1970s Shampoo Nightmares

Model: Anik, Photographer: Chris Roberts 1981, Hair: Ian Robson. London - Willie Christie's Studio

Model: Anik, Photographer: Chris Roberts 1981, Hair: Ian Robson. London – Willie Christie’s Studio

This blog post, 1970s Shampoo Nightmares, has been requested by my friends on #HairHour – 10 Feb 2016. They thought it “would make a very interesting read!” I’m not too sure about that, you’d better judge for yourself!

Without meaning this to be a biography of my early years as a hairdresser, or a fucking history lesson: I’ve got to say this starts in the period between 1970 and 1980, maybe it was when Jimi Hendrix died in September 1970, or when Andre Mizelas (of Andre Bernard) got shot in November 1970, or maybe when Vidal Sassoon created his line of hair-care products in the early 1970s? The thing is, there was an imperceptible wind of change gently blowing – just like there is today, and it’s difficult for me to put a date to it, let’s say the early 1970s.

It was a time when most, if not all, London salons had their own line of self branded hair-care products for sale – I’m talking mainly shampoos and conditioners. They were formulated by so called, cosmetic chemists in small laboratories come kitchen sink factories. The name David Gold rings a bell, I don’t know why – the smell of coconut comes to mind when I think of the name! Salons bought their shampoos and conditioners by the gallon (4.5 litres) from the labs who personalised it (branded it) with ridiculous flavours and the salon’s name. These shampoos and conditioners were absolute crap – or were they? If you washed somewhere between fifteen and fifty heads of hair a day, six days a week, for three months solid, believe me, it really was absolute crap!

I say ridiculous flavours: lemon for greasy hair was typical and obvious, pineapple and orange were slightly less obvious and sickly. pine for normal hair, didn’t smell toilety, but of the woods. almond and coconut for dry and damaged hair. And the colours of course were pretty vivid: yellow, orange, green, pink and spunk white! As a creative junior I liked to mix them and create ‘cocktails’ – my favourite being a pina colada: 3 measures of pineapple, a dash of pine and lemon, 1 measure of coconut – the end result being clean hair, a happy mixologist and an oblivious client!

A junior’s morning job would be to: decant the shampoos and conditioners into the various ‘clean’ 2 litre glass carafes with cork stoppers, that sat behind the backwash like grand apothecary jars.

After a flutter with Lamaur (my favourite: apple pectin shampoo) and Wella, Ricci Burns (where I worked) ditched the laboratory and went down the innovative product road and embraced Redken products (first UK salon to do so); on the other hand, Vidal Sassoon was heavily into self branded products and I think they were the first to go into major production (with Helen of Troy Corporation), selling in the USA and Europe in 1980. This was the beginning of celebrity hairdresser branded hair-care and beauty products.

Today there are a plethora manufactured by ‘global’ beauty companies like: Procter & Gamble (Vidal Sassoon), L’Oréal (Jean-Louis David), Estée Lauder (Bobbi Brown – Makeup Artist) and Unilever (Tigi for hair salons, Toni & Guy)…

And you may ask: are salon (professional) products better than High Street (retail) products? Sadly, No, they’re not better! But I know it’s what hairdressers, salons, have always wanted. Unfortunately, expensive, celebrity/professional shampoos aren’t better – £3.99 or £39.99 there’s not a lot of difference; you don’t get what you pay for!

The trouble is, there’s such a lot of bollocks talked about hairdressing products; in the end it’s all about money, the bottom line, sales, turnover… I remember all the fuss caused by Wella in the mid-late 1970s, when they removed Lifetex conditioner from their professional range and allowed Boots to sell it at half the fucking price that a salon could buy it for in the first place (supermarket purchasing power)! (Get your arse down to the supermarket, but talk with your stylist first!)

There have always been well-known ‘celebrity’ hairdressers: Marcel Grateau (Marcel wave), Antoine (original short bob cut), Raymond Bessone (Mr. Teasy-Weasy), Andre Bernard (royal hairdresser)… Vidal Sassoon… However, it is today’s branded High Street beauty products, celebrity culture and consumerism that have changed the hairdressing and fashion scene for the worst – maybe those carafes of shampoo weren’t so bad after all?

How To Become A Session Hairstylist

Session Hairstylist: Ian (me). Photographer: Chris Roberts. Hard at work light-testing 01:10:1981.

Session Hairstylist: Ian (me). Photographer: Chris Roberts. Hard at work light-testing 01:10:1981. Polaroid. Before digital cameras we collected Polaroids like Yu-Gi-Oh cards.

Becoming a session hairstylist

My first photographic session ever, was as Robert Lobetta’s junior when I worked at Ricci Burns – Over 21 magazine (1973). Photographer Willie Christie.

My first photographic session as a hairstylist (flying solo) was for Woman and Home magazine (1974) – No photo credits, just a fee of ten quid (about a hundred pounds today 2015). Actually, I was still a junior and about two months away from becoming a hairstylist!

…What happened was: Oliver, the manager of Ricci Burns, King’s Road, went around the salon, stylist to stylist, starting from Robert, asking if they wanted to do a photo-session after work that night – it was a Friday! Everyone was saying no because they were going out!

When Ollie finally asked me, out of utter desperation (because he obviously didn’t want to do it either), I said yes, and I was totally over the fucking moon. I was deliriously happy and unusually nervous, even though I’d assisted on countless photo-sessions. Ollie said, “Don’t tell them you’re a junior!” Robert said, “I’ll kill you if you lose it.” (I’d borrowed his session bag!)

About a week after the Woman and Home session, Ollie came over to me and said, “I’d like you to do a fashion show for Coco (a Chelsea boutique) tomorrow and by-the-way, Penny Ryder phoned to say that Woman and Home loved your work.”

So, is that how to become a session hairstylist? Join a noted London salon and train with the world’s best hairstylists?

No, there’s more to it than that, you’ve got to really want to be a session hairstylist, because there’s quite a lot of shit.

Get your name out there

In this age of connectivity, I think most of us know the power of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram coupled with owning a Website and having an email mailing-list. However, the one brilliant thing about hairdressers is our wonderful ability to do face-to-face.

When I first went freelance I decided to hawk my portfolio around to the magazines and the photographers that I’d worked with while at Ricci’s. And I thought that I may as well start with Brides magazine – Vogue House!

The assistant editor came out of her office and I stood to attention. She shook my outstretched hand and abruptly tore my portfolio from the other, and walked straight back into her chaotic office, opening the portfolio as she went – Out fell: a brown A4 envelope containing a number of contact sheets, half a dozen loose colour transparencies in their plastic and glass frames, three business cards and a scrappy piece of paper with a few scribbled notes for my eyes only! I frantically picked up the embarrassing spillage. In the meantime, the assistant editor had unceremoniously dumped my portfolio on her desk and flipped through its twelve pages faster than she could say, “Not Interested” and returned to the door while zipping-up the portfolio saying, “We’ll contact you – Goodbye.” I put the paraphernalia into the brown envelope, retrieved my portfolio, handed her a card and found myself on the other side of the door. The whole thing, which I laughingly call an interview, took about thirty seconds – and that’s being generous!

I was completely nonplussed and felt pretty dejected, my thick skin wore very thin that day.

Ages later the assistant editor phoned and asked me to do a last minute, “no credits, no fee,” photo session with the American fashion photographer Arthur Elgort with whom I’d worked before – awesome.

Never underestimate the super-human ability of a frantically busy, seasoned professional – I was so naive because I’d been mollycoddled by a salon, Ricci Burns.

Maybe life would have been a lot simpler if I’d joined a specialist agency for freelance session hairstylists – And maybe not?

The horrid truth – Move To London!

The fashion industry is London centric and I think it will be (for lots of reasons) for the next fifty years. A legacy of post war Britain, the Swinging Sixties and the art, film and music industries.

Obviously there are opportunities for session hairstylists in the major cities and provinces, but the focus is in London! #LondonFashionWeek?

Photographer: Chris Roberts. Hair & make-up Ian (me). Richard's studio 06:02:1982. Test Session.

Photographer: Chris Roberts. Model Cassie. Hair & make-up Ian (me). Richard’s studio 06:02:1982. Test Session Polaroid.

Build a portfolio by doing Test Sessions

If you’re a n00bie/wannabe session hairstylist: a test session is where a photographer, model, make-up artist and hairdresser (occasionally also: stylist and fashion designer) come together to create a photograph. A photograph that can be included in their portfolios.

Participating in a test session is the best way to start your journey to becoming a session hairstylist. Session work is all about teamwork – When a group of talented creatives with big personalities come together, something extraordinary usually happens; and when the buzz is right the results can be mind-blowingly sensational. But I hope you can also imagine what it’s like when things are not so awesome? Yeah, that’s what test sessions are partly for: understanding creative teamwork!

Test sessions are also magnificent for building connections and relationships; for instance, most of the young photographers you test with will be assistant fashion photographers: ‏Chris Roberts (who I did about three years of photographic sessions with) was assistant to Willie Christie and Patrick Lichfield – And you’d be surprised how far their networks spread.

On the other hand, you might test with someone like ‏Charlie Kemp, he wasn’t an assistant, his wife Maril was a top model with Laraine Ashton. Charlie and I did a lot of testing together throughout the 1980s, he specialised in portfolio work, and he knew everyone – we spent too much time in the pub – he taught me a lot.

Hitting Paydirt

When you’re standing behind a model in a tiny cupboard with a massive mirror and an arc lamp burning the back of your neck and the ridiculous advertorial that the newspaper is laughably calling a fashion feature actually represents an artistic boundary that you said you wouldn’t cross in a billion years, but you’ve got ten jobs exactly the same lined up for next week.

You’ll know when you’ve hit paydirt when Vogue fashion editor Alexandra Shulman gives you a ring!

And BTW, it’s a very, very small world.

Session Hairdressing Q&A On #HairHour

I’ve got to say that I was looking forward to this weeks #HairHour – a Q&A with @SydHayesHair on session hairdressing. However, I was sort of gravely disappointed because Syd Hayes didn’t follow the normal Twitter chat convention of using the bloody #HashTag! In the end I had to poke around for Syd’s insightful and razor-sharp answers.

Twitter chats are usually far too frenetic to miss out the hashtags: use a tool like ‏tweetchat.com or ‏tchat.io, they make it much easier to follow and participate, and they automatically include the hashtag at the end, so you won’t forget.

When you use the hashtag everyone can enjoy your wonderful tweet and at the same time you are helping to promote #HairHour – Spread The Love.

(BTW, that wasn’t a criticism aimed at Syd, just a general comment for anyone on #HairHour!)

Anyway, I thought I would gather the questions here and write My answers! If you want to read Syd Hayes’ answer, just click on the Tweet!

Q1: With the amount of stylists interested in branching into session work, what are your must haves to make it?

Talent is number one, fortitude and commitment follow close behind. And even though You are solely responsible for the hair, the ability to work within a creative team, and a bloody thick skin – you are going to get criticism; session hairdressing isn’t all fun. Yeah, it is!

Q2: What is it about session work that inspired you to pursue it as a career?

I’d been on very many sessions with Robert Lobetta as his ‏Junior at Ricci Burns – getting out of the salon was vital for my sanity. I must also mention Leon Hammé, whom I found extremely inspirational. Session hairdressing seemed a natural progression.

Q3: Being a salon director how do you how do you manage balancing your session and salon work?

One doesn’t need to be a salon director, session hairdressing is all about time management. Get yourself organised, being late is never an option!

Q4: Do you find the skills learnt in the salon are easily transferable to the session world?

Of course! It’s just that session hairdressing tends to be high speed, precision hair dressing – One never cuts a models hair during a session (maybe the odd fringe).

Q5: What qualities do you need to possess to survive and thrive in such a busy industry?

I totally agree with Syd Hayes, "Positivity and dedication! Be open to change in your work, adapt and adjust. Sometimes trying new things in a different way can work."

Also, the ability to watch, listen and understand. It’s not just a matter of keeping ones finger on the pulse of fashion, it’s more a matter of surfing the wave of fashion!

Q6: Where do you see hair trends going this upcoming season?

My styles predictions for 2015 posted on 18 January 2015 say: Finely highlighted with natural glossy highlights and lowlights mainly Blonde. Short bobs with a slightly 1980s to 1990s coupe sauvage-esque, dishevelled look that have a geometric precision that is out of place in today’s world. I was very happy with this prediction as it suits my style of hairdressing: a flowing precisionist hair-cutting technique! Precision cut short fringes.

Party Extravaganza – 1974 Style

Photographer David Anthony | Make-up Barbara Daly | Hair Ian Robson Ricci Burns | 19 magazine, November 1974 - Christmas issue

Photographer: David Anthony. Make-up: Barbara Daly. Hair: Ian (me) at Ricci Burns. 19 magazine, November 1974 – Christmas issue.
Scarves: Essences. Jewellery: Adrian Mann, London.

1974 was a funny old year.

I tied on more scarves as turbans than I would have liked in this odd session for 19 magazine. I did the front cover, a double page spread, four other full page pictures and I got loads of credits (mentions), but I hardly did any effing hair! Still, it was good to work with the iconic Barbara Daly.

I posted this image as a nod to the wonderful Miss Peelpants‘ nostalgic Seventies posts.

Biba – The Last Fashion Show

Ricci Burns Telegraph september 19th 1975

@MissPeelpants Liz Eggleston, John Steed’s Roxy Girl, posted: ‏Barbershop Quintet: When the teasing had to stop via The Telegraph Magazine, September 19th 1975. The line-up: Marianne Faithfull, Fenella Fielding, Ricci Burns, Sian Phillips, Brenda Arnaud.

That Telegraph colour supplement hung around for ages until it finally got drowned in a house move! On seeing the cover again I was, for some unknown reason, instantly transported back to a Biba fashion show (1974/5 not sure of the exact date)!

Biba was an imposing building on Kensington High Street, it’d been Derry and Toms department store. The fashion show was for Missoni, showing Italian knitwear, held in the roof garden restaurant. One of the more effervescent models did the can-can, but forgot to put her knickers on; which brought the house down – the louder they screamed, the higher her kicks!

I knew one of the models, and between shows we took our drinks out on to the roof garden. But quite frankly, the shop was in massive decline and it looked very sorry for itself – It was Biba’s last fashion show.

I suppose the Telegraph cover has a Biba-esque feel?

Must say I love Liz’s brilliant blog: Get Some Vintage-a-Peel – Very evocative for me, especially as I’ve worked with most of the models – I got to the point where I half expected to see some of my early work …no such luck! Oh hang on, Marianne Faithfull :-) xXx

Royal Hairdresser Andre Mizelas Murdered in Hyde Park

André Mizelas and Bernard Greenford Hairdressers Journal 5 Aug 1966

André Mizelas (left) and Bernard Greenford – one salon led to another as they followed client demand – image courtesy of HJi – Hairdressers Journal: 5 Aug 1966. Via (special thanks) Dr. Kim Smith – Fashion Design History & Theory, University of East London.

André Mizelas of Andre Bernard fame has fascinated me for a very long time; so when Salon International tweeted, “If you could sit down with one hairdresser and grill them about their career, inspiration and work, who would it be?” I obviously answered, “Andre Mizelas.”

Hairstyle by Andre Bernard 1962
Hairstyle by Andre Bernard 1962 – image courtesy of HJi – Hairdressers Journal

Even though I trained at Ricci Burns (King’s Road, Chelsea 1973) and knew nothing of Andre Bernard, my first pair of scissors were engraved with the name Andre Bernard; they were presented to me by Robert Lobetta (who’d trained at Andre Bernard). The scissors were too small and too blunt, and I either gave them back to Robert or chucked them away – actually, he may have asked for them back!? Anyway, It was Robert who told me about the Andre Mizelas murder and I’ve been intrigued ever since.

The Andre Mizelas Murder

1967-1968 Signal Red Triumph TR51967-1968 Signal Red Triumph TR5 Publicity Image

Here is what little I know; and just to say, I will be adding more information as I discover it – so please call back!

Andre ‘Harry’ Mizelas (André formally changed his name from Harry to André in February 1965) was one of London’s leading celebrity hairdressers of the 1950s and 1960s. By the age of forty-eight, he was a Court Hairdresser and a partner in the Andre Bernard hairdressing chain, which had around 20 salons and employed more than 400 staff. Andre Bernard’s flagship salon was at 10A Old Bond Street, Mayfair, London W1S (the principal salon within was named The Grafton Room after their Grafton St. salon)!

On the dull and chilly morning of Monday 9th November 1970 at about 08.30 A.M., Mizelas left 29, St Mary Abbots Terrace, Kensington (his Regency style home that he shared with his wife Betty of twenty-five years), in his signal red Triumph TR5 sports car for the twenty-ish minute drive to Old Bond Street, just off Piccadilly.

To start off with, he turned left on to the A315 High Street Kensington, and basically headed East towards Knightsbridge, the A4 and Hyde Park corner, in the busy Monday morning traffic – it’s a very simple and direct drive, from door to door it’s about three miles.

At the traffic lights where Kensington Road crosses the top of Exhibition Road, which is just past the Royal Albert Hall, Mizelas decided to turn left into Hyde Park – I assume because of heavy traffic – (Did he always do this? I shouldn’t think so). And then, once through the gates, he turned almost immediately right into South Carriage Drive, heading in the direction of Park Lane.

Turning left into Hyde Park, I assume, must have caused Mizelas’s killer some consternation, for surely he was standing, waiting by the traffic lights / pedestrian crossing on the other side of Exhibition Road – an easy place to spot Mizelas as he approached, flag him down and kill him? But having seen Mizelas turn left into the park, the killer must have vaulted some railings and ran hell for leather through the trees and bushes to catch Mizelas on South Carriage Drive. A witness said that she saw a man leap from the bushes and wave down the car; “Mizelas stopped so suddenly that I had to break to avoid crashing into the rear of his car.”

Mizelas’s natural reaction on seeing the man running across the road from his right would be to break hard and turn left towards the curb to avoid him. The killer must have run in front of the car waving his hand in a way that said, ‘stop I need to talk to you urgently.’ And he’d make his way quickly around to the passenger door – (Was is unlocked? I shouldn’t think so). Mizelas could have easily leant over, pulled the door-handle backwards to unlock and open the door. The killer would quickly open the door, lean in or squat down, pulling the small semi-automatic pistol from his coat pocket, and say something like, “Andre Mizelas?”
“Yes!” And from very short range with a not very powerful .25 cal. Beretta like pistol – Bang! Bang!

Andre ‘Harry’ Mizelas had been shot twice in the head; firstly in the left forehead and secondly in the left temple at about 08.40 A.M.

A young woman, who was riding her bicycle in the park, discovered the body and alerted a park-keeper, “There’s a man in a red car over there who needs help.” she said and cycled away. The park-keeper found the car parked two feet from the curb with it’s engine still running, and Mizelas slumped over the steering wheel.

Obviously there were all kinds of theories at the time, Robert seemed to think the murder had London Mob written all over it! Unsurprisingly then, East End gangster Nicky “Snakehips” Gerard, son of the notorious London hit-man and gangland boss Alf Gerard, is unofficially attributed with the murder.

It is believed Andre Mizelas owed £100,000 (about £1,500,000 today in 2015) to a South London money lender who gave the contract to Nicky Gerard for £5000 (£73,000 today).

However, there were other theories, one being that Andre was having an affair with one of his clients, maybe she was a gangster’s girlfriend, and the shooting was ‘payback’.

Sort of a Postface

On a very personal note, I’ve got to say that I’m on a learning curve; this blog post is going from an article speculating on André Mizelas’ murder in Hyde Park, to a more rounded account of the fall of the Andre Bernard hairdressing chain – there is nothing, or very little, on the internet to help.

It really comes a no surprise to me that Andre Bernard and Vidal Sassoon were involved in some kind of merger talks. At the time, Sassoon’s were by far the up-and-coming dominant force in the hairdressing world, and they were expanding. I would think Andre Bernard’s were feeling the competition and under pressure, especially at the Old Bond Street salon – old school versus state-of-the-art.

I don’t think it matters whether we call them merger talks or takeover talks, Vidal Sassoon halted procedures on about Friday 6th November 1970, three days before André Mizelas’s murder on the following Monday morning. The merger failed because of a difference of opinion between the powers that be! And it is well reported that Vidal Sassoon said, “I am shocked,” when he heard the tragic news.

The changing face of the hairdressing and fashion industry from the mid-sixties to the mid-eighties, meant greater competition for salons like Andre Bernard and ultimately, this led to their end!

This notorious murder case remains unsolved.

Bernard Greenford

I think Bernard Greenford was André Mizelas’s original business partner. In 1948 they opened their first Mayfair salon on Grafton Street. Bernard was married to Linda, who was Sybil Burton’s half-sister (Sybil Burton: formerly Williams. finally Christopher (1929-2013), was the actor Richard Burton’s first wife). The connection between Bernard and Richard Burton was important and extremely fortunate.

In The Richard Burton Diaries, Burton talks of Bernard being in a financial predicament; in May 1969, he says: “Bernard is being squeezed out by his snake-in-the-grass partner Andre.” Infuriated, Burton who likes Bernard (but obviously dislikes Andre because he describes him as a, “sneaky jumped-up-jack of a fellow.”) and helps him by giving him £50,000.

Burton had helped ‘Andre Bernard’ from the outset, lending them substantial amounts of money. Burton says, “Without the luck of association, Andre and Bernard would have been Charlie and Harry back in Whitechapel where they started from.” Burton lent ‘thousands’ of pounds to Andre Bernard – I assume to keep them afloat and to help with expansion?

Richard Burton says Bernard was being ‘squeezed out’ in May 1969, but it was around this time that Bernard left, some say that he left Andre Bernard’s in about 1967 – three years or so before André’s death.

Bernard ‘Bernie’ Mizelas

Bernard ‘Bernie’ Mizelas was André’s younger brother, he ran the northern salons and by all accounts he was a well respected hairdresser. Bernie took over when André died. He was married to Jean.

It seems to me that Andre Bernard’s were going through a strange time when André died, especially because of the merger with Sassoons falling through. But Bernie came down to London and managed to sort of keep it going until the company was eventually bought out.

Hearty Thanks and References

Remembering Oliver Creasey 1950 – 2008

oliver creasey 1974Oliver Creasey (1950 – 2008) in 1974
Image courtesy of Vidal Sassoon Gallery presented by John Santilli

It was 1974 and it was Ollie’s birthday and he was late for work. Normally there’d be lots of Happy Birthday wishes, cards and cake and maybe a glass or two of wine, but today we, the staff, plotted in the staffroom and decided to pretend that we didn’t know it was his birthday; and if he tried to drop any hints we’d ignore them. All his morning clients were primed at the reception desk and told not to wish him happy birthday. …Until after lunch, when we knew one of his clients would bring in a special pressie.

By 09.30 Oliver was moody. At 10.00 he was cross, irritable and brooding. By 12.30 (about the time) he was gloomy, dejected and downright pathetic.

SURPRISE

Then the old git went the other way, he was ecstatic! Not a pretty sight ;-)

Thinking of you today Oliver
Here is my little tribute to, David Oliver Creasey who helped to shape my career!

Junior Hairdresser

Junior Hairdresser
Phillip Andrew @PAGladwinHair wrote on #HairHour, I paraphrase:

I’ll be finishing my training soon, and wondering how it’s best to start getting my own clients, Can anyone help? I’ve been looking mainly for models, but I’m about 2 months off of finishing and wanting to start to find the clients.

I replied simply with: I wouldn’t worry too much about getting new clients, worry about the quality of your work, then they’ll come flocking! Because hairdressing is all about results!

Then the NHF for Hairdressers @NHfederation asked:

Why do your clients love you? #hairhour #DontBeModest

And I replied, tongue-in-cheek, “Because I love them.” But the real answer is much more complicated than that!

Later in the frenetic discussion that is #HairHour, HerPassion @thehaircampaign wrote:

Admire your clients lifestyles, take pleasure interacting with them, delight them, understand why they visit you, and your impact on them.

And I thought, let’s be frank, “What a sycophantic, self-serving load of Bollocks!” But then again, analysing your business isn’t a bad thing – it’s just that I have issues with banal statements like, take pleasure interacting with them!

When I was a junior hairdresser and about two months away from going on the floor (becoming a stylist) the last thing that was on my mind was building a clientèle; however, it was then that Oliver went stylist to stylist around the salon, starting from the top, asking them if they wanted to do a photo-session after work that night – It was a Friday! Everyone was saying no because they were going out! The photo-session was to be a ‘before and after’ shoot of a secretary with curly hair for Woman and Home Magazine – No photo credits, just a fee of ten quid, which is worth about one hundred pounds today!

cassie

When Oliver finally asked me, out of utter desperation (because he obviously didn’t want to do it either), I said yes, and I was totally over the fucking moon. I can’t describe how deliriously happy and nervous I was, even though I’d already been on numerous photo-sessions and fashion shows as a junior, assisting a stylist. This was my first solo event! Oliver said, “Don’t tell them you’re a junior!”

About a week after the Woman and Home Magazine photo-session, I was handing blue hair-rollers to one of the junior-stylists (my most hated task) in the custom of a typical douchebag, one blue roller pushed on to the end of each finger! Oliver sidled over to us and said to me, “I’d like you to do a fashion show for Coco tomorrow. By-the-way, Penny Ryder phoned to say that Woman and Home loved your work.” And off he slid.

I looked the junior-stylist in the eye to bring her back to reality, so I could escape the irksome chore, then at my fingers with the last two rollers stuffed on the top and it looked like I was giving her a massive blue plastic V sign, and we both burst out laughing. Happy days.

But at no time was I ever thinking about building a clientèle or why they love me and I certainly was not admiring their lifestyles – I was just doing it!

Walking Down The King’s Road, Chelsea

Walking Down the King's Road, Chelsea, London SW3
Walking Down the King’s Road, Chelsea, London in the 1970s

This is a blog post in progress, which means I will be adding in extra content!

Hey @LesleyBell55 – how many times did we walk down the King’s Road, Chelsea? I came across an evocative gallery by Klaus Hiltscher entitled, 1976 – London – In a hot and dry August 1976 – Take a gander.

King's Road Blues part two By Dave Walker

And then I stumbled upon this absolute gem, King’s Road Blues part two By Dave Walker, oh-my-god, it makes me so nostalgic.

Red door of 151 Nightclub, King's Road, Chelsea
151 Ricci Burns – Looking Very Tatty via Google Streetmap

Saturday was always the best day to walk down the King’s Road to Sloan Square underground station because it was so unbelievably colourful and frenetic. I was often the last one out of Ricci’s (it’s now a nightclub called ‘151’), I’d lock-up and then poke my head into Quincy Jones next door (Sen, Chinese Herbs. Now L’Eto café), giving the boys a metaphorical ‘Fuck Off’ as they still had another four hours of work. I’d cross over the road and go into the Trafalgar (pub) to see if Natasha, one of our models, was stripping; maybe I’d have a grapefruit juice and slimline tonic – not very rock and roll!

As you look at 151 King’s Road, to the right (West) is Chelsea Manor Street, home of the fabulous ‘Bow Tie,’ a traditional greasy spoon café. It was here one weekday morning that the controversial Lord Longford watched me, in what seemed to be horror, munch my way through a massive bacon, egg and grease sandwich. He sat opposite me and asked me questions on the Berkshire countryside, while a thin film of white fat solidified on his cooling tea.

Bow Tie cafe Chelsea Manor street
Bow Tie cafe 1977 Chelsea Manor street

To the left (East) of Ricci’s is Flood Street, then home to Mrs Margaret Thatcher (number 19)! About halfway down are the Rossetti Studios, built in around 1894, they are absolutely beautiful inside. I worked there in 1975 with the enigmatic and enthusiastic fashion photographer Barney Bosshart (3 Rossetti Studios), very enjoyable.

Sometimes I’d walk straight down to the Picasso Café (127, now called Black & Blue) and have a cappuccino and a poached egg on toast, sit outside and watch the pretty young things walk past, hoping today would be my lucky day. Behind me, some mad witch of a waitress was looking busy and shouting CHINO – It took me ages to realize that she was ordering coffee and not calling for an overworked menial (when I was a junior I identified with this elusive, never to be seen, Chino)!

The Picasso was my Café de Flore (172 Boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris), a little haven, where plain buttered toast and a plastic cup of tea, first thing in the morning, seemed as sophisticated to me as blood orange pressée fraîche and the Sunday Times!
I’d usually walk down (towards Sloan Square) on the right-hand, south side of the road! Passing the Chelsea Potter on the corner of Radnor Walk (drinking hole of Adel Rootstein’s staff – Adel Rootstein 1930-1992) – but I always felt that the Potter was a bit too smart for me. On Wednesday 13th June 1973, Oliver and I walked around to 52 Radnor Walk (of Quorum, Alice Pollock, Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell fame), to talk to someone about a fashion show (I think), they were out! It was lunchtime, so on the way back, we called in at the Chelsea Potter and had an ice-cold glass of white wine. I think that was the only time I went in – although I do seem remember a late night foray after work one night!

Chelsea Bird by Virginia Ironside (1964)
Chelsea Bird by Virginia Ironside (1964)

I like the fact that The Chelsea Potter appears in Virginia Ironside’s book ‘Chelsea Bird’ (confessions of a sixties chick) – it’s called ‘The Chelsea Weaver’ it was obviously the ‘In’ place in the 1960s too.

Corner of Markham Street 1976 - London - Kings Road, Chelsea
The Pheasantry Arch – Corner of Markham Street 1976 by Klaus Hiltscher

The Pheasantry (North side at 152) was a hideous Georgian mansion built in 1769. The whole time I was at Ricci’s, and beyond, it was in a state of dilapidated limbo and redevelopment from about 1971 – 1981. Basically, ‘they’ wanted to demolish it, and I frankly was indifferent – I think that only the façade remains the same today! It is now a Pizza Express!

It used to be a ‘posh’ members only club and then apartments/flats, and it’s where Germain Greer wrote ‘The Female Eunuch’ – an important feminist publication at the time.

The Female Eunuch (Germaine Greer published 1970)The Female Eunuch (Germaine Greer published 1970)


Yeah, The Pheasantry was the artist’s studio (I think, I’m sure I’m right) in The Party’s Over. I saw it in the very late 1970s at the Electric Cinema in Notting Hill; actually, I thought it was a pretty boring film at the time – I’d probably love the nostalgic Chelsea scenes and crap acting these days!

King’s Road Saturday Market

The slightly tatty Saturday market – Photo: via John Bignell, thank you Dave Walker: Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Bignell’s People

On the South side of the King’s Road opposite The Pheasantry was the Saturday Market, during the week it was a car park (you can see the yellow sign in The Pheasantry Arch photo by Klaus Hiltscher. It’s now the entrance to M&S Car Park). I knew one of the Saturday traders, he was just like Adam Faith in Budgie – he sold jeans. The King’s Road Saturday Market closed in about 1976.

The Markham Pharmacy 138A, King's Road, Chelsea, London SW3
The Markham Pharmacy

The Markham Pharmacy (on the North side at 138A) is on the corner of Markham Square. It’s now a cafe, of course, but at it’s fashionable hight it was Mary Quant’s boutique, ‘Bazaar’ (1955 – 1969). An interesting website that talks about Bazaar: Mary Quant, the Miniskirt and the Chelsea Palace on the King’s Road. I used to buy copious amounts of Paco Rabanne eau de toilette from the Markham Pharmacy – what a stink!

Next door was the Markham Arms (hidden by the bus in the photo. Now Santander bank at 138), another pub I never went in! Here is another readable website with a better picture: The King’s Road, Chelsea from Swinging London to Punk – remember that ice-cream van?

Ivana, walking by the Chelsea Drug Store via John Hendy photography
Ivana (1971 – before my time) walking by the Chelsea Drug Store

Well spotted Lesley! Ivana was Head Stylist at Ricci Burns, this photo, taken by the street fashion photographer John Hendy who often stood on the corner of Royal Avenue (the sun behind him) next to the Chelsea Drug Store (Now Maccy Ds). I always loved the look of the Chelsea Drug Store (designed after Le Drugstore, Boulevard Saint-Germain), I bought a pair of cheap Loons from there, they were crap – it was a good place to sit and watch to world go by.

A fascinating read: Alex in the Chelsea Drug Store, analyses stills from Stanley Kubrick’s film A Clockwork Orange (1972 UK).

I’d be disappointed if I didn’t see a skinny old man dressed as Tarzan (in only a loin cloth) KP nuts tucked into his thong-like belt; he’d beat his bare chest and yodel for his mate, sun or rain he rarely let me down.

Interesting article by Paul Gorman: David Parkinson photography retrospective

Happy days.