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Mr Kenneth and the Royal Pavilion

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Kenneth Battelle was a leading hairdresser who worked with Jackie Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe and other celebrities of the 1960s. When it came to designing his New York salon, he turned to the Royal Pavilion for inspiration.

Giuseppe Longo, author of a new biography of ‘Mr Kenneth’, explains how Brighton’s seaside palace found a place on 5th Avenue.

In the 1960s, Kenneth Battelle became one of the most prolific artists of the hair industry, having built his professional momentum first with cosmetics queen Helena Rubinstein and then with millinery empress Lilly Daché. By the time Jacqueline Kennedy, one of his closest clients, lived in the White House, he had ascended to unofficial king of the beauty industry. His fabled career, which almost reads like a storybook, became name-dropping to the extreme. He collaborated with famed fashion photographers from Richard Avedon to Milton Greene; his work landed among the pages of magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar; he worked with cover girl models from Jean Shrimpton to Cheryl Tiegs; and he styled the cast of the wildly popular movie “Valley of the Dolls.” Other loyal clients included Marilyn Monroe (who he prepared the night she sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President”) and Judy Garland (he styled her hair the night she performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City, which became known as “the greatest night in show business history”).

Kenneth Battelle’s salon. Photographed by Milton H. Greene © 2019 Joshua Greene.

While Vidal Sassoon was in London and Alexandre in Paris, Kenneth’s salon was based in New York City, right off of 5th Avenue. Captivated by its decadent interiors and rich colors, Kenneth used the Royal Pavilion, or as he called it the Brighton Pavilion, as inspiration for his salon’s design and decor. He had enlisted the talent of Billy Baldwin, renowned interior decorator at the time, to bring the extravagant English dream to life.

Kenneth explained:

“I had visited the Brighton Pavilion before and that’s how I wanted my salon. We used a lot of pattern on pattern, cotton-draped walls, wicker furniture, flowered carpeting, lacquer paint in brilliant colors.”

Billy Baldwin had added:

“Paisley on paisley splashed on. The material is cotton—yards and yards of it, used really on a mammoth scale. We swagged it, draped it, tented it, all of it richly colored—scarlet, blue, butter yellow. I thought it would be great fun for a woman to have her hair dried under a paisley tent, her hair curled by the light of a palm-tree lamp as she sits in a lacquered bamboo chair.”

The Royal Pavilion Saloon, as restored in 2018.

The salon set the stage and became a Mecca of elegance where Kenneth cultivated a cult of timeless ladies. Now readers can discover the fascinating story of Kenneth Battelle, including his ties with the Royal Pavilion, in the first-ever hardcover book dedicated to his historic career. “Kenneth: Shear Elegance” is available worldwide, including all good bookstores in the United Kingdom.

Giuseppe Longo, author of Kenneth: Shear Elegance

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