The Crown Prince
Like so many hit series of the past—remember Farrah's feathers in Charlie's Angels and Mario's flip in That Girl?—Friends has become a fashion avatar, with fans across the country begging stylists for the looks. But when customers want an exact replica of, say, Jennifer Aniston's poufy shag, only Chris McMillan of L.A.'s chic Estilo salon can guarantee firsthand experience. The 30-year-old stylist is also the man responsible for Courteney Cox Arquette's gamine face-framer and Lisa Kudrow's layered locks.
McMillan has just finished creating top-secret new looks for Cox (Monica), Kudrow (Phoebe), Matthew Perry (Chandler) and Matt LeBlanc (Joey), all to be unveiled in the third episode. No word yet on whether Aniston (Rachel) or Schwimmer (Ross) look the same. The coifs are part of the story line, McMillan says. "Phoebe cuts everybody's hair, and she ruins Monica's."
Phoebe should have taken lessons from McMillan, who knows that a stylist to the stars has to be part artist, part psychologist. "The [Friends] cast can't just look standard," he explains. "The hairstyles have to look like today and maybe even be a little hipper." At the same time his goal is to make the actors "feel as comfortable as possible" with their appearance.
Clients say his approach works for them. "He's got a vision," raves Kudrow. "He creates hair sculptures." And Cox claims that when McMillan wields his scissors and brush, "you can close your eyes, trust his talents and open wide again knowing your hair couldn't possibly look better."
Luckily McMillan has thoroughly disciplined the artistic flair he displayed as a child when he was punished for lopping off his kid sister's curls. Growing up in Manhattan Beach, Calif., McMillan—one of four children born to Cathie, 50, a social worker, and her husband, Arthur, 51, an insurance salesman—also remembers "getting into trouble for playing with people's hair in school." His mother urged him to channel that creative energy into beauty school, and since a girl he had a crush on had already enrolled, he did too.
After finishing both beauty school and high school in 1983, McMillan worked in a Manhattan Beach salon for seven years, then flew off to Milan with a photographer friend and stayed for nine months. "That is where you have to go to build your portfolio," he explains. "We'd just shoot models all day, every day." The connections he made ultimately led to a Detour cover with Christian Slater in 1993. That, and word-of-mouth, won him other celeb clients, including Patricia Ar-quette and Marisa Tomei.
In fact, McMillan was laboring over famous heads when he got his big Friends break. On the evening of the 1994 Oscars, he was at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, giving touch-ups to stars including Liam Nee-son and Elijah Wood, when Cox and her publicist Eden Salenger—a friend of McMillan's—dropped by. "Her publicist had always asked me to do her hair, so I quickly fixed it there in the bathroom," he says. Cox liked the results so much that she asked him to do her hair for Friends, which was about to start production.
Cox's enthusiasm turned out to be catching. Aniston admired the new look and asked McMillan to suggest a change for her as well. He describes her look as "that Ann-Margret sex-kitten thing."
The cut was a hit with viewers. One New York City woman even flew to L.A. just for an appointment with McMillan, who was flattered but bemused. "She could've saved her money and taken a picture of Jennifer to another hairdresser," he says. Soon, Kudrow became a McMillan devotee and hired him for her May wedding.
McMillan is now working as a stylist on his first film, Unhook the Stars, a drama starring Tomei. But he is at the salon several days a week ("I need it to stay grounded," he explains) seeing up to 15 clients a day, including Slater, Ben Stiller and Julianne Phillips.
McMillan says he never reveals secrets divulged under the blow-dryer. After all, his customers are his friends. "We have something in common," he explains. "They are into their looks, and I am into their looks."
CRAIG TOMASHOFF in Los Angeles