Sisters Lyn Paulsin (left) and Georgette Mosbacher are shown inside Georgette's… (Lucian Perkins/FOR THE…)
TAMPA — It’s the third night of the Republican National Convention, and Georgette Mosbacher — cosmetics impresario and eccentric grande dame of GOP fundraising — is waiting in the lobby of the Westin Tampa Harbour Island hotel for her sister Lyn, who has gone to fetch a needle and thread.
The kick pleat in the back of Georgette’s black-and-white leopard print Roberto Cavalli dress has torn, and Georgette needs her sister to fix it. As she slips out of five-inch heels and into velvet navy flats embossed with gold Republican elephants, Georgette recounts her youth as the oldest of the four Paulsin children in a modest home in Highland, Ind. When her father, a restaurant owner, died, her mother returned to work, leaving it to 7-year-old Georgette to change baby Lyn’s diapers and warm her bottles.
“She’s my babysitter,” Georgette says. “I mean, baby sister.”
The 65-year-old businesswoman, chief executive officer of Borghese cosmetics, has never shied away from talking about how her marriages to real estate developer Robert Muir, the late Faberge CEO George Barrie and Bush family friend and former commerce secretary Robert Mosbacher catapulted her into a world of wealth, soirees and presidential politics. Yet, despite the attention paid to the marriages and divorces of “Hurricane Georgette” or “Monsoon Mosbacher” (as she has been called by columnists), her most enduring and overlooked relationship has been with Lyn Paulsin — sister, manager, employee, confidante, emissary, Girl Friday and, most important on this night, seamstress.
Lyn emerges from the elevator.
“The needle and thread?” Georgette asks.
Lyn, 60, puts an I-can’t-believe-I-forgot hand to her forehead, and turns around.
Together wherever they go
Georgette is renowned for political fundraisers and society bashes at her Fifth Avenue apartment, which is adorned with crystal chandeliers, faux-Roman marble busts and gilded mirrors. Another constant feature is Lyn, who has dated regulars in the Mosbacher party circuit. The gossip pages mistakenly linked her to Republican consultant Ed Rollins; she says she did go on a couple of dates with Rush Limbaugh.
At one event, when Georgette fell ill, Lyn stepped in like an eager understudy to host. “I can’t remember an event, whether a book signing or political event or social event, in which Lyn wasn’t involved in some way or another,” says billionaire Wilbur Ross, who spent part of the Republican convention mingling on a yacht flying the Cayman Islands flag.
Georgette makes the calls extracting fundraising commitments; Lyn follows up and collects the money. (“I don’t have the time to talk to everyone; they talk to her,” Georgette says of Lyn. “But they think they’ve talked to me.”)
In Georgette’s various cosmetics ventures, Lyn has carried the titles “director of communications” and “vice president of creative services.” The teamwork extends beyond business and politics. Georgette pays for the family cruise to South America; Lyn makes sure the rooms have connecting terraces. Lyn, who is officially employed by Borghese, often appears as a dutiful assistant. She has rolled a lint brush over Georgette’s dress in green rooms and peered through the camera lenses to approve photos.
“I don’t know much about Lyn,” Barbara Walters says, adding that her friend Georgette “gives very interesting cocktail parties for friends. Her sister usually coordinates it.”
Fire and ice
In Tampa, the Romney campaign offered the sisters separate rooms, but they preferred to stay together. Lyn checked in early and Georgette waited for the winds and rain from Hurricane Isaac to subside before flying down two days later. When she arrived, Georgette looked around the hotel room in disapproval: “This place is not clean.”
“I thought I did it,” Lyn said, as Georgette wiped all the surfaces.
During this, the sisters’ seventh convention together, Lyn keeps Mrs. Mosbacher, as she calls Georgette in public, on schedule and in face powder as the two breeze through dinners and delegations like tropical birds amid a flock of pale gulls. Georgette wears stars-and-stripes earrings, her colored red hair in a crest, her eyebrows permanently darkened red by a tattoo artist in Gary, Ind. Lyn is ice to Georgette’s fire. She wears her bleached hair short, prefers a paler lip gloss and had her eyebrows tattooed light brown in Washington. She dons a cream-colored Renato Ballestra frock, which, like many of her outfits, was handed down to her by Georgette and was tailored to fit her smaller frame.
Despite differences in build, (“Don’t think we’ll go there, hon,” Lyn says) the sisters share laugh lines and almond-shaped eyes. Lyn’s prominent cheekbones and resemblance to the actress Annette Bening have prompted reports that she once modeled. (“Wikipedia doesn’t get much right,” Georgette says. “She was a housewife.”)