He's like a priest or a really, really good therapist.
Without warning, you're suddenly on the verge of tears and confessing the most painful past sins.
"Just tell me what you did," implores the familiar, authoritative voice. "You can say it. Tell me."
I haven't really allowed my mind to wander to these dark recesses for decades, but somehow he has dredged up one of my most heinous childhood memories.
"Well, Vidal – uh, Mr. Sassoon," I begin. "Many years ago, I , I , I….it's almost too awful to admit, but I got a perm. From a department store. They took me to some basement room that smelled like formaldehyde and wine coolers and it was just awful. My entire head of hair was one big frizzball.
"It was the '80s!" I wail.
Vidal Sassoon, hair icon or the Einstein of tresses, tries to understand. He's calling from a hotel suite in Chicago and I'm in Nevada. The sympathy pours across the phone lines.
"Perhaps it would have been easier to just have embraced your curls," he suggests.
Oh, fine. Thanks Vid, as now he wants to be called.
Where was he back when I had $17 in my pocket and a picture of Jennifer Beals from "Flashdance?"
Yes, I wanted to have her riot of curly hair while wearing half-ripped up sweatshirts that fell just perfectly off one naked shoulder. True, it was a chilly look during a Chicago winter, but what price can you put on fashion? Actually, they did call her look "a hair riot." Why anyone would want such a commotion on his or her noggin remains a mystery. But why judge history?
Vid doesn't judge. He's just here to school us, console us and to talk about his new documentary film "Vidal Sassoon the Movie," which is a wonderful slice of follicle-to-feet style history. But before he discusses his pet project, we must address our Style Goes Strong concerns.
There are so many perplexing hair care questions that need definitive answers because let's admit another deep dark secret that all women carry with us like a new Chanel bag. Most of us trade in hair stylists like we do old cars. When they begin to disappoint us, we look for a new model and he or she always comes with a new spin on what we should do to be best tressed. It's so confusing.
The master needs to address our most pertinent concerns. Once and for all.
VID TO THE RESCUE
Perplexing Question #1: Should we continue to flatiron or get one of these $300 Brazilian blowouts from our salon? And is it necessary to involve foreign countries in our hair care?
Help, Vid, help!
"Oh frizz. The enemy," says Sassoon. "My best advice is to remember there's a wonderful look that I found in Harlem. Yes, I'd go there and look at these beautifully shaped heads. The point is you need to embrace your natural curl.
"Get a good cut if your hair tends to curl or frizz. One that fits with your bone structure. That way you can air-dry and go very curly on a hot day or blow-dry and straighten. It's a best of both worlds. But if you must use a flatiron remember to condition and deep condition."
Perplexing Question #2: How often should we cut? Some hairdressers say monthly while others want to give it six to eight weeks. Can he stop the confusion?
"Remember to get a good cut every month. It keeps the shape," he insists. "It's about answering this question: Can you swing your hair and feel good about yourself?"
If no, should we hang our heads in shame? "No need to be that upset," Vid says. "If no, it's just time for a good cut."
Perplexing Question #3: Can women over 40 have that long, stick-straight Jennifer Aniston hair? "I call the overly long hair the curtain look although it does look good on Jennifer," he cries. "On some women, it's just two slabs of hair. One on each side of the cheek going down to the shoulders! I don't mind if it's beautifully cut. I only love long hair if it's cut well. But curtains are just dreadful."
"Long hair can work at any age, but if you do have it, you really must have a cut once a month. Just soften the sides, so they're not so heavy. You want to be able to shake your hair and look beautiful."
Perplexing Question #4: Why does our hair never look like the picture we bring our stylist? "Don't come in with a picture and say, 'This is what I want.' I'd have women bring me pictures of Ava Gardner and I'd say, 'Darling, you don't look anything like her and I think she would be insulted, too.'"
THE HAIR MASTER IS EVERYWHERE
Vidal speaks from the heart in his new documentary and also in the upcoming book "Vidal: The Autobiography" due out in July.
His story is inspiring and tear jerking.
Born in 1928 in London, his father left the family and his mother was forced to leave him at an orphanage from age five to 11. "I believe we grow through our difficulties," he says of the time. "When you're young, you don't realize how hard it is on you. I always loved my mother. She was a great character."
She insisted that he pick up his first pair of scissors. "A hairdresser was the last thing I wanted to be," he says. "But my mom was the most persistent woman I ever met." He studied with famed hairdresser Raymond in London and then broke out to start his own hair revolution.
Sassoon created his five point Sassoon haircut based on his love of architecture.
"Hair is geometry and angles. It's all about bone structure," he insists. "Above all, you must work with your face."
CUTTING THE RICH AND FAMOUS
Vid gave Mia Farrow her infamous pixie cut for "Rosemary's Baby" that's now being revived in salons across America and Europe. He just had one worry. What would her then hubby Frank Sinatra think about his wife getting a major chop?
"Mr. Sinatra never told me," Vid says with a laugh.
Mia loved it, which is what matters. That brings us to our last perplexing question: Why does a good hair day truly make our day, our week, our year?
What is it so important?
"Hair is one of nature's biggest compliments," Vid says. "It truly is your best accessory. Stand up and swing your hair around. Do it right now. Doesn't that feel good? Think of that feeling as a gift from above."
Your hair therapist has one more tip for yours truly.
"And no more perms," Vid tells me.
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