A-list celebrities are among the regulars at Yuki Sharoni’s Beverly Hills salon. But well before the likes of Jessica Alba and Demi Moore found their way into his chair, Sharoni attended to a very different sort of hot shot.
As a young soldier in the Israeli army, Sharoni would secretly coif his commanding officer’s curly mane. In exchange, Sharoni told the Shmooze, the officer let him leave the base early to work at a local salon.
The training paid off. Sharoni now runs his own salon and spa in Beverly Hills, and he’s currently in the midst of taking his act national with a new line of styling products. His five shampoos and one conditioner will be appearing over the next few weeks at Boyd’s, a tony New York pharmacy, and are already being sold at Kitson, one of the trendy Los Angeles boutiques outside of which paparazzi wait for celebrity shoppers.
For the celebrities who come for one of Sharoni’s $250 haircuts, he has created a private den on his salon’s second floor, where stars can escape prying eyes. “God forbid they would see any normal people,” he said in his delicate, accented voice.
Sharoni, who says that he is “40ish,” is a short, wiry man who wears his shirt unbuttoned to show off his dark bronzed chest. Aside from the hamsa hand in Sharoni’s office, you would not know an Israeli owned the salon. The seats downstairs are decorated with elegant Indian prints, and the spa borrows freely from Eastern traditions, like so many West Coast institutions. Sharoni still keeps kosher, but he said he does so primarily for the health benefits.
Sharoni’s parents came to Israel from Yemen in one of the so-called “Magic Carpet” missions of the early 1950s. He grew up in the small town of Ness-Ziona, just south of Tel Aviv, and said that since elementary school, when he would braid the hair of the girls in his classes, he has understood that hair is his calling. This realization did not go over well with his parents. “At that time there were only maybe two well-known male hairdressers in all of Israel,” Sharoni said while lounging on the pillows in his second-floor spa.
In order to redirect his son’s hands and energy, Sharoni’s father enrolled his 14-year-old in a school for mechanics, but Sharoni ran away after an accident in which used oil spilled over his hair. The only thing that made his years of army service bearable, Sharoni said, were the nights he spent cutting coifs.
After completing his army service, Sharoni began his own salon in Tel Aviv, and soon he was styling the locks of Knesset members and Israeli models. But hungry for bigger things, Sharoni set off for Tinseltown. When he arrived, the few Israelis he knew helped him find well-heeled Beverly Hills ladies looking for private cuts. By 1990, Sharoni had established himself well enough to open his own salon.
One of the first big names to walk through his door was Jewish actor-comedian Adam Sandler, who would ask him about what was going on in Israel whenever he came in — something Sharoni’s clients still do today. But Sharoni also had a special touch with Sandler’s “Brillo pad of hair,” as he put it. Sandler has what, in the business, is known as Jewish hair: curly, wiry locks for men; wavy, frizzy tresses for women. In the heavily Jewish precincts of Hollywood, Sharoni’s training in Israel served him well.
“People couldn’t believe I could make their hair so smooth,” Sharoni said. “When I first came here they hadn’t figured out how to deal with Jewish hair.” But Sharoni does not discriminate. In 1999, he was the hairstyling genius behind Clinton informant Linda Tripp’s sudden makeover. More recently he’s been a staple on all the reality television beauty shows. The Israeli clients who got him work when he first arrived can no longer afford him, Sharoni said.
But he has hardly forsaken the land of his birth. He still visits his parents and siblings at least once a year. And he said that his hair products are an effort to re-create his Israeli childhood. The one ingredient that appears in all his new products is nettle, the desert plant that his grandmother would pick and boil to make a hair salve.
“It’s my life in a bottle,” he said.