Karl walked into the dining room of the Knightsbridge hotel. He was not alone. A woman with a striking crown of curly red hair was with him. The din of conversation lowered a decibel as the room looked up from its smoked salmon and warm bread. There in a far corner, by the window, sat Vidal Sassoon. In front of him was a large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.
Vidal was short, dark, and taut, a wound spring. Sun-tanned, he was the way men get when they stay in shape long passed the age they’re supposed to let go.
No fat around the middle. Muscled without being muscular. He was, at 70 something, what other men describe as well put together. Attractive to the opposite sex after 3 wives (and he knew it). He had expressive hands, like a conductor or a sculptor. And he was intense. An intensity that was, at this point, on the lookout for something new to be intense about.
Sassoon had left his challenges and triumphs behind.
The years in the orphanage when his mother could not afford to keep him and his brother. The 1948 Israeli war for independence where, after years of fascist Jew-baiting in the east end, he had gone to fight. The slow climb up the hairdresser’s assistants ladder.
And then the Bond Street salon, fashionable women lining the stairs to his door, the articles in Queen and Nova, the television coverage (a BRITISH success story) the cuts that made him famous worldwide, like the Asymmetric-Geometric, the first bob with sex appeal which put him on the map and freed women to go from work to dinner with just a comb (just wash and go).
And finally the chain of salons across two continents.
He treated women’s hair, which he described as fabric, seriously.
Now, years later, having sold his name to what was to become the uber corporate Procter and Gamble, all he had was his Brand to look out for and keep overly corporate hands off of.
He was very famous, very rich and very bored. But not old.
But she, the red head across the table, interested him. Or rather her hair did. Deliberately he leaned across and put his hands slowly through her curls, and smiled as the red hair sprang back. “Good. Very good”. For a moment I thought he was going to bury his face in it.
“Vidal, this is Jean. She is dying to meet you.”
“So pleased you came along. Vidal said, hands still exploring her hair, “ Do you want a job?”
“I have a job. I am your art director at the agency. I want an interview.”
“Have some fresh orange juice,” he said, pushing the glass across the table.
She sipped and looked up, pleased.
‘That’s because it’s fresh. If juice is squeezed more than 20 minutes ago, I don’t drink it.”
Meanwhile Kurt wished he was at another table. Or another restaurant. Or back in The Complete Gent, cutting men’s hair. He liked Vidal. The man had made his mark. But this public love-making made him squirm. Now what? It was like looking at himself in the mirror and asking the question.
So what’s next?
But the mirror kept shtum.
Vidal and Jean got up to leave. Both were smiling. She had her portfolio of concept ads to show him. I guess you got your interview, Kurt thought, as they walked out the door.