IF you have ever seen a man in the depths of making a great decision, you will know why I wear a frown on this otherwise sunny morning, when I awake — at 7.0 — in the Polygon flat.
You see, before I leave for the studio, I must decide which bow tie to wear. You have seen a man deciding which bow tie to wear? Yes — but not from my collection. I have hundreds, and I mean hundreds.
“Pshaw! Bow ties! These hairdressers, they are all the same,” you exclaim. “Dilettante and effeminate…”
Well, I admit that in Deauville I have been seen wearing a white dinner jacket with a black shirt and white tie; and on TV you may have seen me sporting a white and black striped nylon blouse shirt.
It is the custom of the profession, and a mark of the man, just like Sir Winston’s big cigars and eccentric hats. Most women expect their hairdresser to be effeminate; to several of my most distinguished clients I am circumspect in not talking about the other aspects of my private life: my farm at Fifield, near Maidenhead, for example; or my racehorses; or the fact that I drive an overdrive American roadster.
These are rather masculine pursuits, aren’t they; out of character with the Raymond you know from my salons, or from TV?
Again, there are some women who never ask me about Jennifer, or our three children, because perhaps they feel that Mr. Teazy-Weazy should eternally be in a sphere of glamour — a connoisseur, and a gourmet.
Café society and a wife and three kids are not generally thought to “fit in.” But they do, my dear. They do.
7.10: I start to shave, bath and dress. On this part of my toilet I draw a veil. I have hated razors all my life. In fact I walked out of my father’s business in Shaftesbury Avenue when I was thirteen because he wanted me to learn shaving.
Today is transmission-day for me at Lime Grove, when I present some of my models for Richard Afton. So later on my own hair will be attended to by my personal barber.
7.40: I have no more than a Continental breakfast. (I was born in France and lived there until I was twelve.) Just itsy-bitsies of croissantes, butter, and coffee made my way.
7.55: The post has arrived. Business mail goes to my various salons, to my studio, or is handled by my faithful Miss Georgette (the one lovely from my salon you have not seen on TV and probably never will). She is my financial and business right-hand man; the company’s efficient secretary.
I run an international group of companies, with a yearly turnover of about half a million pounds [About £15 million now, allowing for inflation – Ed].
8.40: Grab my blue carnation for the day, and am off to what is probably the nearest I shall ever be to Heaven — my private studio high above Albemarle Street, giving me a bird’s-eye view of the West End.
Here I can work alone with my thoughts (and with my models, but they don’t disturb my thoughts), and this is where I create my new styles.
10.0: (“But isn’t Raymond going down to the salons in Grafton Street and Brompton Road?” you ask. “Isn’t he going to see to the coiffeur of some others on TV tonight?”)
Not today, my dear. About 4,500 women — many of them famous, all of them lovely by the time they leave — visit my salons every week. Of these, I can give my absolute personal attention to fewer than eighteen.
This is not to say the other 4,480 are neglected. Heavens, far from it. They pay me an average of six guineas [£6.30 in decimal, £180 after inflation], so you will easily see that if I neglected them I should soon be out of business. No. Everything that is done to them is under my supervision, and is styled according to the fashions I create and the rules I make.
11.0: Elevenses. Time for a brief chat with some of my executives, my loyal friends who manage my salons throughout the country. Today it is Mr. Tony, up from Bournemouth, and Mr. Gordon who calls in from the Grafton Street salon.
I know them all by their Christian names, just as they know me by my Christian name of Raymond. Yes, it is my real name. Very few know my full name, but if you are curious, you will find it at the foot of this column.
11.55: Renée Pezaro drops in to chat about the photos we must have taken of TV models. Everything I do is documented, and copyrighted. There is just as much danger of our hair styles being pirated as there would be of pirating a Hartnell or Dior design in the world of haute couture…
I’ll never forget the time during the war when one of the men I trained proved disloyal, set up in a salon on his own, pirated many of my styles, and then tried to employ my loyal staff. I could have taken legal action, of course, but instead we met in private one night and I gave him the thrashing of his life.
(Effeminate, huh…?) But enough of that.
Now we break for lunch. if you can call it a break. I eat little, and (today) fast.
1.20: My American roadster is waiting. Through the traffic to Lime Grove.
I make straight for the dressing-room, and the models are prepared. These lovely, lovely girls. Where do I pick them? Why, some are just the girls working in my salons: they need no introduction to TV celebrities who come for hair-styling.
2.30: Mr. Gordon is with me, and we have all our equipment. I go to the allotted corner of the studio and we rehearse the manner in which the different styles will be shown before the cameras. I decide how I am going to describe them.
4.0: Break for tea, but not for me. I am in the dressing-room again, busy fingers at work. Then the models go off to change, ready for the dress-rehearsal at…
5.0: They are wearing soignée, glamorous gowns, and although they are still capped with their hairnets and bits of cotton-wool, it is not difficult to visualise how lovely they will be on TV.
6.30: When most of the rest of the cast are sent off to have their pre-show supper in the canteen, all will be ready for my final run-through. I quiz from every angle, and sometimes the entire camera-angle on a presentation is changed right on the eve of transmission.
Well, I cannot help it. They call me difficult, temperamental, fussy, and other adjectives which the Editor would not like to print. None is true. I’m a perfectionist: (Not, of course, that everything is ever perfect).
8.0: Fifteen minutes to go. I bite my nails.
8.5: Why does that clock hand move so slowly? Anybody would think I was nervous. Nervous about TV? What an idiotic notion! Is that bow-tie straight? I light up a cigarette, one of my own special R brand now on the market. Well, it is better than biting my nails.
8.10: Not long now, thank heaven. Jeanne is biting her nails. Silly girl. I call to her to stop it.
8.15: The music strikes up my signature tune — Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair… We’ve started. This is divine. Everything is wonderful. Television, this heavenly medium!
9.0: Now we’re off the air again and a great wave of depression hits me. I feel flat, dejected. My gay spirits died when they “killed” the studio lights.
“Come and have a drink,” they call, but no: I’m driving.
9.5: Out in the car again, heading this time away from London, out to Fifield, to my beloved Tudor homestead called Deep Meadows, where Jennifer and our eldest daughter Cherry will be waiting.
Cherry is only nine, and of course she should be in bed, but — well, you know what daughters are. Amber, three, was in bed hours ago, and Scarlet, now nearly one year old, is a bundle of high spirits night and day.
10.50: Now, alone, Jennifer and I talk about the exciting events of another TV day. Jennifer worked in my salon until we were married in 1943. Today there is only one thing we quarrel about. She likes me to do her hair, and — honestly — I am really too busy!
What do we talk about now, at the close of this exciting day? Television? No — that would be “shop talk.” This is Escape. We’re talking about my racehorse ‘Raymond’s Folly,’ for which I have high hopes; about the dairy farm and the new sterilising equipment we’re working; about school for Cherry, and when Scarlet will say her first word. Even a teeny-weeny, teazy-weazy word.
Raymond Peter Bessone.