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STYLE / LOOKS : When the Blond Lead the Blond

February 18, 1996|Maureen Sajbel

The biggest blond joke going is that those stark bleached manes you see on TV can exist in real life. Because if you try to go blasted-out-TV-blond, you'd better have a hairdresser five feet away at all times. That, and a standing biweekly appointment with a peroxide bottle.

Hairdressers in Los Angeles, the capital of blond, are increasingly steering their clients away from mega blond for these reasons, and because of their growing awareness of the psychology of hair.

If you go into the salon of Art Luna, the city's current hair god, and ask to become a blond, yet you don't have the soul (or basic coloring) to carry it off, he'll tell you to take up yoga.

"If you're a brunet and want to be a blond, you're not my client," he says. Period. The yoga, incidentally, is intended to make you feel better about yourself, which, he says, becoming a blond won't necessarily do.

So, it appears, being blond, like wearing spandex, is a privilege, not a right. And though we have been conditioned to worship single-process bleached beauties from Jean Harlow, Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield to their modern-day equivalents, Madonna and "Baywatch" babe Pamela Lee, we must realize that these women are screen blonds who don't translate. Look at the people who try it in real life and you get the picture.

"Movies are bigger than life, so you think being blond is right. Realistically speaking, it's not going to happen," says Luna, a colorist and cutter who recently opened his own salon in West Hollywood and whose flaxen-haired clients include Lauren Hutton, Kelly Lynch and Cheryl Tiegs. "The hard part of this business is trying to make people realize it's not real. I grew up in Orange County, so I know what beachy chicks look like. A real natural blond has depth underneath and light up above. There's no way you can have the light in between."

Luna will ask the two natural blonds who work in his salon to come over and show you natural. They flip their hair over, revealing the dark lower layers and the parfait layer of light on top. If you want streaks, he'll do a few framing the face.

Going blond because you lust to become a "Baywatch" babe is a recipe for disaster, according to colorist Stuart Gavert, simply because hair has its limits. The high-maintenance hell of constant touch-ups will often result in a dried and fried look, not that of a screen goddess.

"That blond is going to look really trashy on someone who doesn't keep it well conditioned. The work is not just in getting the color. It's in the condition and the cut," says Gavert, who works at Umberto in Beverly Hills.

There's a difference, by the way, between yesterday's platinum bombshells and today's, he adds. Yesterday's starlet washed her hair once, maybe twice, a week. Today's blond, who might be hitting the gym every day, has the damaging habit of washing her hair too frequently. "With color," he says, "washing is incompatible. So is blowing it dry."

Many TV blonds are stuck in the surreal world of hyperblond, Gavert says, because of the nature of the medium. "Light stands out, dark recedes. That's exaggerated by a camera."

Blasted-out blonds will always have a place on screen because employers (gentlemen and others) prefer them and often will settle for nothing less. Gavert once dared to help Christina Applegate out of her "Married With Children" bimbo blondness (she reads French existentialist novels, he insists, and dislikes the dumb blond act in real life), and he was rewarded with an irate call from one of her producers.

Model Nadja Auermann got the same negative reaction when she went from blond to basic brown for the last round of European runway fashion shows. The Teutonic ice queen, who soared to modeling's pinnacle when she went platinum, has now been relegated to second string. She was even dropped by designer Gianni Versace, whose new fragrance is called--you guessed it--Blonde.

(Makeup: Kathleen Beaton; model: Tiffany Lebel / Wilhelmina L.A.

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