Dossier: Man of Depth
Who: Ron Labbe, 46
What: Proprietor of Studio 3D, the only one-stop shop in the world for all things 3-D.
Depth of field: Labbe has worked on the vaunted Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue ("Estella, Daniela & Heidi Bust Out in 3D") and for a Bermuda restaurant that put dessert pictures on View-Master reels that served as menus.
Virtual reality: "People from all over the world find me," says Labbe. A neurosurgeon from SÃo Paulo, Brazil, took Labbe into the operating room to make 3-D slides of aneurysms.
Rose-and-blue-tinted glasses: Labbe's biggest seller is 3-D lenses. When Polaroid dropped the product, Labbe bought its inventory of 750,000 pairs for 2.5 cents each. He sells them for 35 cents apiece. Magazines that use Labbe's images hire him to be their liaison with other specs suppliers. "That's where the money is," he says.
The eyes have it: Labbe sparked the greatest recent 3-D fad: Magic Eye illusions, those fields of color from which pop the dinosaurs and astronauts that grace cereal boxes and posters. In 1990 a company called Pentica Systems Inc. hired Labbe, a part-time mime, to appear in a commercial. While shooting the ad, Labbe showed Stereo World, a 3-D enthusiasts' magazine, to Pentica president Tom Baccei. Four years later, Baccei's Magic Eyes were grossing $100 million. "I never in a million years thought that it would catch on," says Labbe.
Supermodel Heidi Klum has Ron Labbe to thank for her most eye-popping bikini photographs.
Sanctuary: Home for man and company is a 94-year-old Lutheran church in Maynard, Mass. Labbe paid $130,000 for it in 1995. "God told the pastor to sell because the church isn't on a main road and there's not much parking," he says. He and his wife live in a warren of rooms created when the congregants divided the social hall into areas for Bible study.
God is in the details: With its 10 whitewood pews and four film projectors, the church serves as a 3-D museum and theater and is filled with pop-culture relics. Among the memorabilia: a 1950s Stereo Realist camera, lenticulars of the Last Supper and Ballantine Beer, and Joe Boxer 3-D underwear.
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