Maurice goes to Jerusalem and brings his styling skills with him

All smiles at the salon ribbon-cutting (photo credit: AVIAD TEVEL)
All smiles at the salon ribbon-cutting
(photo credit: AVIAD TEVEL)
Fancy getting yourself a really snazzy hairdo? Have you ever dreamed of having your crowning glory fashioned into a hirsute work of art by a jetset craftsman who has tended to the aesthetic needs of some of Tinseltown’s finest and richest? Now you can save yourself the airfare and at least 17 hours at 30,000 feet, not to mention the crippling effects of jet lag, and just get yourself over to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where Maurice Dadoun recently became a partner and artistic director of the Saphira salon there.
In fact, the new enterprise represents a homecoming for 40-something Dadoun. He was born in Jerusalem but left for France, with his Moroccan-born parents, when he was very small.
He first got the notion of venturing into the world of hair design at the age of 16, when a friend asked him to be a model for a haircutting session.
“I thought, maybe, that might be interesting,” says Dadoun. “I thought it’s technical and you need skills. As his model, I could look at all the angles and the technical aspects.”
The youngster decided to follow his newfound direction, and says he was blessed with the right kind of DNA.
“My dad is a very handy person, and we all have good hands,” notes Dadoun, adding that he might have opted for a different line of work where he could put his natural gifts to good use. “I could have been a professional sculptor or painter. I used to draw and I still paint.”
But it was the world of hair design that gained Dadoun’s earnest teenage attention, and he honed his incipient skills under the guidance of the world-famous hairstylist and global beauty franchise founder Jacques Dessange, serving a five-year apprenticeship.
It soon became clear that Dadoun had made a wise career choice. He took incremental strides in the profession and became a sought-after hairstylist at his Paris base.
“I became a head hairstylist at the age of 21,” he declares. That sounds like a pretty senior position for one so tender in years. “That’s true, but when you’ve been in the business for five years already, and you’ve known for some time that that’s what you want to do, it’s not soon [to become a head hairstylist].”
After tending to the coiffure requirements of thousands of Parisians, at the age of 25 Dadoun hit the road, initially taking his finely polished skills and experience to Italy as a representative of the Jacques Dessange company.
After a couple of years there, the Jerusalem- born hair designer starting getting demands for his services from far further abroad.
“People began calling me from New York,” recalls Dadoun. One call that particularly appealed to the 27-year-old was one he received from French-born celebrity hairstylist and hair-product producer Frederic Fekkai.
Dadoun’s first stop was the Big Apple, but within a short space of time he continued westward. “I moved to New York for six months to get my papers sorted out, and then I moved to California,” he explains.
But he wasn’t fully prepared for the West Coast. “The weather there is much better than in New York or Paris.
I moved to California in January 1998 and I was dressed for winter, and all my clothes were winter stuff,” he laughs. “I left freezing-cold New York and got to LA where it was something like 35° Celsius.”
Dadoun’s westward shift was prompted by a decision by Fekkai to entrust him with the responsibility of setting up the company’s first outlet on the West Coast.
Dadoun could hardly believe his luck.
“I was on the heart of Rodeo Drive [in Beverly Hills] with a beautiful salon, with [stores like] Yves Saint Laurent. It was the top of the top. You can’t get higher than that,” he enthuses. “We had a huge salon with a restaurant and 60 employees. We had over $5 million revenue. I was only 28, but I was a kid with a lot of experience.”
The salon was also frequented by some of the biggest Hollywood stars, and members of the country’s highest echelons.
“Betsy Bloomingdale [widow of famous department store chain heir Alfred Bloomingdale] was actually the start of everything,” says Dadoun. “She was well known to be a friend of Nancy Reagan, and Nancy Reagan brought Kirk Douglas and Michael Douglas."
“Kirk Douglas is an amazing man. He had this horrible helicopter accident [in 1991, when he was 72] and he fought his way back. I have known him for a long time and have been to his house. He is so famous but he is such a [down-to-earth] guy. He actually helped me get my Green Card. He is such a nice man.”
Douglas had a stroke in 1996 but, once again, he battled his way back to health and is due to turn 100 this year.
“He’s a big supporter of Israel, too, and he has all kinds of art by Jewish and Israeli painters in his home,” adds Dadoun.
Other famous actors entrusted their hair aesthetics to Dadoun and his Beverly Hills salon, including Tommy Lee Jones, Sandra Bullock and Brooke Shields. He has also provided valuable support for fashion shows, including extensive runway work in couture houses such as Chanel, Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood.
For Dadoun, hair and the tending thereof are of paramount importance.
“What do notice when you see someone for the first time, from a distance?” he posits. “First, you see their silhouette and then you see their hair. Hair is a strong reflection of who you are.”
They say the eyes are the window of the soul, but Dadoun has a different route to a person’s inner being.
“As a hair designer, when I look at someone I look at their hair, and straightaway I know exactly who that person is. You can tell if someone is extremely picky or detail-oriented or very cool. It is part of the dedication we bring to our salon today. When you cut someone’s hair, you need to make them feel as at home as possible. That’s a very important part of being a hair designer.”
After 15 years of mixing with the “beautiful people” and enjoying the Californian sun, Dadoun came here to live in our Mediterranean climate.
“I am 46 years old and I have three kids,” he says. “I could have stayed in the States and lived there until I retired, but I felt I wanted something more out of life. My parents and parents-in-law had moved here, and my grandmother died in Jerusalem only a few months ago. She was 96. She was an amazing woman.”
Dadoun also wanted his children – aged 12, nine and six – to imbibe Israeli life.
“I wanted them to grow up here. I have absolutely nothing against the way the Jews live in America, but I think they are missing something, as Jews. You become American first and a Jew after that. I think they miss the core values. The connection with human beings [in America and in Israel] is so different. My kids are very social, so it was easy for them to fit in here. I know it was the right decision to come here.”
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