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Michel Kazan; Stylist Created Bouffant Hairdo for Jacqueline Kennedy

May 20, 2000|ELAINE WOO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Michel Kazan gave up on becoming a cosmetic surgeon because, "I wanted to make women beautiful without cutting their faces." So he chose other tools--a comb and scissors--and used them to create some of the signature hairstyles of the 1950s, '60s and '70s.

Kazan was best known for the bouffant, essentially a pageboy with the sides teased out, which he created for Jacqueline Kennedy in 1950. He also created the bubble, a helmet of tight curls around the head. He popularized the French twist and later the cropped and feathered frizzie.

Kazan died Saturday at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York of complications of viral pneumonia, said his wife, Maria. He was 92.

He at one time operated a national chain of salons in Bonwit Teller department stores, running the empire from his headquarters in a pink midtown Manhattan townhouse that still houses a salon that bears his name.

Kazan was born in Russia of French parents and grew up in Paris, where he studied painting and later researched and sketched historical coifs for productions of the Comedie Francaise. Discovering a desire to work directly with hair, he opened his first salon on Place du Theatre Francaise in 1934.

He left France during the German occupation in World War II and settled in New York, where he became the chief stylist for Helena Rubinstein Inc. By the time he left the cosmetics queen in the early 1960s, he had a worldwide reputation as a coiffure master.

The salon he opened on East 55th Street in 1961 was a favorite of such celebrities as Natalie Wood and Raquel Welch. Clients often had to wait a year for an appointment. The salon became a training ground for stylists who later became stars in their own right. Perhaps the best-known among those Kazan mentored is Kenneth, who became Jacqueline Kennedy's personal stylist and who still runs a salon in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

The key to his success was never to stand still. "Forward, forward, forward," was his mantra, Maria Kazan said in an interview Thursday.

In addition to Maria, his second wife, Kazan is survived by their two children, Roman and Zofia Kazan, of Manhattan; three other children, Micheline Best of Delray Beach, Fla., Jacqueline Ganden of Boynton Beach, Fla., and Michel Kazan of Laguna Beach,; nine grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren.

Kazan collaborated with such couturiers as James Galanos and Chanel to create original hairstyles. For a Galanos show, he introduced the use of hairpieces known as falls, which led to a craze that would sweep the country. Like fashion designers, he presented his own "collection" of coifs twice a year.

The celebrated stylist once told the New Yorker that he created the bouffant during a society affair at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The guests included Kennedy, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Grace Paley. "All the society ladies stood in front of paintings of big masters and I made modern styles in front of the masters," he said. "It was a very big affair."

He sent three pictures of Kennedy wearing the bouffant to Vogue magazine. Once they hit the pages of that publication, the bouffant became the rage. Kennedy wore the coif for 20 years. Two decades later, in the 1970s, the style was still popular among many women.

"I almost wish I'd never done it," he ruefully told the Times in 1974 during one of his twice-yearly visits to his salon at the Bonwit Teller store in Beverly Hills. "Nothing dates a woman more than an old-fashioned makeup or hairdo, like the bouffant."

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