Celebrity Style

Helen Oppenheim on Surreal, Superbly-Talented Sixties Hairdresser, Raphael

Helen Oppenheim | February 19, 2017 | 1:29 PM
Surreal Raphael Santarossa in 1971.  Not only was he a great hairdresser, he also painted "surrealism and fantastic realism." Photo: Klaus Lucka
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Femme Fatale, 1971  By Raphael. Hair: Raphael Santarossa … the most popular of Raphael's Femme Fatales, flicks half-covered the forehead – "Nothing heavy or hard to wear, requiring an impeccable perfect cut," advised Raphael. Makeup: Jacques LaFleur …  Model: Judi MacDonald …Photo: Klaus Lucka
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    Femme Fatale with flicks flicking on the forehead, new then, when flicks only flicked at the ends of long hair.  The model had very fine hair so this shows Raphael's skill. Hair: Raphael Santarossa … Makeup: Jacques LaFleur …  Model: Judi MacDonald …Photo: Klaus Lucka  
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.   Femme Fatale, 1971  By Raphael.  The very simple version.  Bobbed. All  one length.  Front left longer. Hair: Raphael Santarossa … Makeup: Jacques LaFleur …  Model: Judi MacDonald …Photo: Klaus Lucka
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    Slightly longer Femme Fatale by Raphael. Subtle color idea with ends shaded slightly darker. Hair: Raphael Santarossa … Makeup: Jacques LaFleur …  Model: Donna Clarke …Photo: Klaus Lucka
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    The Femme Fatale flicks by Raphael are softly and romantically curled. Hair: Raphael Santarossa … Makeup: Jacques LaFleur …  Model: Donna Clarke …Photo: Klaus Lucka
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    A dreamy romantic Femme Fatale by Raphael, with flicks curled softly, subtle darker shading of hair at the ends and in the crown area. Hair: Raphael Santarossa … Makeup: Jacques LaFleur …  Model: Donna Clarke …Photo: Klaus Lucka
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  Photo of Helen with Raphael, in her Montreal apartment, 1971.
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   Collage of Editorials, included in the Montreal Launch Press Release showing work Raphael did in England when he was of Raphael & Leonard fame.
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Raphael Super Salon logo.  It was in brown and was used not just for press purposes; it was on bags, fashions, everything.
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Raphael dressing blonde hair, Alexander in London,1958. Photo: Courtesy Renato Santarossa
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Raphael's scintillating scissors in action cutting the hair of Chita Rivera, star of the "West Side Story" Musical,  Raphael & Leonard, London, 1962/63. Photo: Courtesy Renato Santarossa
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Gamine adoring her hair, and Raphael, Raphael & Leonard, London, 1962/3 Photo: Courtesy Renato Santarossa
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Raphael Party Scene with flirting blonde,  Raphael & Leonard, London, 1962/3 Photo: Courtesy Renato Santarossa
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Rare photo, Raphael & Leonard at the opening of their salon, 1962 Photo: Courtesy Renato Santarossa
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Know your hair history.  Raphael Santarossa, aka Raphael, was the most talented surreal hair phenom of the Sixties in London. Possibly ever.   There never was and never will be another hairdresser like him.  He was one of a kind, in every way.

 Yet his name is not as known today as it should be, certainly not as known as his partner Leonard, with whom he co-owned Raphael & Leonard Hair House of Beauty, which opened in 1962, on Upper Grosvenor Street in Mayfair, where they had five-stories with over 8,000 square feet of floor space.  Leonard Lewis, aka Leonard, recently passed away.  Which made me think of Raphael and why this larger than life man who had everything did not make it and stay as famous as he had been, why he was on top of the hairdressing world for such a short time.  

I do not know the whole story what happened in London for Raphael and Leonard to break up, but Raphael went in a downward spiral and Leonard went on to achieve world-wide enduring fame, starting with his Twiggy crop.

Raphael also tressed the famous – from Judy Garland  (he was the first hairdresser to sheer off her locks) to Elizabeth Taylor (who called him to the Dorchester Hotel during her famous illness) to Catherine Deneuve, Chita Rivera, Jean Shrimpton, Veruschka, all the top models of the day, and Princess Lee Radzwill, Jackie Kennedy's sister.  He did the hair for all the major fashion designers in London and Paris; he did editorials for all the major media.  He had it all. Plus he was, in the sixties, probably the sexiest hairdresser who ever lived.

Talent is not enough.  Fame is not enough.  More is needed to be famous. And to stay famous.  To be successful for more than a short time.

Perhaps the personality, which helped make Raphael so famous in the sixties, did not serve him well.  He lived – and played - too well, too hard.  He loved women too much.  He loved work too much.  He drank too much. He did himself in.   Far too soon.  Although he passed away in 2006, in New York, his time at the top of the hair world ended in the late sixties. To  know who he was, what happened after the sixties in London, read on …

He claimed an Italian Father, a Mexican Mother (or an Italian Father and a French Mother, depending where he was) and he spoke 5 languages fluently, he was a daredevil, loved danger - he was a frogman and then a bullfighter for a short time.  It was said he performed the sexiest hair cut in London, dancing around his clients like a matador "flourishing such scintillating, skillful scissors that he became a celebrity himself."  He had met Leonard at Vidal Sassoon -  "a kindred spirit" where Raphael was happy "to make hair move, swing, be free, to look like real hair," something he had been doing for some time, even before Sassoon, as he worked his way through Europe and London, building huge clienteles, at one salon after another.

After leaving London, he painted "surrealism and fantastic realism" in Rome, acted in a "Spaghetti Western" and with Rock Hudson in "The Hornet's Nest" in 1970, with blonde hair, as Raphael Santos.  In the early 70s, he arrived in Montreal with a lovely Canadian wife, Noelle, and had a son.  I did the PR for the opening of his Raphael Super Salon on St, Catherine Street.   He didn't last long, even though he had the Montreal press, designers, models all gaga over him and got full pages in papers and mags and tons of TV time.  He then worked his way to Cinandre in New York, when it was a very hot salon.  I bumped into him one day on the island in the middle of Park Avenue and 57th Street.  He told me he had just fallen down the elevator shaft at the salon!   Later, he opened his own salon on the corner of Lexington and 57th Street with his second wife, Rosina Patti  - their PR described her as an angel.  Then he retired and spent his last years painting and occasionally cutting hair for special private clients.  

He lived very close to me for many years, but I never knew until his son, also called Raphael Santarossa, posted on my website in May 2013, and then called me from Montreal.   He didn't know his Father had been so famous.

Take a look here at the "Femme Fatale" hair Raphael created in 1971 in Montreal.  The hair has not dated.  Flicks flick at the front, flattering the face, so new a look at the time that the photos received a ton of publicity not just in Canada but internationally too.  "A woman should be a woman and I want to make her more woman, I love women and I know how to make them more so," he said at the time.  Featured were bob hairstyles, all one length, with the front left longer from the crown., flicking or curling in new ways at the front. "The answer," he added "to those ratty tatty growing out layered looks" everyone had at the time.  Raphael, you should be remembered …

To see more "Femme Fatales," click HERE

To read more About Raphael archived on my website, click HERE

Thanks to Raphael's brother, Renato Santarossa, a well-known artist, some of Raphael's earlier work, not seen since the '60, is published in this Blog for Modern Salon.

ABOUT HELEN OPPENHEIM  Helen Oppenheim, hair guru, has been Creative/PR Director for Vidal Sassoon US/Canadian Salons (1979-1981) and for La Coupe Salons (on and off for 14 trend-setting years like no other) …"Ambassadress" for John Sahag and his Workshop for a total of 4 years … She has been US Correspondent for Spain's Peluquerias Magazine for decades, and freelanced for many of the world's hair magazines, including Modern Salon …… Judging duties include Global Salon Business Awards in 2008, Winners for NAHA in 2015  and 2016.   She photographs backstage at NY Fashion Weeks and Museums. Check her website for more, much more.  Helen can be contacted on her website and her Facebook Biz Buzz  Comments and Likes are welcome on both.


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