I thought I might try something a little different with today's post. I would like to talk about a stylist who was quite a showman and a forward thinker in the business of hairdressing. I am only going to touch on some highlights of his life and career. Most of this information is from Raymond: The Outrageous Autobiography of Teasie-Weasie, pub. in 1976.
Born on May 11, 1911, Mr. Teasie-Weasie started life as Raymondo Pietro Carlo Bessone. His father was Italian and his mother was French, something he used later in creating his hairdresser "persona".
His career began as an assistant to his father in the creation of wigs and hairpieces. "...I had to sweep up the barber's shop, or make false hairpieces and sideboards. If I was lucky I might pick up a tip for brushing a customer's jacket."
He never much cared for barbering, but saw a future in women's hairdressing. A fabulous future that his humble background just didn't support. "I resented this because even at this early stage in my career I was quite convinced that I was a better hairdresser than most."-said regarding his early career at age 15. He worked at a number of barber shops, managing to get fired or leave quite often. "There was a dreadful day when I was trimming a girl's hair when she gave a sudden start, and I saw, to my horror, a pink, fleshy object fell to the floor. It was her earlobe." He also participated in competitions to get his name out to the masses. Learning along the way that the best patrons to have are the aristocracy and wealthy elite.
"One of the odd things about those pre-war days was the fact that the majority of women thought that unless you were both queer and French you could not possibly be a good hairdresser. Since the customer is always right I permed my hair, wore open sandals displaying painted toe-nails - I also varnished my finger-nails - and adopted a heavy French accent. I even said I was born in Monte Carlo."
Throughout the 1950s Bessone popularized bouffant hairstyles. He also started doing spots on the TV show "Quite Contrary" on the BBC. His work on television is where he got the name Mr. Teasie Weasie. "Frantically I began to flick at the next model's hair and said: 'We have a teasie-weasie here and a teasie-weasie there. And there's a curly-worly, and there a mud-guard.'" He was a regular television performer for three years, until other hairdressers began to complain to the BBC that it was "unfair" that Bessone should be so prominent on the television, while others were not.
His most astonishing feat was in 1956, when he was flown to America to do actress Diana Dors hair. It wasn't just the trip, but the cost that really got people talking. "I described... the kind of international coverage I wanted out of the trip, and he guaranteed to come up with the goods for a fee of three thousand pounds, plus extras. It appeared to be a fair price and I agreed to do it. Today(1976) the same thing would cost about ten thousand." This whole affair took place before the current practice of bringing your own stylist with you during international travel.
If you would like to learn more of Mr. Teasie-Weasie, I would be glad to post another entry about his life and times. A very fascinating man and the kind of stylist I can only hope to be. Some films featuring himself and his styling can be found on YouTube on the channel British Pathe. Even in the '50s some amazing hair was happening.
I hope you enjoyed this little foray into a stylist's career. Let me know if you would like more.