By Catherine Tandy
With the winter months creeping in – leaves tumbling and sweaters bulking – I was hankering for a new ‘do, something that would sizzle during the doldrums of December. Throughout my 26-year-old life I’ve sported just about everything from circa ’95 Natalie Imbruglia-inspired locks and hussy-esque red, to Manic Panic in Atomic Turquoise and some unspeakable dreadlocks. But I’ve never been blond. It was a travesty, really.
My editor and I were pouring over some Lady GaGa shots (all bouncing breasts and badass blond) and I began lamenting, again, that my hair was the physical manifestation of a rumbling snore; brown, bobbed and boring. But with a new job and all the pressures of being a “real person,” (like socks that match) I felt like I couldn’t let my freak flag (and inevitable roots) fly. Au contraire.
My editor loved the idea. She suggested finding a salon that might be interested in “transforming” my mousy coiffure into the locks of a punk-rock princess ala Agyness Deyn.
A few days later, I was signed up and shipped off to Patrick Melville’s Salon & Spa in Rockefeller Center, salon to the stars.
Patrick (owner and head stylist) greeted me with a relieved sigh in a bubbling Manchester accent. “Thank god you have a pretty little face,” he said. “When I heard what you wanted I was so scared you’d be a pumpkin head!”
I suppose I’m more of a turnip, pale and pointed.
Patrick led me into the salon and onto a chair to discuss my future (sexier) self. I handed him some rumpled photographs of Agyness from my purse which he studied, glancing up and squinting at my image with his bespectacled eyes. Tall, swaggering and svelte, Patrick has a graying pony tail and a winsome grin; he sized me up.
“O.K., go get shampooed: first the cut and then the color,” he said. I wandered back with my dripping tresses and stomach churning. “Ready?” he smiled. I nodded with as much confidence as I could muster. Patrick began snipping, styling and scissoring with the precision of an amphetamine-amped surgeon, carefully carving away my hair. I watched the dark locks tumble to the floor as my head grew lighter and lighter.
Other stylists peered on, watching his nimble fingers dart from my bangs to my ears to my nape, chatting all the while about his ne’er-do-well days of youth.
Finally, he stepped back. There I was; shorn like a lamb in spring. I loved it. “Halfway there,” he smiled. “Looks fantastic! Now for the tricky part. Rick? She’s ready for color.”
I followed Rick (co-owner and color director) whose plaid pants and shaggy blond hair led the way to another station and I was sized up again, clutching my photographs of Agyness. I stammered, “Her hair is like, white-blond but I don’t know.”
“You’re gonna be blond,” he laughed, “But not like Casper.”
I took a deep breath as he wandered away to mix up his concoction. He came back with a vat of pea green goo and a pile of cloth strips. Before I knew it, I looked like an albino hedgehog, with immaculate rolls of soon-to-be-blond locks poking out all over. “God, back in the ’80s all we had to make people’s hair blond was frosting gel.”
No wonder Madonna always looked a little blown-out.
Rick’s work was nothing short of wizardry – he mixed, blended, toned and dyed – for three hours. I think I read six US Weekly mags with Patrick and I both periodically peeking to see if I was a bombshell yet. Truth be told, I looked more like a newborn chickadee…that is, until Rick put the final round of toner in.
Ten minutes later, I was done with dye and ready for one last trim. “Your texture is different now,” said Rick. “The hair will lie differently.”
Just as long as it doesn’t hang I thought.
I climbed aboard Patricks’s chair again and away he went. With his razored scissors his hands flew like a dervish – blond tufts flying about. “There’s not a straight line in this haircut baby,” he grinned. He finished up with some Kerastase pomade and a blow dryer, tugging here, snipping there and squinting at my reflection all the while like an inspired sculptor.
Finally, I was deemed done. Rick, Patrick and I were the only people left in the salon; it was after 9 p.m. We were exhausted and elated.
And in case you were wondering? Yeah, we have a lot more fun.
Katie Tandy before the blond transformation and after, with Patrick and Rick, sporting a super-funky, Dynn-esque pixie
Patrick Melville Salon & Spa
45 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, New York