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Vidal Sassoon

(English hairdresser)

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Biography Vidal Sassoon
photo Vidal Sassoon
Vidal Sassoon, CBE (17 January 1928 - 9 May 2012) was an English hairdresser, credited with creating a simple geometric, "Bauhaus-inspired" hair style, also called the bob. Due to the popularity of his styles, he was described as "a rock star, an artist, [and] a craftsman who 'changed the world with a pair of scissors.'"

His "wash and wear" philosophy liberated women from the "tyranny of the salon" and "revolutionized the art of hairstyling." Sassoon's styles became "emblematic of freedom and good health," and their popularity allowed him to open the first chain of worldwide hair styling salons, complemented by his hair-treatment products. He is also remembered for his television commercials in the 1980s. Vidal Sassoon: The Movie, a documentary film about his life, was released in 2010.

Sassoon was born in Hammersmith, London, and lived in Shepherds Bush. His parents were Jewish. His mother, Betty (Bellin), came from a family of immigrants from Ukraine, and his father, Nathan Sassoon, was from Thessaloniki, Greece. Sassoon had a younger brother, Ivor, who died from a heart attack at the age of 46. His father, a womaniser, left his family when Vidal was three-years-old.

Due to his mother's poverty and now being a single parent, she placed Sassoon and his younger brother in a Jewish orphanage, where they stayed for seven years until his he was 11 when his mother remarried. His mother was only allowed to visit them once a month and was never allowed to take them out. He attended Essendine Road Primary School, a Christian school, before being evacuated due to WWII to Holt, Wiltshire. After his return to London he left school at the age of 14 and worked as a messenger before starting a hairdressing apprenticeship. In his youth, he was also a football player.
At the age of 17, although having been too young to serve in World War II, he became the youngest member of the 43 Group, a Jewish veterans' underground organisation. It broke up what it considered Fascist meetings in East London.

In 1948, at the age of 20, he joined the Haganah (which shortly afterwards became the Israeli Defense Forces) and fought in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, which began after Israel achieved statehood.

Sassoon trained under Raymond Bessone, in his salon in Mayfair, of whom he said in 2010 that "He really taught me how to cut hair.... I'd never have achieved what I have without him." Sassoon opened his first salon in 1954 in London.

Sassoon stated his intentions in designing new, more efficient, hair styles: "If I was going to be in hairdressing, I wanted to change things. I wanted to eliminate the superfluous and get down to the basic angles of cut and shape."

Sassoon's works include the geometric perm and the "Nancy Kwan" hairstyles. They were all modern and low-maintenance. The hairstyles created by Sassoon relied on dark, straight, and shiny hair cut into geometric yet organic shapes. In 1963, Sassoon created a short, angular hairstyle cut on a horizontal plane that was the recreation of the classic "bob cut." His geometric haircuts seemed to be severely cut, but were entirely lacquer-free, relying on the natural shine of the hair for effect. Sassoon has been a key force in the commercial direction of hair styling. His Vidal Sasoon brand was applied to shampoos and conditioners sold worldwide, with a commercial campaign featuring the iconic slogan "If you don't look good, we don't look good." Former salon colleagues also bought Sassoon's salons and acquired the right to use his name, extending the brand in salons into the United Kingdom and the United States.

After moving to the United States, Sassoon sold his US$113 million-a-year company in 1983 to Richardson-Vicks. The company was bought over by Procter & Gamble in 1985, who he sued in 2003 for breach of contract and fraud in federal court for apparently neglecting the marketing of his brand name in favour of the company's other hair product lines such as Pantene. The two parties settled the matter the following year.

In 2002, the chain of Vidal Sassoon salons had been sold to Regis Corporation. By 2004, it was reported that Sassoon was no longer associated with the brand that bears his name.[citation needed] Vidal Sassoon authored several books, including A Year of Beauty and Health co-written with his former wife, Beverly Sassoon. He also had a short-lived television series called Your New Day with Vidal Sassoon, which aired in the fall of 1980.

Sassoon was twice a guest on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, on 27 June 1970 and 9 October 2011, when he was also Resident Thinker on the Nowhereisland art project.
Sassoon was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2009 Birthday Honours.

In 1982, Sassoon started the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, or SICSA, a research centre devoted to the non-political, interdisciplinary gathering of information about antisemitism.

After selling his company, he then worked towards philanthropic causes such as The Boys Clubs of America and the Performing Arts Council of the Music Center of Los Angeles via his Vidal Sassoon Foundation. He was also active in supporting relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina. It also funded educational pursuits on a need-basis in Israel and elsewhere. At the time of his death he had academies in England, the United States and Canada, while initiating plans to open new ones in Germany and China.

Personal life
Sassoon married his first wife, Elaine Wood, in 1956, but the marriage ended in 1958 when she left Sassoon for British water-skiing champion David Nations. In 1967, Vidal Sassoon married his second wife, actress Beverly Adams. They had four children: two daughters, Catya (1968-2002), an actress who died from a drug-induced heart attack, Eden (born 1973), and two sons, Elan (born 1970) and David. Sassoon and Adams divorced in 1980. His third wife was Jeanette Hartford-Davis, a dressage champion and former fashion model; they married in 1983 and divorced soon after. In 1992 he married Ronnie.
Sassoon was a lifelong fan of Premier League club Chelsea and was close friends with many of the players in the 1960s and 1970s.

In June 2011 it was reported that Sassoon had been diagnosed with leukaemia two years earlier, and was receiving treatment in Beverly Hills and London.

Sassoon died on 9 May 2012 at his home in Bel Air, Los Angeles. Though his death was originally reported to be a result of natural causes, it was later reported to have been a result of his leukaemia. He died in the presence of his family and Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Kevin Maiberger said that when the police went to his residence at Mulholland Drive at 10:30 he was found to have died. A memorial service was planned for a later date.

Books and films
He wrote three books: his autobiography Sorry I Kept You Waiting, Madam (1968); A Year of Beauty and Health (1979), with his second wife Beverly; and Cutting Hair the Vidal Sassoon Way (1984).

- Sassoon, Vidal; Sassoon, Beverly (1975). A Year of Beauty and Health. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-207-95751-7.
- Sassoon, Vidal (2010). Vidal: The Autobiography. London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-74689-3.

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