Vanessa Lloyd is a driving force around...


Vanessa Lloyd is a driving force around town

Cruising along behind the wheel of her bright blue Camaro, Vanessa Lloyd has become one of the most popular chauffeurs around town. For a six-month fee of $75, customers subscribe to her driving service, Daisytrain Ltd., and are billed at an hourly rate for drive time.

So far, most of Mrs. Lloyd's clients are elderly or disabled. She takes them shopping. She drives them downtown for theater and dining, shuttles them back and forth to the airport, takes them to doctor's appointments. And word has spread to the point where Mrs. Lloyd has begun franchising the service.

Raised in Baltimore, Mrs. Lloyd, 52, was trained as a pianist at Peabody Conservatory and worked briefly as a news reporter for WCBM radio. Then, as a single parent, she started a private investigation firm, Lloyd Detective Agency, to help put three sons through private school and college. After they graduated, she sold her house in Roland Park, closed the agency and spent a couple of years playing piano at Cafe des Artistes and the 13th Floor of the Belvedere in a style she describes as "something between Roger Williams and Liberace."

When she saw the movie "Driving Miss Daisy," she decided to open a specialized driving service.

"I'm an outdoors person and a people person, and I've found I do well with people who are handicapped or have special problems," says Mrs. Lloyd, who took care of her own grandmother until she died at the age of 96.

"To me, the important thing is to help the elderly keep getting out and around. . . . I tell people the idea of this service is time-sharing a car and a driver -- instead of a condo."

Next time you gaze into Tom Cruise's boyish blue eyes, think of Dr. Gary Cassel.

That's because Dr. Cassel, a Towson ophthalmologist, helped them look tired and bloodshot in Mr. Cruise's new movie, "The Firm."

But before you blame Dr. Cassel for turning the Hollywood hunk into something less adorable on the big screen, know this: He was only following orders.

For the last four years, Dr. Cassel and his brother Mitchell, a New York optometrist, have shown movie stars how to achieve a brand of ocular verite -- turning brown eyes blue, dilating pupils and even faking a corneal abrasion here and there.

With the aid of makeup artists, the brothers Cassel have given Mr. Cruise a black eye in "Far and Away." They've created contact lenses to age the eyes of comedian Billy Crystal in "Mr. Saturday Night." And they recently produced jaundiced eyes for AIDS patient Tom Hanks in the soon-to-be-released "Philadelphia."

The real irony is that Dr. Cassel has yet to actually meet any of these stars. While he's responsible for the medical expertise, his brother handles the work from there, often spending weeks on the set.

Mitchell has promised to take his brother on a shoot one day, although it's unlikely Dr. Cassel, a 40-year-old father of two, will wind up in the movies soon.

"I'd be too star-struck," he says. "And I'm very happy being a general ophthalmologist in Towson anyway."

Mary Corey

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