I first became aware of the name Leslie Cavendish when I was researching for an article that I wrote a few years ago. That article was on the boutique ‘Dandie Fashions’. When the said boutique was taken over by the Apple Corp in the spring of 1968, the boutique then changed its name to ‘Apple Tailoring’. It was decided that it would remain in the hands of John Crittle to run the day to day activities surrounding the boutique. Within the premises there was an unused basement, which became a unisex hair salon. Clientele could be fitted for a garment and then pop down the stairs to the basement for a haircut! The person who was put in charge of running the hair salon was Leslie Cavendish. As far as my research went for the article on Dandie Fashions – that is as far as I got with the hair salon / Leslie Cavendish part of the story.
As I delved deeper into Leslie’s background, it became quite clear to myself that he was an important part in that whole time period of the mid to late sixties. With some more research, I eventually managed to get in contact with Leslie, and as our correspondence increased, a meeting was arranged!
On a cold and grey late November morning, my wife Susie and I headed to London to meet Leslie. The rendezvous venue was chosen by Leslie, so we headed over to Hampstead and a pub called ‘The Old Bull & Bush’. I have to admit that I was quite nervous as we entered through the doors of the pub – lots of anxious thoughts racing through my mind. Within seconds of meeting and exchanging pleasantries, I knew that we were all going to get on fine. Phew….
From the pictures that I had garnered from the internet, it is crystal clear that Leslie was a man of style and great taste. Dark-haired, handsome and mysterious looking – not dissimilar to the guy that used to front the old Milk Tray chocolate adverts! As I looked at Leslie while in our conversation – he still retains the same qualities.
I got to work on asking my questions, almost immediately! Leslie gave me a brief story of his childhood in London, which eventually got to the part where he started an apprenticeship with Vidal Sassoon. From working with Vidal, he eventually got onto the subject of The Beatles and how he become part of that inner-circle. While our conversation deepened, it became apparent that Leslie had incredible understanding and memory of what was happening, in and around himself – back in those heady days! Even within the short time that we shared Leslie’s company, he managed to regale us both in some wonderful stories. I got the feeling that Leslie was enjoying telling his stories, as he had found the perfect audience. Leslie is hoping to get his book of memoirs published in 2017, and I expect lots of these incredible stories to be in the book. So, until that time, the tales Leslie did pass onto Susie and myself will remain as our own special secrets!
We spoke about music, fashion and football. I have to mention that Leslie is a lifelong QPR supporter or sufferer! And like myself, every now and then he was looking to his mobile phone for football updates.
There were still lots of questions that I wanted to ask, but I was aware of not bombarding Leslie or overstaying our welcome. So I asked if I could email him some questions – and that way, he could spend a little more time in his answering.
Before you read the Q&A part of my article – I have to mention what a charming and warm natured man Leslie is. As we left the pub, I think that we both felt we had gained a new friend.
I emailed Leslie a number of questions – here is what I asked, and Leslie’s answers:
01. What age did you take up hairdressing?
I left school at 15. I then started an apprenticeship at Vidal Sassoon at 171 New Bond Street. The apprenticeship was for three years, where I became Vidal’s junior for three months, and I was then promoted to junior hairstylist at his Grosvenor House hotel, Park Lane, salon. Just before my eighteenth birthday.
02. How did you manage to find a job working for the world-famous Vidal Sassoon?
My best friend at school and still to this day, Lawrence Falk (he started the first unisex salon in the U.K. called ‘Crimpers’) started working in a salon in London. I thought why not try it myself – so I asked him where would be the best place to start out. He said ‘Vidal’s salon’. So I called the salon and managed to get an interview and from there I got an apprenticeship.
03. Tell us something about the kind of clientele that would frequent the salon?
The salon had a very mixed clientele. From wealthy ladies who wanted the latest Vidal style to young models (some of which became household names), famous actors, musicians, fashion designers, to big film directors, and Mary Quant, who with the ideal hairstyle, set off the swinging London scene.
04. The world’s music, fashion, arts and hairdressing seemed to all explode in the early to mid-sixties – did you personally feel like you were part of something special that was happening in London?
You didn’t really think too much about it at the time. Life was exciting anyway working at Vidal’s. Added to that, the music and fashion were part of my youth. You did feel like ‘the times they were a changin’!
05. How did you become the personal hairstylist to The Beatles – and what were they like as people?
At Vidal’s, a client of mine was Jane Asher (who was Paul McCartney’s girlfriend) – she asked me one day if I would like to cut her boyfriend’s hair! And I think you know what happened next…
I met them all at a time when they had all decided to stop touring. So they were all a lot more relaxed than I imagine they would’ve been if they were on the road. All four of them were different and I had a good friendship with them all. This also applied to the team that was around them. I was the only one who wasn’t from Liverpool, but because I never spoke to journalists about my link with The Beatles – and never hassled them for autographs etc – I become one of the inner circle that they could trust.
06. What are your memories of managing your own salon within the boutique that became ‘Apple Tailoring’?
It was an intimate salon and very personal to whoever came in to have their hair done. My clients came from the music world and from streetwise people who just found the salon – and loved to have their hair done in the remarkable atmosphere that was ‘Apple Tailoring’! Being in the boutique and watching the dandies of London being dressed up in velvet and frilly, patterned shirts, was extremely interesting. They came in the shop to be dressed, and left as peacocks!
07. What are your memories of working alongside John Crittle at ‘Apple Tailoring’?
At first, John was great to be around, and I used to like watching his friends, who were mostly from the ‘Chelsea Set’, hanging around the shop. After a while though, I lost a lot of respect for John, as he was often stoned and spoke to people in an arrogant manner. He seemed to think that he was a Chelsea via Australian aristocrat, who was doing everybody a favour in dressing them, and he didn’t have time for the regular customer – who were the ‘real’ customers!
08. You were part of the chosen entourage for the now cult Beatles’ film ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ – what are your memories of that journey?
The MMT was one of my great memories and to be on tour with THE BEATLES, especially as they had stopped touring, was something special. If you have watched the film, you will have seen the coach journey and it was great to be one of the passengers, and to be able to watch The Beatles close up. More of which will be in my book!
09. I know that you were very interested in the music that was happening all around you – what were your personal favourite bands, both live and on vinyl?
When I was young I used to like Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, and The Everly Bros. Later on, I discovered Buffalo Springfield, Jefferson Airplane, Vanilla Fudge, The Doors, CSNY, and many more West Coast bands. My taste in British bands were The Animals, Free, The Kinks, Dusty Springfield, and Cat Stevens. I was also into folk music – and Neil Young was a hero of mine. I saw many bands live, but CSNY at the Albert Hall, and David Bowie (Ziggy Stardust), and not forgetting The Beatles, were concerts not to be forgotten.
10. What are your thoughts on the clothing that you were wearing back in those days? From the photos that I have seen you certainly were a snappy dresser!
I loved the whole hippy look – Afghan coats and velvet jackets with ‘Anello & Davide’ shoes. I also got into suits from ‘John Michael’ and ‘Take 6’.
11. What are your thoughts on contemporary men’s hairdressing – and do you still cut hair today?
I am like a gunfighter who put his scissors away in a holster a few years ago. Today’s hairdressing is an art form. The use of electric cutters and the thinning outlooks, makes out for spectacular hairstyles. Hairdressing is like Punk music – nobody makes the rules – you do what you want and that is called fashion.
12. And finally – what other interesting things are you up to these days?
I have now finished my autobiography about my life as a hairdresser at Vidal’s, and this included my time with The Beatles. The book should be out this year. I have given lectures at universities about the culture and fashion during the sixties period. I have been asked to be a guest speaker at The Beatles week this year in Liverpool, which I am looking forward to doing.
I occasionally do VIP Beatle tours. My clients come from all over the world and instead of the usual Beatle tours that take place around London, I can tell them what it was actually like in the recording studios, as well as being in the building, while The Beatles performed on the roof!
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