With the passing of dear Vidal Sassoon earlier today, I was reminded of the many times I was lucky enough to chat with him. Aside from being such a revolutionary of style, the man epitomized style to his very last appearances in March. This, too, was the last time I saw him, at the opening of the Gernreich-Moffitt show at MOCA. I made a promise to Vidal and his fantastic wife Ronnie that evening that we should all have dinner soon, perhaps when Andy and I got back from Europe in early May. Sadly, this wouldn’t be.
Some of our conversations took place in an official capacity, interviews for an article or other project, as in the case of my last book, part bio on Fred Hayman, part sweeping history of Beverly Hills, of which he played such a key role with the opening of his salon and by relocating to the city from swinging London.
In Chapter 12, I featured a fabulous vintage photo by Duffy-Marie Arnoult of Vidal and his second wife Beverly, with whom he had four children. Retelling the glory days of the after-hour clubs The Daisy, owned by fashion retailer Jack Hanson (Peggy Moffitt, Vidal’s former muse, was a sales girl at his legendary Jax shop) and its rival, the Candy Store, opened by actor Tony Curtis and hair star Gene Shacove (the inspiration, years later, of the Warren Beatty character in his film “Shampoo”) underneath Gene’s salon, Vidal recalled:
“[Gene] had a wonderful salon as well as a nightclub all going in the one building. It was really great fun, really sensational looking people,” he recalled, in his smoky, measured voice. The London scissor star came to Hollywood, cementing his status as a household name after lopping off Mia Farrow’s locks. He opened his own signature salon there in Beverly Hills in 1969. Though he and his then-wife Beverly and their growing family planted roots in town, Sassoon’s fledgling empire kept him there “just about half the year. We were traveling with the new product line. We had hair salons in New York and London. I had to be in all those places, so I never stayed as long as I personally would have liked. But when we were there we got to know it all. It was an awakening for the area. There was Amelia Gray and places like that for the ladies. But here was a wave of places you wanted to visit.”
Vidal shared other memories, great insight. But it was his final take on Fred Hayman, which appeared in Chapter 22, that was not only generous. They were words that could be spoken by any one of us about Vidal Sassoon himself:
“See the difference between Fred and all the others is longevity,” explained Vidal Sassoon. “Not only did he have great style, it was Fred’s drive that made Rodeo Drive. When everybody else died out and was gone, Fred was still there. And it was Fred who encouraged with his individual charisma all these other fashion companies to come there. So, he really made the street. I was looking up some proverbs by Isaac Bashevis Singer who said , “A good life is not a passive existence where you live and let live. It is one of involvement where you live and help live.” That’s exactly what Fred did by bringing in all those other people to the party. Because Fred was doing marvelously there, all the other big names wanted to be there. So it is a life of involvement where you live and help live. Thousands of people have had jobs because of Fred’s ingenuity and Fred’s drive that made Rodeo Drive.”
The quote he invoked by Isaac Bashevis is particularly poignant given Vidal’s own approach to life.
Amen. R.I.P. Beautiful Vidal.
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