10 May 2012

Vidal Sassoon and his fight against fascism

Channel 4 News reporter Katie Razzall speaks to a childhood friend of the late hairdresser Vidal Sassoon who reveals he and Sassoon took up the fight against fascist oppression.

Vidal Sassoon

We all know about Vidal Sassoon the hairdresser, the first person to put his name to hair products, the man who revolutionised hair styling in the sixties.

The iconic stylist died of leukaemia on Wednesday at his Los Angeles home at the age of 84.

Born to Jewish parents in west London in 1928, his father left when he was five, and his mother had to put him and his brother into a Jewish orphanage because she could not afford to keep them.

But Channel 4 News has heard about another side of Vidal Sassoon.

I went to meet Jules Konopinski. He grew up with Vidal Sassoon in London’s East End.

This was a time when fascist leader Oswald Mosley and his blackshirts were on the streets making life difficult for British Jews.

This pair – and others – decided to fight back. They joined the 43 Group, an organisation of Jews who fought fascism.

As Mr Konopinski told me: “Vidal was a fit boy, he knew how to fight.” This pair used their fists to break up fascist meetings. They were met, Mr Konopinski says, by iron bars, belt buckles and coshes.

As Vidal Sassoon’s career fortunes rose, he had to be careful of his hands – “they were his livelihood” says Mr Konopinski.

But he never stopped fighting extremism, says his childhood friend, wherever he found it.