David working with legends like Ruta Lee, Debbie Reynolds, Gennifer Flowers etc in Hollywood and with his salon; Salon Six 9 in Texas. In this interview he talks about his journey as hair designer, Dolly Parton’s hair designer and how it is to collaborate with a photographer.
How come you’ve begin to work with celeb’s hair?
I met my godmother, Ruta Lee, at a theatre in Fort Worth, TX, called Casa Manana. I was basically orphaned and she took me under her wing. She believed in me, and helped me achieve a life that could have never imagined. Through my life with her, combined with the proverbial hard work and determined networking, I became friends with other celebrities. Of course, it helped that Ruta would always tell her friends, “Let him do your hair. I’m sick of feeding him.” That’s one my dear friend, Joan Rivers’, favorite stories about my life.
You working as a personal hair stylists to Hollywood legends like Mamie Van Doren, Ruta Lee, how is it to work as a personal hair stylist to celebs?
The one thing that you have to remember when you’re a celebrity hairdresser, traveling with a celeb, is that, in most cases, you’re not only their hair dresser, but you’re also their personal assistant, wardrobe manager, confidante, and everything in between. For example, when it comes to my BFF, Gennifer Flowers, not only am I her hairdresser, but I’m her body guard as well. Most importantly though, she’s my friend of 20 years, and one of my biggest cheerleaders. Even as I write this, I’m packing for a trip to New Orleans, to being the process of creating hair for Gennifer’s upcoming reality show.
You have your Salon six 9 in Texas, and it makes me think of big hair…What do you think of the hair design Cheryl Riddle do on Dolly’s hair?
I think what Cheryl does is tricky because her styles pay homage to traditional country, while still staying current with today’s trends. I especially loved Dolly’s hair at the premier of Joyful Noise, at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. You also have to remember, Dolly’s hairstyles while she is working are definitely different than her hairstyles when she’s just Dolly at the local Cracker Barrel. This requires Cheryl to always make one style compliment the other, so that there is no great disconnect between the two.
Witch era do you think was/is the best of Dolly’s hair?
I loved Dolly’s hair in the late 70s and early 80s. Especially the style she wore on the Midnight Special television show. But then, David Blair took her style from Nashville to Hollywood. Dolly has stayed with that style for decades, and probably always will. I’m a diehard Dolly fan, so it doesn’t really matter what hairstyle she chooses. But I do miss her 70s old school drag hair.
Do you want to work for Dolly too?
There was a time in my when that was my goal. And that goal led to the extraordinary life that I have today. I would love to work with her on a photo shoot or a concert tour, but with my obligations to other celebrity clients and friends, it would be much more difficult to manage at this point in my life. However, I never rule anything out!
You collaborate with the Hollywood photographer Alan Mercer, how can a day look like for you when you’re on photo shoots?
Because of our mutual friend Mamie Van Doran, I have a wonderful friend in Alan Mercer. We are truly soul mates. I’ve never met anyone that I have clicked with (no pun intended) than I do with Alan. Photo shoots with Alan are like being in a fantasy which we create together. We’re in sync when we practice our respective crafts. We are there for each other as well as the client, which makes the event seamless, as if it’s something that we do every day. What makes it even more special, is that Alan’s parents live less than five miles from me, so he and I even get to spend holidays together.
How much decide the photographer and hair stylist on how the photo will look like?
Alan and I collaborate without exception. Once we decide what the theme of the photo shoot is going to be, he and I stage the wardrobe and accessories. I create the styles that will translate into effortless and fitting for the message we’re trying to convey, while Alan chooses what artistic direction the imaging is going to take. He captures the moments, while my job is to make the moments ready for his camera. I like to think of us as the Dolly and Kenny and hair. People just like us together.
Tell me about the day you became a fan of Dolly…
The first thing that everyone needs to know about me is that I was born a Dolly fan. I can’t remember a day that I wasn’t a fan of Dolly Parton. And there’s not a day that goes by during which I don’t think about her; which, by the way, scares my friend Joan Rivers. There’s simply not a time in my life that I wasn’t a Dolly fan. It’s almost spiritual. For me, at least. But my most memorable day as a Dolly fan was when I met her during her Better Day tour and had opportunity get that elusive personal photo. When I entered the room where she was standing, my dream became a reality. That’s the day I will never forget.
By: Diana Falheim
Thank you David for making this interview possible.