How We Met: Anne Robinson and Paul Edmonds

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Anne Robinson, 49, writes and presents Points of View and presents Watchdog for the BBC. She also writes for the Times and Today. Married to publisher Jonathan Penrose, she has a daughter, Emma, by her first husband, ex-Times editor Charles Wilson, and a dog, Maud Alabama.

Hairdresser Paul Edmonds, 37, grew up in the Midlands, near Birmingham. He has a Knightsbridge salon, Edmonds, and has launched his own range of hair-care products. He also works with the BBC make-up department. His wife, Liz, is a fellow hairdresser; they have two children, Naomi and Lucy.

ANNE ROBINSON: It takes a huge amount of effort to appear casual on television because cameras and lighting do very peculiar things. Long hair can look very untidy. When I started seven years ago, I hadn't a clue - in those early clips I looked like a bag- lady. Fortunately, one of the BBC's make-up artists, who is now Mrs Rowan Atkinson, sat me down and said, 'What you really need is Paul Edmonds. You must go and see him. He'll know what to do with your hair.'

She explained that Paul was often called in to work for the BBC, mostly on dramas like The House of Eliott. She knew lots of people who went to his Knightsbridge salon. So off I went. I remember feeling absolutely gobsmacked that he didn't immediately want to take a pair of scissors to my hair. It was such a relief when he said, 'Let me get used to it first.'

My hair is fine and wavy, although once Paul has got his hands on it the viewers would never know. I go to his salon at least three times a week, and I also have my nails manicured. I'm never out of there. Paul and the salon have become part of my life.

The awful truth is that when a woman appears on television for 10 or 15 minutes, nobody hears a word of what she's saying because they're fixed on her earrings, necklace and wrinkles. Over the years, I've learnt that I can only wear four colours on screen - black, black, black and black. Since the time a checked shirt made me look like a lumberjack, I've always tried to wear clothes which are as plain as possible. At home I'm usually in jeans, but for television and work I have 10 different Armani suits.

On Points of View we get stacks of letters about my hair. Viewers want to know where I go, so we put out a fact-sheet with Paul's address and phone number. Some women want to know what colouring I use. I hate to disappoint them, but my hair is natural. I've never had a colour on it in my life. People often chat to me about the programmes or the newspaper columns, but there's almost always a sort of PS to the conversation - where do I get my hair done? I've even had a letter from someone who said her husband had run off with a redhead, could I advise on how she could change her hair colour to the same as mine - presumably so he'd go back to her. I'm not a marriage guidance counsellor, but it seemed to me quite the wrong way to tackle her problem.

Paul's problem is that he's too nice. What he really needs is a tough business manager. He's very gentle and calm. Paul never says no, and sometimes, when I'm very pressed for time, he comes in early and opens up the salon for me at 8.30am. It's not unusual for him to run late because he doesn't seem to have any concept of time or clocks. It's wonderful if you happen to be the client sitting there being cut and blow-dried but not so good if you're waiting in reception.

I know it sounds stupid, but for a woman there are few worse things in life than sitting in front of that mirror, watching someone over whom you have no control screwing up your hair. A rotten hairdresser can have a devastating effect on your confidence. I'm not in the least bit surprised that some clients wait for six weeks for an appointment with Paul for a haircut. He's really a designer and has a fantastic eye for what gives a good shape and balance to the face, but he'd never impose his ideas on a client. He's the complete opposite of the usual PR-mad, bullshitting hairdresser. Paul's never let me down, although once he completely forgot that I've got a double crown and my hair was sticking up at the back.

Quite a few well-known people go to the salon - it's opposite San Lorenzo - but the atmosphere is always jolly, and Paul is the most discreet person you could meet. He can't even remember the names of some of his clients who've been going to him for years. I've never known him to get the full hang of any story, so you'd never hear any gossip under his blow-drier. When you're with someone as often as I'm with Paul, you can't help but share a great deal of your life with them. I've always felt that people's dentists and hairdressers go through the lot with their clients and just learn to hang on in there. Paul and I aren't social friends, but he probably knows more about my life than anyone. He's been through all my ups and downs - a marriage break-up, Emma going off to university in America, me giving up smoking.

Years ago, my mother said that the best advice she could give me was to have a facial once a month, have plenty of help in the house and find a good hairdresser to go to once a week. She was absolutely right.

PAUL EDMONDS: Anne came to me because she'd been recommended by one of the make-up artists at the BBC. Obviously I could understand all of her problems about how she wanted to look on screen. I was very sympathetic, although I wouldn't have dreamt of getting out my scissors on that first visit.

Anne is 100 per cent professional, and making sure her hair looks good is part of that. She has a certain image and works very hard to maintain it. Knowing her hair, nails and make-up are taken care of means that she has one less thing to worry about, so she can concentrate on doing her job. Anne's standards are incredibly high and she expects everyone else to be up to those same standards. She doesn't suffer fools and if something's not right, Anne's definitely not the person to be around.

I wanted to get to know her hair - its natural tendencies - and, of course, the shape of her face. Basically all I did was change the balance of her hair, rather than opt for anything that smacked of high fashion. I knew she wouldn't be happy with anything drastic. In any case, it wasn't necessary. Anne's lucky because her hair is a wonderful colour which doesn't need anything on it. Most hairdressers spend hours trying to get their clients' hair that colour.

I was working for the BBC at the time because they'd called me in to demonstrate hair-cutting techniques. Gradually I became more involved in different productions. Working with make-up artists is very different from doing individual clients in the salon. Often the brief is to make someone look really awful, which can be quite challenging because the other part of my life is spent trying to make clients look as good as possible.

Anne usually comes to the salon in jeans and a T-shirt. Off-screen she's much more casual than her TV image, so she has two quite separate wardrobes. Things which work well on television don't necessarily work in real life, but even in jeans Anne has a great sense of style.

When I opened the salon I wanted it to be small and friendly. I know there are a lot of places which are intimidating and make clients feel like they're something the cat dragged in. I was even worried about having four steps outside the salon because I thought they would put people off.

One of the most important things a hairdresser has to learn is when to talk and when to shut up. After a while you develop the intuition to judge a client's mood. I've been through the lot with Anne. Giving up smoking was definitely the worst - even worse than any of her marriage troubles. Sometimes we don't talk. You have to recognise that there are times when clients are uptight and just accept it.

Anne has always been tremendously supportive of me, especially when I launched my own range of products. Setting up the new company was a tricky time but I felt that Anne believed in what I was trying to do. Mind you, if she didn't like something, she'd be the last one to stick around. She's very honest and if she thought something was a load of crap, she'd tell you. Anne's someone I'd go to for advice because she's so focused and would know exactly who I needed to talk to.

We've had a few arguments over the years. When we had to do the posters for Today she had a certain idea of how she wanted to look and hated what I did. The poor make-up artist who was waiting to get started was terrified of her. Now and then we don't agree about what to do with her hair, but we sort it out. Hairdressers see clients at their most vulnerable. Even though Anne

is incredibly tough, I can tell you that she's as vulnerable as anybody else. Occasionally she'll arrive feeling thoroughly fed up and want a strong black coffee but, knowing Anne, I would guess that her bad mood is because someone else hasn't worked hard enough.

Anne really looks after her hair. She's definitely not someone who would go to a desert island for a holiday. I couldn't picture her more than five minutes away from shops, a manicurist and somewhere to get her hair done.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments