Kenneth – the salon of Kenneth Battelle, “the first celebrity hairdresser,” who gave Jacqueline Kennedy her tousled bouffant, was located at 19 East 54th Street. The 17,000-square-foot Renaissance Revival townhouse was redesigned as a salon by Billy Baldwin and opened March 4, 1963.
Kenneth the New York hair salon
An excerpt from Dana’s visit to Kenneth in A Very Good Life. Available on AMAZON
Dana decided that in order to retain her ability to focus on her job at B. Altman—indeed to keep her sanity after being humiliated by Janice Conlon—she needed to get through the rest of the day without deviating from her schedule. She had an afternoon appointment with her hairdresser at Kenneth’s, the 1897 Renaissance Revival townhouse at 19 East 54th Street that had been redesigned as a salon by Billy Baldwin. At the request of Kenneth, the lavish décor was inspired by the Brighton Pavilion, and five hundred yards of paisley and nine hundred yards of Indian jungle flower cotton in circus shades of red and yellow were draped in such a fashion so as to create a fantasy palace.
As much as she enjoyed being pampered, Dana was in no mood for such luxury after leaving Mary Elizabeth’s. Janice’s bizarre words echoed in her mind again and again. The woman was impertinent, and her totally unexpected public tolerance of prostitution had managed to sabotage an issue that was important to the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association. But the failure of the meeting was now the least of Dana’s worries. The idea of Brett purchasing a wardrobe for someone was bad enough, but that he had done so for the brash and tawdry Janice was something that made Dana’s mind reel. And then there was the matter of the wine journals. Janice had no more business being with Brett to pick up the gifts Dana had selected than she did attending the neighborhood association meeting. Their client had offices at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, not at Mrs. John L. Strong.
Dana entered Kenneth’s and was escorted to the chair at the station of Mr. Gino, her personal stylist. Mr. Gino was talking animatedly to Dana about what she wished to be done on this particular visit, but Dana didn’t hear a word. She was rehearsing the questions she would ask Brett later in the day. He was good at thinking on his feet after years of standing in open court and handling unanticipated situations, and she wondered what answers he would tender when confronted with the information she had learned from Janice at Mary Elizabeth’s. The one glimmer of hope that Dana entertained was that it made no sense for Brett to send a woman to the meeting who could offer compromising information on his recent activities. Why would he intentionally incriminate himself?
Perhaps the woman was just abrasive, and Brett would have a perfectly legitimate explanation for his activities on Saturday. For that matter, Janice Conlon might not even be telling the truth. Her histrionic manner and unwillingness to help with the petition had made it clear that she was not someone to be trusted. Dana’s impulse was to pick up the phone immediately, call Brett and clear the air for good or ill, but she wanted to confront her husband face to face. People’s body language sometimes said far more than the spoken word. If Brett flinched the smallest bit when Dana requested an explanation, she would know that something was amiss.
Until the opportunity presented itself, however, Dana decided to relax in Kenneth’s peaceful sanctum while she reveled in Monday’s triumph at B. Altman. There was going to be a teen makeup section, and Helen wasn’t going to be able to block it, regardless of her adamant opposition to the concept on Friday. The air would be chilly for the foreseeable future when the two women encountered each other, but Helen would eventually come around. She might even end up, at some point in the future, speaking of what a wonderfully creative move it had been for the cosmetic section to incorporate a teen makeup counter so as to be seen favorably by Ira and Dawn. Dana knew that everyone was capable of using revisionist history to their own advantage.
Dana was finally beginning to tune into Mr. Gino’s words when the receptionist approached his station and handed her a slip of paper torn from a message pad. Dana read the words and turned to her hairdresser. “Sorry, Mr. Gino, but I have to run back to work. I’ll need to reschedule.”
Dana was out on the street in a matter of minutes. Kim Sullivan’s rack of clothing had been sprayed with water from a pipe being repaired in an adjacent dressing area. Dana would need to make another selection of clothing for the contestant. Before leaving Kenneth’s, Dana had called the Sullivan’s residence and asked the housekeeper to rush Kim to her office for another fitting as soon as she was out of school.
As Dana taxied back to the store, she mentally rehearsed everything that needed to be done before the luncheon. For the moment, her thoughts were no longer on Concolor Christmas trees, the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, wine journals, or Janice Conlon. There was a contest to run, and she was going to see it done correctly—and fairly.