“I’ve got a lot of stories, honey,” Kathy Skiles told me on a recent Tuesday morning. “Good thing you’re not with the National Enquirer or you’d be paying the big bucks!”
It may be worth shelling out some dough anyway. In one of her tales she drinks tequila with Slim Pickens, the old-time rodeo performer turned TV star. “He was funny,” Skiles recalled. Then there was Burt Reynolds, whom she shot “Semi-Tough” with, and comedian Jerry Lewis. They all figure into her professional past as a film and TV director in a career that spanned nearly three decades. “I actually worked with O.J. Simpson, but I hate to say that.”
At 67, Skiles emanates a youthful energy with a Julianne Moore vibe. She has bright auburn hair and a high-pitched, contagious chuckle. “We laugh a lot here,“ Skiles said. “I used to write comedy too, so why not, right?” One of her shows was “Family Matters,” which ran on ABC and CBS for a total of nine seasons (1989-1998).
The store manager of Beauty Collection at 8951 Santa Monica Blvd. since 2010, Skiles is passionate about one thing in particular: her relationship with her customers, many of them now friends. “They are, like, the best group of people I’ve ever seen,” Skiles said. “I went to Thanksgiving dinner at one of my client’s houses, okay?”
From Texas originally, Skiles has happily left Dallas behind and now resides in Studio City. “I wished I lived in WeHo,” Skiles said. “It’s very expensive.”
It was in 2002, after a period of family drama and too much business travel, that Skiles left entertainment and reinvented herself by entering retail. “I mean, it was really just a matter of survival, to be honest,” Skiles said. “I knew a makeup artist, so I had a chance to work in a store. Then I worked for Ann Taylor, Sephora, then got this job.”
Seems like a radical change, but not to Skiles. “Basically, being a manager of a store and being a director is the same thing,” she said, smiling. “Ordering people to do things that they don’t necessarily like to do.”
Retail in WeHo has its challenges. Although she has a mixture of customers, it’s the men who grill her. “I have a lot of guys come in and they’re knowledgeable. You gotta be on your toes, or they will eat you,” Skiles said.
What do customers ask about? “Ingredients in skin care products. If things are tested on animals. What’s the newest thing? Do you have it? They’re savvy,” Skiles said, as if talking of friends and family.
I prodded her on cosmetics and animal testing, “Basically most of the products are not tested on animals. I mean, that’s a big thing for the industry in general now,” Skiles said.
Beauty Collection WeHo employs 12 people. “Two hairstylists, two facialists, sales staff and a manager,” Skiles said. Daphne Nguyen was a staff member who two locals recognized the day I was there. Nguyen recently made the move to work for Skiles after being at the Starbucks two doors down for a couple of years. “How are you?” a middle-aged gentleman asked her as he walked by the open doorway, heading for a cup of coffee.
Skiles may laugh a lot but she is dead serious about consumers supporting small business. “I just feel that, now the way that things are going so crazy, we need to support smaller operations,” Skiles said. (I assumed she meant Donald Trump’s policies, but could not confirm that by press time.) She admitted: “I feel nervous. Smaller businesses, and the people who are in them, are in it for the good of the community.”
Part of that good may be Beauty Collection’s quarterly in-store events, including an annual spring luau with Polynesian dancers. “We have free champagne and cookies,” Skiles said, grinning, “and we take your credit card at the door.”