After literally years of trying to hook up with famous celebrity hairdresser Ken Paves (Jessica & Ashlee Simpson, Carmen Electra, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Eva Longoria, Pam Anderson, Lara Flynn Boyle, Brittany Murphy, Avril Lavigne) we finally both managed to be in the same city and state at the very same time.
I was chatting with Kenney on the phone and bemoaning the fact that we had been trying to get together, so I could pick his brain in person, for close to three years. Laughing he literally dared me to "hop a plane in less than a week to LA and reside as a secret fly on the wall at a big photo shoot".
Ken promised that if I made the trip, he would get me special permission as his very special guest to be the "only member of the press" to attend a very hush-hush top secret shoot at Quixote Studios in Hollywood.
I took the dare and in a matter of days I was jetting out of Dallas for one of my favorite airports - John Wayne - also known as Santa Anna located in the heart of Orange County, California. Yes, I know, I could've flown into LAX but I decided to take the scenic route. John Wayne is a lovely little regional airport that is strategically positioned approximately 50 miles away from Los Angeles to the North and San Diego to the south.
Picking up my rental car I thrust my fate to the gods and jumped on the famous 405 freeway towards Beverly Hills. Except for tons of traffic, the trip was peaceful and I arrived in the heart of Beverly Hills just in time to catch up on my shopping at the star studded Whole Foods. As I pushed my cart through the famous whole food store I bumped into a number of celebrities. I managed to ignore all of them, even though I was mentally gawking.
Hanging In Beverly Hills
Once I checked into a posh and super fabulous Beverly Hills Hotel with a famous restaurant. I dialed Ken on his cell. He was entangled in a shopping trip with one of his famous blonde celebrity clients and trying to dodge the ever present throngs of paparazzi. Yes, not only is Ken a celebrity in his own right, he hangs with many of his famous clients. Between Ken and his famous "girls", they generate major traffic jams wherever they go.
Ken and I agreed to rendezvous the next day at his new Beverly Hills Salon on Robertson (a couple blocks up from the Ivy Restaurant) and I decided to explore the nooks and crannies of Hollywood.
Checking my car back out from the watchful eyes of the hotel valet, I decided to explore the wild and wooly streets of Hollywood. I tooled past CBS and other famous studios before I turned my car onto Beverly Drive. Zipping up and down surrounding streets I spotted Tarina Tarantino's jewelry boutique. I was amused to see that the outside of the little shop was bright pink, her signature color. I then zipped into Fred Segal's where celebrities alternately shop and get banned. Finally I made my way up Rodeo Drive and passed celebrity hairdresser Chris McMillian's salon where I didn't spot Jennifer Aniston.
After a few hours of trolling all the world famous haunts of the rich and famous, I snagged a comfy seat in the hotel lobby and watched a parade of Beautiful People wandering in and out.
The Boddhi Tree
Bright and early the next day (the early bird gets the best parking spots in La) I journeyed to the world famous Boddhi Tree bookstore. Since everyone drives everywhere in LA parking is always a major challenge.
At the Boddhi Tree I spotted additional celebrities but by now, I was totally over it and browsed for books with esoteric titles that somehow would never make it in Texas.
Around 11:00 am I found a fantastic parking spot at the famous Starbucks on Robertson. After watching a parade of stars pop in for their various Sunday morning lattes, I strolled up Robertson and peeked into the windows of Kitsons, Intuition and Lisa Klein. I found the alley that connected to Michele Roy's shop (no sign of Michele) and then doubled back past the Ivy where the street was jammed with crazed papparrizi wildly snapping their state-of-the art digital cameras. I actually stopped and took a photo of the papparrizi taking photos. Although I had no idea of which famous faces were lunching at the Ivy, at this point I was more amazed at the bulging throng of photographers.
Shortly after noon I headed back to nest at an inside table at the Robertson Starbucks. My cell phone rang and Kenney tried to direct me to walk up to his salon. After major crackling, Kenney and my constant "what did you say?" Ken said "never mind". The next thing I knew I spotted him, a vision in chic Hollywood fashion, in the middle of the street outside the Starbucks.
Ken Paves The Movie Star
I was amazed at how much he has changed since I last saw him some years ago in person. Every hair on his blonde head was perfectly trimmed to fall into tousled highlighted perfection. He was in spectacular shape and looked like a major movie star in his designer shades, couture boots and perfectly tanned skin. Standing next to him was his gorgeous mom, in from Detroit, his assistant Diana, who could be a supermodel and his business manager Fred, who had his own chic Hollywood look going.
After a group hug we hoofed it up Robertson in search of a place to have breakfast passing Rachel Hunter along the way. We eventually found a small California style little restaurant that had egg white omelets and turkey sausage.
Sitting one table over was an actor from one of my favorite true crime style television shows. I managed to ignore him after first staring in shock. He is much better looking in person. Which I found fascinating.
Slice Of Heaven In Beverly Hills
After a fabulous breakfast, Ken and his entourage retired to his breathtakingly beautiful Beverly Hills Salon located on Robertson across the street from the Banana Republic. The salon, from the front, resembles the enchanted wooden cottage appearance that the Ivy Restaurant has. I mentioned this to Ken and he said "yes I know, isn't that interesting".
The front of the salon, which will eventually be named Ken Paves - Beverly Hills - has two quaint double glass doors that are framed in a beautiful wood finish. In fact, the entire salon is a gorgeous mosaic of dark red brick cobblestone style floors, light and dark woods, hand crafted chandeliers and beautiful ornate black wrought iron. The outside of the charmingly inviting salon is bordered by an array of gorgeous rose bushes and climbing floral sprays in soft pink and creamy white hues. A few red roses dot the bushes.
The inside of the salon offers antique charm, designed personally by Ken to reflect his love of French Country Antique styles. Every spectacular chandelier was hand crafted and picked personally by Ken. The hairdresser stations are unique and consist of period antique furniture and artwork. Forget the sterile counters that you might find in most salons. Ken lovingly selected antique wood tables and had them painstakingly refinished. The mirrors above each station are also antique. The walls have been carefully refinished into a soft white finish that coupled with the open skylights gives the impression that you are hanging out in a quaint yet plush Country Estate in the South of France.
The salon is multi-leveled with the a small expanse of dark red brick steps bordered by an antique curved black iron railing leading up to the impressive "front desk" that is done in antique woods and framed by a spectacular wall-mount style chandelier.
Covered by a delicate lace curtain, the restroom is small, but luxurious as bathrooms go. Custom blended aromatic candles designed by Ken (and available for sale at the salon) are everywhere, including the bathroom, emitting a fabulous rich aroma.
The front desk on the second story of the loft style salon is bordered by the custom designed shampoo station with beautiful gleaming creamy white antique shampoo bowls. Kenney explained that "he considered installing rich black shampoo bowels" but his friend, New York hair colorist Rita Hazan, suggested that hair color treatments would be more complex in a black bowl since it's harder to monitor hair color changes.
The shampoo area is completely surrounded by closed antique wooden cabinets with beautiful doors that give the area a warm, cozy feel. A skylight in the ceiling gives the room a splash of California sunshine.
Babbling Waterfalls & California Blue Skies
Leading outside from the shampoo area is the open courtyard complete with a chic nightclub style community bed nestled in the middle of the coffee and tea bar area. The tea bar provides a sugary sweetness of a bygone era that is stocked with antique hand selected china tea cups. The bed is carefully positioned under a spectacular open roof with a view of the California blue sky. The open courtyard area that is covered by an electric awning that can be instantly utilized to cover the courtyard from a sudden burst of rain or preying camera lens.
Soft jazz and contemporary rock compete for attention with the soothing sounds of babbling water erupting from the gorgeous waterfall that is strategically positioned a few steps down from the courtyard near the garden inspired side entrance.
Once you enter this charming, cozy and elegant French Country inspired abode, it is hard to leave. I popped myself into one of the antique chairs at the workstation in the front window and proceeded to pump everyone for details about the salon. Out of the corned of my eye I spied a young man with a camera hanging over one shoulder. Ken warned me "don't look now but that is one of the paparazzi that stakes out the salon in hopes of finding one of Ken's girls inside. To help add privacy and security to the salon, custom designed antique fabrics are being hand sewn into gorgeous drapes that will eventually cover the open glass windows and doors.
Chilling In The French Countryside
My senses were overwhelmed by the soothing sounds of light jazz and trickling water as my eyes feasted on the beautiful antique chandeliers and the stunning workstations.
Without warning the front door bursts open and in popped a fireball of energy by the name of Jessica Pasteur. I loved her wit, her energy and was fascinated by her total lack of awareness at her natural beauty.
After chatting about a variety of subjects she was gone as quickly as she arrived to have her nails done in preparation for the top secret shoot the following day. I discovered after she left she was a celebrity stylist who dresses Jessica Simpson and a list of other famous celebs.
Ken and his mom Helen had to leave to pick up the rich fabrics for the drapes and visitor benches. Ken's assistant, Diana, had to jet out to do the hair of yet another blonde celebrity. I reluctantly bide my farewells, not wanting to leave the sanctuary of this gorgeous hair retreat.
I decided to go check on the frenzy at the Ivy and was delighted to see even more photographers crowding the street. Stopping at the local Borders, I loaded up on the latest fashion magazines and retired to another quiet evening celebrity watching from the lobby of my hotel.
Top Secret Celebrity Shoot
Monday morning I was up bright and early to battle traffic on my way to the famous Quixote Studios. I discovered that many of the covers of the major fashion magazines such as Vogue, InStyle, Glamour and other shoots happen right at Quixote. I also discovered that America's Next Top Model show, when filming in LA, have photo shoots in the same location.
In reality, the studios are like a big empty warehouse with concrete floors and bare walls. This is because depending on the shoot that is scheduled the prop people wave their magic wands a the studio becomes instantly transformed into a dizzying array of backdrops. This shoot was no different. When I arrived at 9:00 am sharp, I discovered a group of prop people setting up a variety of "stages" within the main stage area. I also met the main photographer and producer of the shoot who also happens to be a famous New York photographer and long term member of the Saturday Night Live production team.
I immediately discovered all the complexities of a major shoot involving a very famous celebrity. I was asked by the entertainment legal team to sign an NDA that brought one of those million dollar penalties with it. Trust me, my lips are now permanently sealed about anything I am not allowed to talk about.
The Quiet Fly On The Couch
Settling into a cushy leather couch along the back of the stage area I transformed into the very quiet fly with several of my favorite pens and yellow writing pads. Shortly after 9:30 two of the "super model" types arrived and wandered into the rooms marked Hair, Makeup, Wardrobe. The production team set up large light umbrellas and a video consultant and her assistant set up all their equipment. The big name company sponsoring the shoot arrived with a team of five people to oversee that everything was handled appropriately and on schedule.
A famous make-up artist arrived along with her assistant (who also works on very famous people). I quickly discovered that everyone who is anyone has assistants. The producer has assistants, the celebrities have assistants and body guards, the photographers have assistants. Everyone had assistants of some form or fashion and sometimes the assistants have assistants. I was fascinated by what everyone's tasks because the set was a buzzing beehive of constant activity.
A special catering service stocked the tables with brunch and lunch foods and a separate refrigerator was jammed packed with sugar free Red Bull cans. Coffee and sodas were in plentiful supply.
I started writing notes almost from the moment I arrived until I left at close to 11:00 pm. I interviewed everyone that I could talk to without disrupting their work on the set. By the end of the second day, I had interviewed thirty different people. Some of the interview will probably never see the light of day because of my NDA. Others, after appropriate approvals will surface on HairBoutique.com.
Hurry Up & Wait
Kenney arrived early both days and was instantly surrounded by throngs of people. Besides being responsible for the celebrity's hair for the shoot, he was also co-starring in the shoot. The stylist grabbed him and put him through a series of clothing changes. Meanwhile the assistant to the stylist was putting the two supermodels through a series of costume changes to find the absolute perfect shades of green and pink. The models were carefully made-up and coiffed and then stood for what seemed like hours for "test shot" to determine how the colors would work in a variety of mediums.
The shoot was definitely a "hurry up and wait" scene that you always hear about but can't really fathom until you have had your rear end planted on a couch for hours watching models pose in a never ending array of green and pink shirts.
After the appropriate hues were approved, there was the issue of hair styling. The hair had to be the right style, the right shade and the right amount of volume before everything was in place.
Loud rock music pumped through the studio as models marched back and forth into the dressing area for yet another wardrobe adjustment or hair and makeup change.
After the first frantic day of the shoot was finished, Ken volunteered to cut and style the famous photographers hair. I watched in amazement as he took a pair of scissors, his fingers and in a matter of minutes, he transformed the photographer's loose messy shag into a spectacular sassy tousled style. I was stunned to watch him in person, even though I had seen him do this before.
All That Waiting Is Exhausting
Exhausted, I dragged myself out of the studio and collapsed in bed, bypassing any partying. As Ken explained to me recently "when he is on set, he is so consumed with things to do and trying to stay completely focused, that he barely has time to use the restroom." As a result of the constant set intensity, by the time he is finished Kenney confessed that "he just wants to go home and be a vegetable". I totally get it after experiencing just a tiny fraction of what he does.
The second day on the set was similar to the first, except there were twice as many people there, if that's possible. A famous celebrity photographer had express permission to come and shoot the celebrity. A full film crew was wandering around stepping over the many wires and people while shooting a B Role Film which is eventually used for shows like Extra for little bits about the event.
The PR representatives for the major brand sponsoring the shoot were hanging out making sure that everything was handled from the press angle.
Meanwhile, I continued to be the quiet fly churning out reams and reams of notes. Kenney popped his head out from the dressing room at one point and spied me frantically writing notes. He yelled out "Karen Shelton, stop working". Everyone stopped and looked at me, blowing my secret cover. Kenney continued "she is a major workaholic and needs to just relax". OK Kenney, I agreed. The minute he retreated back into the bowels of the dressing room, I started madly scribbling again.
By the end of the second day on the shoot, I felt like Alice In Wonderland in an alternative universe. I was thrilled that I got to spend some quality time with Kenney and be the only person from the media allowed to hang out and watch the shoot which will eventually make celebrity history.
Meanwhile, Kenney had to literally fly out of the shoot for New York where he had an appointment with a brand new famous client who is the wife of someone very famous and would fire me (hint hint) if I tell you who. After saying my good-byes, I dragged myself out of the studios and back to the sanctuary of my hotel where I proceeded to gorge on celebrity interviews in the hotel's private in-room magazines.
As my plane taxied down the John Wayne runway, the flight attendant sat down next to me in the rear of the plane and buckled up. She asked if I had been visiting Orange County on business or pleasure. "Both" I replied.
She smiled "were you visiting Orange County or San Diego?" Actually, I said, I was in a surreal universe known as Beverly Hills". Did you see any celebrities she continued? "Oh yes, but if I tell you anything, I would have to kill you". With that I popped on my IPod ear buds and zoned out knowing that my life as a super secret fly on the wall, will never be the same.
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- Revised Publication Date: 05/25/10