One of the most influential women in my life has been a former boss of mine, Leslie Diamond. She and her business partner, Sandy, owned Jon Don’s Salon, which was located on a little-known small island in Long Beach California called Naples Island. I was nineteen years old at the time.
I was living in Long Beach with my boyfriend, Chuck (high school sweetheart!), when I had my first two assisting jobs in the hair industry and both of those were in the Valley; an hour’s commute every day back and forth. It was Chuck who advised me to just get a job as a stylist at a locale salon and forget about assisting. He knew me well enough to know that I thought I knew everything I needed to know to start making money as a hairdresser. Assisting was for someone who thought they needed to pay their dues. Arrogant plucky spirited young people, like me, cut in line, and that’s just what I did.
With an impressive resume,” Bernie’s Hollywood Salon,” Assisting at Cassandra 2000, recommendations from my teachers, and lots of “stretched” dates of actual employment, I walked into Jon Don’s Hair Designers. I can’t remember why Leslie and Sandy hired me other than they had a few chairs to fill. I do remember why I wanted to work at Jon Don’s. First of all, the location was so close to home. It was a long walk or a quick bike ride to get there from our apartment. Chuck and I lived at 11 S. Termino, which was right on the pier in Belmont Shores, Long Beach, and Naples Island was an even more prestigious area with lots of rich potential clients living on it. Secondly, it was the name. My full name is Jon-David. [I legally chopped off my given last name, Elshere, so I don’t have one!] And Jon Don’s was sort of like my name so I thought that anyone who called the salon and asked for Jon Don to do their hair would automatically go to me. Now that’s what I call “cutting” in line!
I was a go-getter in the business. I was only just an “adult” and I began representing Jon Don’s at the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce Wednesday breakfasts and began networking every month at the mixers. And yes, I built a clientele very quickly at Jon Don’s. But I was a handful. One of my co-workers, Carla, was constantly rolling her eyes and shaking her head at me. For the first five years of my ten-year association with Jon Don’s, I was a big-headed Divo.
I refused to just do a hair or bang trim. Every style had to be work of art. I threw tantrums at my clients who wouldn’t let me color their hair the shade that I felt it was ‘dying’ to be. I took long lunches to lay on the beach and I worked late to my own natural clock. I ran around for a time with a Hollywood mob crowd. I wore the most fearless of 80s outfits and hairstyles. And I even quit Jon Don’s for three years to run my own salon before coming back.
What does this say about Leslie? I’ll tell you. Over those ten years a pretentious hard-working boy became a caring man who came to respect his peers and his clients. When Sandy ended up leaving her partnership at Jon Don’s it was fully up to Leslie to squeeze my big head into a size that would fit through doors. She challenged my childish boorish ways and constantly scolded, screamed, cried, threatened and threw up her arms at me. She relentlessly wrestled with my brashness by sitting me down, many times, to explain to me that the client was a breathing feeling person living under “my art.” She brilliantly tried to keep my mind more full with my desire to be a great stylist rather than let my ego plump anymore than it could by me going after the superficial things in life; like who I was hanging out with, drugs, or what I wore. Leslie passed on to me ancient secret tips of great colorists and hairdressers before us and she paid for me to go to countless academies such as Vidal Sassoon. She tirelessly took the time to teach me about styling hair for weddings and special occasions, which is something very lacking in most of today’s stylists. The intricacies of hair being an art form, and hair cutting was architecture, and color was about light were all insights given to me by this master-stylist, Leslie Diamond. And it was Leslie who slowed me down, sat me down and gave me my first taste of “zen” by introducing me to self-introspection. Ha!: I remember she took me to my first psychic who told me I was going to move away to Chicago!
Leslie opened up her heart and her family to me and Chuck. She shared with me her ups and downs and she cared for me when Chuck and I broke up. We both loved dogs and were constantly bringing in strays to the salon to get our clients to adopt. I bet she still does that. And it was Leslie who made me go to the Long Beach pound to adopt my dog, Daughter, whom I had love from for 18 years.
My career and my humanity are in great debt to Leslie Diamond. She is and has always been one those fantastic hair stylists and colorists in the beauty industry, always learning the latest products and techniques which always adds to the accumulated artistry she already possesses. She’s beautiful on the outside as well as the inside which makes her the best person for anyone to get their hair done by and for any stylist to look up to and be trained by.
Thank you, Leslie. I love you.
Leslie Diamond currently owns and operates Spirited Styles on Naples Island.
She is my ispiration to the Brooke McFarland character in my eBook novel, Mafia Hairdresser.
My “Professional” BACKSTORY: Before I met Leslie at Jon Don’s I had graduated from cosmetology school at Citrus Jr. College in Azusa California and immediately began assisting at a small salon where the head stylist, Bernie had hired me to be his personal assistant. Bernie was a high school friend’s brother and he was one of the inspirations to me for getting into the hair business. He was a Hollywood stylist and did hair for many of the stars of the soap opera, The Young and the Restless. Unfortunately I had no stomach for putting up with early 80s diva behavior, unless it was mine, and I was shortly let go when I talked back to actress Melody Thomas. I think I said something to her like, “I’m not your slave, get it yourself.” I was arrogant, plucky and spirited so it was with another push of audacity that I applied at the “IT” salon of the time for another assisting position. Cassandra 2000 was the working think-tank salon for the hair-care company Sebastian International. Because Sebastian was a sponsor of my graduating cosmetology school and because Bernie actually gave me a great recommendation, along with my natural writing skills, I got in the door. Cassandra 2000 management went against their policy of hiring someone who had not previously worked in the industry for 2 years prior to hiring them. Big mistake–on their part. On the day of my release from their employment, they wrote the words “arrogant,” “plucky” and “spirited.” Oh, and: “Good Luck.” I had the best luck because I met Leslie Diamond and was hired at Jon Don’s.