Elan Sassoon, what are you doing around here in icy New England? You’re an LA dude, reared on coolness, sunshine and beach parties. You’re the son of Vidal Sassoon. Yeah, Vidal. As in: “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good.” As in: You graduated from Beverly Hills High. As in: Your neighbor was Bob Dylan and his son, Jakob, your best bud. As in: What the hell are you doing here?
But here you are! You’re opening a swishy new salon, Mizu, in an even swishier new hotel, the Mandarin Oriental—tomorrow! You’ve bought space on Commonwealth Avenue to build the world’s first school of hair design and skincare, the Academy of Aesthetics by Elan Sassoon. You moved your wife and two children here to be freezing with the rest of us.
Welcome, guy! You’ll fit in. You have that Yankee work ethic, for sure. How could you not? Your dad was sent to an orphanage in England, just doors away from his mother, who sent him there because she could not afford to feed him. When he was 14, she took him to a neighborhood barbershop to get a job. “We don’t have any jobs,” the owner said. “Thank you, sir,” young Vidal replied. “I understand.” After which he took his mother’s hand, opened the door for her and escorted her. “Wait.” The owner said. “I like your manners. I think we can find work for you here.”
And so begat the gazillionaire empire of Vidal Sassoon, a collection of international salons, products and the infamous geometric “bob.” Vidal bore four children but only took one of them on industry trips to fashion weeks and shows—you. And despite the mansion and trappings of new money, your father insisted his kids work. Hard. You and your brother David worked construction, pouring cement in the summer. You were expected to earn their own money to buy things.
After graduating from American University, you chased Hollywood. You produced nine films, starring actors such as Sam Gallagher and Lara Flynn Boyle, and were nominated for an award at Cannes (losing to Ed Burns “The Brothers McMullen.”) But you couldn’t leave your roots behind, could you, Elan? Hair. You had a thing for hair.
So tomorrow is a big deal for you. It comes after years working in the beauty-care industry (you headed up Louis Vuitton’s salons, and started and sold a product line with your mom, Beverly). And it comes with great pride. It’s not just that you’re continuing the work your dad began. You have plans for eight more schools and a product line. It’s that you’re doing it on your own. We’re glad to have you with us, Elan. Now maybe you can convince your pal Jakob to move here, too.
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
776 Boylston Street
Lessons in Faith, Love and Looking Good
By: David K
According to PhoPhacts.net, “Being a heterosexual male hairdresser (H.M.H.) is almost like being god.” Francoise Marie Dubonet, the infamous Courtesan de Coiffure, declared one balmy English day to an unlikely assembly of crimpers and theologians in London’s Royal Parisian Hall, circa 1916. Philosophical Platonic thoughts continue, if we hold this truth to be self-evident, then as day follows night it also follows, being an H.M.H. from London’s “swinging mod sixties” with the surname Sassoon is being god.
Stay with the logic. If your first name happens to be Elan, as in panache, and your surname Sassoon, with the charm of your handsome father and looks from your charming and heavenly mother, then reason follows, YOU must be the prodigal son of god returneth home to Salonville, U.S.A..
Say Amen. Praise the Lord.
There’s only one slight blemish in the logic, one fine print detail omitted. The son of the father is only a heterosexual male H.M.; fact is Elan is not a hairdresser. Therefore, the common sense of it breaks down; the son needs a brand new bag and baby needs a new pair of shoes.
All homage, spirituality, ridiculosity and religiousity aside, as East Coast Director of Klinger Advanced Aesthetics, Elan Sassoon makes good use of his pedigree and entrepreneurial wiles overseeing the chain of nationwide salons, spas, medical centers, and hairdressing talents with the knowledge, history, and thicker than blood pumping blood through his veins passed down, as folklore would have it, from the father to the son.
I, meaning me, your humble narrator, became a haircutter for among other travel and financial motives to meet girls, chicks, women, broads, birds, dames, and ladies. All things being equal, though things are not equal nor are they fair, what was Elan’s raison d’être for getting into the hair and beauty game? Particularly after producing a run of successful film projects. Was it to carry on the family legacy, for the money, to meet women, or for some other more esoteric rationale?
“I enjoy producing films. My first movie ever was at Sundance and that was far out. They only take eight movies a year and we had the movie Café Society, that’s my pride and joy.” Another film, Homage, with Blythe Danner, was in the Cannes Film Festival for the Camera D’or. “We did very well with that film,” but he gets more excited about beauty than he does about profit and goes on about his gorgeous star in another of his movies, Brooklyn State of Mind, and “the drop dead gorgeous girl from Il Postino Maria Grazia Cucinotta.”
Love Lies Bleeding was with another A-List star Faye Dunaway. “That was the last film I did and then I had to make a choice. I was gone like three months, my wife couldn’t leave the country because she didn’t have her visa, and so she said to me, “Look, either you choose family or you choose your movie career.”” You can tell by the way he tells it, it was not an ultimatum and there are no regrets when he says, “So I said all right I choose family; I’m done.” Check this… I’m his wife’s hairdresser–good choice E; she’s a major babe.
“Then she said, “Good, let’s move.” And I said, cool; let’s move to Seattle. She said, “Why don’t we move to Miami?” I said, I don’t want to go to Miami; I’m going to Seattle.” His already sweet voice goes softer, “And she said, “Let’s just go look at it.” And I said, fine, you look in Seattle and I’ll go look in Miami and then we’ll make a choice.” All of a sudden a deep blue something washes over me like a romantic Tiffany Blue mist, though I’m certain he didn’t produce the new Capote. “She took me down to Cocoanut Grove, and like Coral Gables and South Miami, and y’know I was like, this is kinda cool.”
It’s at this point I inform Elan that he is but H.M. and Vidal and I are both H.M.H. –and with a tinge of a gloat explain what you have already read at the top of the story and the last thing I want to be is redundant or repeat myself over again repeatedly. He loves the H.M. designation and laughs. And I ask Elan, what have you learned from your dad?Not being a hairdresser what have you carried with you from him?
“The most valuable thing that I learned from him was surround yourself with excellent people. You surround yourself with excellent people and they will always make you look good. That was the number one thing he always told me. Bury the ego, look for the best people and you surround yourself with the best. That’s the key. Don’t always want to be the best, you know. You will be.” It makes me happy to know it was he who hired me.
The scope of his job encompasses recruiting talent to the actual physical buildings; non-stop cell phone calls, conference calls, meetings, bottom lines, and a neverending line of people needing to talk to or get next to the birthright heir to hair. “We (Klinger Advanced Aesthetics) have salons in twelve cities and I like the fact that we’re owned by Louis Vuitton.”
He loves the vision of the company. “Which is the 360 degree approach to beauty. It’s taking in everything about one’s self. Instead of just looking at the hair–it’s looking at their eyebrows, their skin, looking at all their features– it’s a whole package.” He represents, “Lots of salons will be opening around the U.S. and Europe.”
In the same way what it’s like to give birth, I’ll never know what it’s like to have such a recognizable name. How does it feel? What’s it like? He pauses and thinks thoughtfully and turns to the computer he’s been Googling his flicks and reminisces about the Faye movie. “Those were good years, um, I don’t know. As long as you take advantage of it in positive ways and not negative it can open a lot of doors for you, and you can help a lot of people. It’s hard to answer a question like that when you’ve grown up with it your whole life. I really don’t know any other way. I remember as a kid I was really shy and when I’d go to events with my mom and my dad I’d sneak in through the kitchen door of say the Beverly Wilshire Hotel at one of those black tie events instead of walking down the aisle.” He chuckles, “Going in through the back just to kind of avoid everything. Now it doesn’t bother me so much. It’s kind of nice, you know. As long as you’re grounded.”
So why did he get into the salon business? “There’s an incredible feeling, a rush, there’s an energy being around so many creative people in one place at the same time. There’s something special about being around people who want to help other people be beautiful. There’s a buzz and sense of joy.”
Given the opportunity to say one last thing and ask if there is anything he wants to say, he thoughtfully thinks and slowly says, “Peace.” A wonderful thought this holiday wartime season.