Jackie O prefers him to work in silence. Shy Di said no to him. And effervescent Fergie lets him have a bit of a way with her.
It's all in a day's work for John Frieda, 39, the crown prince of English hairstylists.The British Hairdresser of 1989 recently sandwiched a Greensboro stop between Atlanta and Dallas to tout his latest hair enhancer, Frizz-Ease, and talk about his new ``deconstructed, multidirectional' hair cut, ``The Sweep.'
Frieda, who opened a Manhattan salon in August, says Jackie Onassis pops into one of his three English establishments when she's in London. He never gets to do anything very radical with the Onassis tresses, he says.
Radical suits his style. He has luxurious, dark curly hair and a flair for dressing to impress. For his Greensboro visit, he teamed a royal purple blazer with white T-shirt, white pants and brown belt.
He refuses to divulge any information as to whether Jackie O., 61, colors her dark hair or pampers it any other special way.
Of Britain's Princess Diana, whose hair he prepared for her famous engagement picture that appeared in Vogue, Frieda says, ``She's easy to be with. She's a little shy, but she knows what's going on. She's not one who could be pushed around.'
His styling speed got him the job of putting Princess Di's hair into shape for her engagement portrait. It's not polite to keep a princess waiting.
Frieda says his lightning-fast styling stems from the 1960s and 1970s, London's golden fashion years, when he worked on photo shoots with Vogue, Harper's Queen and other fashionable publications.
``I began working in the studio almost before the salon,' he says.
Frieda dropped out of school at 16 - over the objections of his dad, who wanted him to be a physician - to follow his dad and all his aunts and uncles into hairdressing. His grandfather had been a Fleet Street barber.
Frieda began studio work as personal assistant to well-known London stylist Leonard, soon advancing to stylist. Within two years, he was responsible for most of the creative work at the Leonard salon.
Frieda says he wanted to put Princess Diana's hair up for the engagement pix, but Di tactfully murmured, ``No, no.'
``She was easy-going about what we did, but she didn't feel comfortable with it up,' he says.
Frieda says he does the hair of Lady Di's sister-in-law, the Duchess of York - ``Fergie' to Americans - for special occasions. For regular appointments, his staff takes over. ``We send people out to her.'
``She has good hair,' Frieda says. ``She's more easy-going, more adventurous than Princess Di. She knows she's not going to be the future Queen of England. She's more effervescent and very natural. She likes her hair long, but she's willing to try different things - to a degree.'
Frieda, who has other famous clients ranging from royals to rockers, says his most adventurous and longstanding client is actress Jane Seymour. ``She loves to try different things.'
Others are celebrities Joan Rivers, Raquel Welch and Jaclyn Smith; super models Jerry Hall and Cindy Crawford; rockers George Harrison and Mick Jagger. He's even trimmed the locks of Paul McCartney.
Joan Rivers is a steady customer. ``She's very much genuinely interested in you. To some (celebrities), you don't exist. She's just the opposite.'
After one session with him, Rivers sent a huge box of toys to his and singer LuLu Frieda's son, Jordan, now 13, who attends a private school in England.
Frieda, who opened the first of his three London salons in 1975, is the fellow who whipped up the tresses of actress Glenn Close for this year's Academy Awards.
``Because her face can look very severe, I wanted to create something quite short with waves and away from the face. She wore a plain Geoffrey Beene dress that kind of hung like a monk's habit. She needed the hair to be soft.'
Soft is what the hairstyle for the '90s is all about, Frieda says.
``Precision haircutting has lost its edge. Today women want elegance, they want sexuality, they want femininity. It's a polished, finished look that requires a sophisticated technique.'
``Hair is a reflection of society's psychological profile,' Frieda says. Cases in point:
The '60s and '70s - A new healthy awareness, comfort-intensive clothing, wash-and-wear hair.
The '80s - A serious look at options for women, struggle to become influential in male-dominated professions. Power-dressing; punched-up makeup; sleek, controlled hard-edge hair that's often a bit formidable.
The '90s - The new decade, when women have proved their professional worth. No need for trappings or dress-for-success window dressing. Makeup is soft; hair has gone from sleek and hard to fluid, forward motion. Women can be as soft and feminine as they like.
That doesn't mean another decade of curlers and dryers, he says. ``Never.'
This is where his product, Frizz-Ease, comes into play. Two dollops of the silicone-rich, clear lotion, he says, will return unmanageable hair to intended curls and waves and give it luster as well. He adds it works for all types of hair textures.
For ``The Sweep,' Frieda parts the hair in facets in the manner of a geodesic structure for forward motion and lift.
Applying a thickening lotion (his own, of course) for body, Frieda begins drying hair in a technique he calls ``the hair massage' to create additional volume without affecting the hair's natural structure.
He doesn't start styling the hair until it reaches what Frieda calls ``the conversion point,' that critical, fleeting moment when hair passes from wet to dry. ``That is the fleeting moment when style is locked in.'
That's when Frieda, using a round brush and dryer, sends hair in opposing directions, creating a spontaneous, multidirectional sweep of hair.
The time? A matter of minutes. ``Five, max.'