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Vidal Sassoon Dead at 84: How He Revolutionized Hair

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Sassoon. (David Livingston/Getty Images)

After nearly 60 years of helping men and women all over the world "look good," iconic hairstylist Vidal Sassoon died at his Los Angeles home on Wednesday following a years-long battle with cancer and leukemia. He was 84. Best known for his geometric cuts and inventing "the bob" look, Sassoon launched his eponymous hair care line in 1973 and today it is still one of the most famous.

Before he became a household name — and in the bathrooms of millions of households — the British-born stylist dressed the tresses of some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including Rita Hayworth and Ava Gardner. But his most famous client has to be Mia Farrow, who he made synonymous with the pixie cut when he lopped off her 10-inch hair for Roman Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby." At the time, the actress was married to Frank Sinatra and, after a fight with her husband, took a pair of shears to her hair, leaving it a jagged mess. "When I got to her there were bits that were about an inch and bits that were 10 inches," Sassoon revealed to The Telegraph in 2011 while promoting his "Vidal Sassoon: The Movie" documentary. "She didn't tell me what had happened. Her bone structure was beautiful. I told her that we had to go very short."

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Sassoon giving Farrow her iconic hairstyle in 1967. (Everett Collection)

The haircut was so highly anticipated, Sassoon actually did it at a Hollywood press conference in 1967. "It was on television," he explained to The Hollywood Reporter last year. "It was in all the newspapers. It was at Paramount, Studio 13, I think, and it was in a boxing ring they had on set. The press was supposed to stay out of the ring and photograph from there. Well, that lasted about two minutes. There was one guy under the chair photographing upwards. It was a total madhouse." But the result, he says, "was very special."

Although Farrow and British fashion icon Mary Quant famously went super-short thanks to Sassoon, not all of his clients were so daring. Screen legends Hayworth and Gardner "were known for a certain look," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "It wouldn't have worked. That would have been like giving the queen of England a great geometric cut — which, by the way, I would have loved to do." Another client who escaped his scissors: Former First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy. Her sister, Lee Radziwill, "was my client, and she's always tease me, 'I'm bringing my sister.' Well, the president's wife never came."

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Quant got a geometric crop in 1964. (Everett Collection)

Sassoon's great achievements came at a price. As a child he and his younger brother spent seven years in an orphanage because their mother could no longer care for them (his father abandoned the family). In the Telegraph interview last year, he revealed he spent the majority of his days during that time starving. But the most heartbreaking experience for him was the 2002 death of his 33-year-old daughter Catya, a mother-of-three who overdosed at a New Year's Eve party. Because of that Sassoon never celebrated another New Years. "It was a young people's party," he said last year. "We were just called the next day and told what had happened." Once a promising actress, her career took a back seat to substance abuse. "Because of the drugs … had she not been on them she could have done something in this town. Her mother being in films, we had a whole bunch of publicity. There were studios interested in Catya, but she kept shooting herself in the foot misbehaving."

Sassoon leaves behind his fourth wife, Ronnie, and three other children Eden, Elan, and David.

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