Iconic hairdresser Kenneth Battelle, whose name was synonymous with the big helmets of hair that society dames wore for decades, died on Sunday at his home in Wappingers Falls, NY, two years after he cut his last head of hair. He was 86. Battelle, known as just Kenneth – no “Mr. Kenneth,” please — was the hairstylist of choice for both Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy. He was responsable, in fact, for Jackie’s iconic bouffant, which he created “to lengthen her head and balance her broad cheekbones.” He used some hair spray, but allowed a few wisps to fall away to make her look less “set.” For that he was nicknamed Secretary of Grooming. He began his career at the Starlet Beauty Bar, opposite the Greyhound bus station in Syracuse, New York, where prostitutes made up much of the clientele. His bob cut there became ragingly popular. From there he moved to New York, where he soon got a job with Helena Rubinstein. After opening his own salon in 1963, he was dubbed the first celebrity hairdresser, styling the hair of Brooke Astor, Lee Radziwill, Katharine Graham, Judy Garland and Audrey Hepburn among others. Lucille Ball called him “God.” In 1961, Vogue magazine said that “almost every famous female head in the world has gone or will go” to Kenneth. The New York Times noted: “His contribution to his craft — he insisted that it was neither a profession nor an art — was to persuade women to rely less on permanents, bleaches and hair spray in favor of a more romantic look. He advanced the use of rollers to create natural-looking waves,” often making his own rollers out of lucite when the size he wanted didn’t exist. “But Mr. Battelle never saw himself as anything more than a hard-working servant, a word he liked to use. ‘What I do,’ he said, ‘is only a shampoo away from being nothing.'” Says Wikipedia: “For a while Kenneth enjoyed the celebrity lifestyle, being considered equivalent to an A-list celebrity. In an interview with Vanity Fair in 2003, Kenneth stated that although he used to enjoy attending social events, a headline in a mid-1960s issue of the New York Journal-American reading “Pickle Queen goes to Yacht Party With Hairdresser” upset him and led to his decision to avoid going out with his clients again.
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