job training at a Boston opera company. A brief stint at Charles of the Ritz followed. "It got very boring," he says. In 1977 he became the first male beauty director at California's fashionable Golden Door health spa. After doing everyone from Phyllis Diller to Phyllis George, he observed that "dealing with celebrities loses its glitter when one examines their skin under a magnifying lamp." Last year Ashe began producing his herbal creams and opened The Walden Ashe Skin Care Center in San Diego. Now he has another in La Jolla. "My ultimate goal," he says, "is to be the top man's name in skin care."
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