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Obituaries

Catya Sassoon, 33; Model, Actress, Daughter of Vidal

January 04, 2002|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Catya Sassoon, a model-turned-actress and daughter of celebrity hairstylist Vidal Sassoon, has died. She was 33.

Sassoon died in her sleep Tuesday morning at her home in the Hollywood Hills after attending a party at a friend's house, according to her manager, Hilly Elkins.

"She complained of feeling woozy, and they left the party and went home," Elkins said Thursday. When Sassoon's husband, Joe Myers, tried to awaken her a few hours later, she failed to respond, Elkins said. Results of an autopsy are pending.

Born in New York City, Sassoon was the first of Beverly and Vidal Sassoon's four children. Growing up in Beverly Hills, she lived a fast life.

At 13, she pierced her nostrils and cut her hair into a mohawk that she dyed purple and white.

At 14, she dropped out of Beverly Hills High School and left home to work as a model in Manhattan.

A month shy of turning 16, she married her first husband, Luca Scalisi, son of an Italian movie producer and then a USC film school student.

"She's wild, crazy and stubborn. But then we all are," Beverly Sassoon told People magazine in 1985.

After moving to Manhattan to start her modeling career, Sassoon signed with the Prestige Agency and moved into a group apartment.

"It was sheer hell living there with 12 girls fighting for one of the two available showers every morning at 6," she told People. "Everyone stole everyone's makeup. I was the youngest. The rest were in their 20s."

When she complained to her father, he moved her into her own penthouse apartment across the street.

The 5-foot-8, 117-pound, auburn-haired Sassoon quickly became one of the top junior models in New York.

She appeared on the covers of Seventeen, Bride and other magazines. In 1985, Rolling Stone ran a photograph of her, proclaiming, "Catya Sassoon defines the word nubile."

Later media accounts referred to Sassoon's problems with drugs and alcohol.

In 1990, Catya Sassoon and her mother talked openly about their chemical dependencies--and how they kicked them--in joint promotional appearances for Beverly's Pocket Books "Fantasies" novel.

At the time, Beverly Sassoon told columnist Marilyn Beck that she was three years clear of an alcohol addiction and that 22-year-old Catya was about to celebrate "a year free from a drug habit that was so tough there were times I felt I was going to lose her."

Sassoon landed her first film job at 15: a small role as a Los Angeles gang member in "Tuff Turf," starring James Spader and Robert Downey Jr.

She went on to appear in about 20 other films, including "Bloodfist IV: Die Trying," "The Hunted," "Modern Girls" and "Hollywood Kids." She also appeared in numerous television shows and was lead singer in an all-girl group called the Feline Force.

In addition to her husband, parents and siblings, Sassoon is survived by her twin daughters, Mycca and Syke; and a son, London.

A funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. today at Eden Hills Memorial Park in Mission Hills.

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