STRAND & DELIVER (FLARE, December 2012)
With their hands in music, art, nightlife—and especially hair—underground snipsters are tearing up the salon scene coast to coast.
WEST COAST: BARBARELLA
Along a seedy stretch of Vancouver’s East Hastings Street stands The Waldorf Hotel, a hard-to-miss ’60s-style modernist reno with a tiki twist. Marked by a re-pro of its original palm-tree neon sign, it’s undergone a crack-to-kitsch makeover by new owner Thomas Anselmi, and in two years has become the place where gourmet food carts congregate, Douglas Coupland lectures and electronic star Skrillex DJs—with drop-in guests Katy Perry and Lady Miss Kier. Today the hotel’s 16 rooms aren’t even for rent; they’re perpetually occupied by the talent.
In addition to being Vancouver’s official compound for all that’s current in art, music, culture, fashion and cuisine, it’s also the place to get your hair cut, thanks to Anselmi’s wife, Laure Elaine, 35, owner of Barbarella salon. Her first location on Main Street quickly gained a cult following for unisex fades and dirtbag shags when it opened in 1999. Now, she’s cutting and colouring Generation Gentrified at the second outpost, which replaced the lobby’s original barbershop. When she’s not applying candy-floss pastel highlights, she’s dolling up models, singers and dancers for the hotel’s host of special events, including their now-legendary parties.
It may require a very late-night appointment to crash the Waldorf’s most desirable fete of the year. It’s the impossible-to-get-into New Year’s Eve party. Last year dancers swanned to an orchestra of David Lynch–inspired tunes on an indoor skating rink. Hotel rooms were transformed into peep-show-style installations, and the secret concert was Grimes.
Who knows, you may even spy Debbie Harry lookalike Laure Elaine performing. She’s a singer–songwriter/video producer in her spare time and once collaborated with Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan until she put her music career on hiatus two years ago to have a baby. But that was before the hotel’s recording studio was built, just a hop-skip-jump from behind the salon chair.