Kaddish for hairdresser Vidal Sassoon at London memorial

By Jennifer Lipman, October 12, 2012
Vidal Sassoon

Vidal Sassoon

Friends and colleagues of Jewish hairdresser Vidal Sassoon paid tribute to him at a London memorial service following his death in May.

Actor Jeremy Irons and architect Zaha Hadid were among those who spoke of his contribution to British industry and recalled his rise from humble origins in the Jewish East End to stylist to the stars. Other guests at the event included designer Zandra Rhodes, actor Michael Caine and hairdressers Nicky Clarke and John Freida.

Born in 1928, Sassoon spent part of his childhood in the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Orphanage in Lauderdale Road, before becoming a hairdresser's apprentice at the age of 14. He opened his first salon on Bond Street in 1954 and created a defining image of the 1960s with the "five points cut".

The service, held at St Paul's Cathedral, included a recitation of Kaddish by Baroness Rabbi Julia Neuberger as well as a reading from the book of Ecclesiastics.

Rabbi Neuberger said that the fact that the memorial was taking place in "one of London's most Christian landmarks" should encourage Jews and Christians to learn from each other on matters of death and bereavement.

She described Sassoon, who she met once in a BBC green room, as a "proud Jew" who had left a great legacy.

His son Elan, the product of Mr Sassoon's marriage to actress Beverly Adams, gave a tearful tribute in which he remembered his father's motto, "get on with it", and his generosity, including with Hairdressers Unlocking Hope, set up to help rebuild Hurricane-deestated New Orleans.

"Dad had an optimistic love of his fellow man," he said. "He loved all religions and races. He hated the word charity because the word has a sense of superiority associated with it."

"He was a man who fought his fears all his life," he said, adding that his father had overcome his fears of failure, war and fascism as he rose out of poverty, fought in the Israeli War of Independence in 1948 and battled fascists with the 43 Group.

Chariots of Fire producer Lord Puttnam, an old friend of Vidal Sassoon's, described him as "a lifelong ambassador for his craft".

Last updated: 4:21pm, October 12 2012