Channel: Oh No They Didn't!
Viewing all articles
Browse latest Browse all 142251

Vidal Sassoon forced son to get weight loss surgery and wrote him out of his will

As an advertising slogan, it helped to build a £100million hairdressing empire: 'If you don’t look good, we don’t look good.'

But for celebrity hairstylist Vidal Sassoon, who rose from humble roots in London’s East End and whose distinctive cuts came to symbolise the Swinging Sixties, it was far more than just a business motto.

It was a phrase that represented his relentless quest for perfection in all areas of his life, including his family.

Today, in an explosive interview, The Mail on Sunday can reveal how Sassoon – who died of leukaemia aged 84 last May – was so obsessed with looks that he forced his adopted son David to have life-threatening weight-loss surgery because he believed having a fat child was bad for his public image.

Speaking for the first time, David, 40, also tells how the hairdresser’s 'obsession with perfection' led to the drug death of his sister and ongoing family rows about money.

'Dad created the ultimate dysfunctional family,' David says at his home in Palm Desert, a quiet golfing and retirement community a three-hour drive from Los Angeles.

'To be honest, I would have been better off if he had never adopted me. Money and image were all that mattered to him.

'My Dad had that slogan, “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good”. That carried through to the family. Dad was someone who would dress up to go to the supermarket. He was terrified of being seen not looking perfect. His image was everything.'

Last weekend we revealed how Sassoon cut David entirely out of his will just two months before his death.

It was a final, devastating gesture by a father disillusioned by his wayward child, who has a history of drug and alcohol addiction.

With his tattooed arms, scruffy clothes and dark skin, David could not look more different from the man who adopted him in 1975 when he was just three and a half.

The product of an affair between a white woman in the-then racially divided South (he was born in Memphis, Tennessee) and an African-American man, David was given up for adoption after birth, and placed with a foster family.

At the time Sassoon was married to his second wife, actress Beverly Adams, with whom he had three children; Elan, now 43, and daughters Eden, 39, and Catya, who died of a drug-induced heart attack aged 33 in 2002.

David says: 'Beverly was carrying twins when she had Eden but there were complications and she lost one. Vidal was always working, building the business.

'Beverly wanted four kids, two boys and two girls. She was doing night classes at university where she met my foster mum.

'The next thing I know the whole Sassoon clan turned up at the house. I remember opening the door and saying, "Are you my new mummy and daddy?"

'At the time it was very unusual for celebrities to adopt other ethnicities. These days everyone is doing it. I’m not saying Dad did it to help his image but it certainly generated good press.'

David was whisked from the tiny home he shared with his foster family into the Sassoons’ palatial Beverly Hills mansion.

But although he was surrounded by material wealth, he claims his new home was miserable.

'My mother was an alcoholic and Dad was never there. When he was, he was a hard taskmaster,' says David.

‘Everything had to be perfect. We kids had to be perfect. If we angered him he would stop talking to us. That was the pattern of my life.

'His was conditional love. He used material wealth to control the family. If you were doing what he wanted, he showed his love in monetary gifts.

'When you were bad he’d take his money away. It was his way or the highway.

'My childhood was a misery because I wasn’t perfect enough. I didn’t fit into the image of what a "Sassoon kid" should be.'

He says that his father 'disinherited' him for the first time shortly after his sister Catya died of a drugs overdose in 2002: 'She was a wild child, she was into all sorts of drugs. She got married at 15.

'We were close and we partied together. We were at a New Year’s party at a mutual friend’s when she overdosed.

'She wasn’t feeling good and took pills to counteract the pills she’d already taken. She went to sleep and didn’t wake up. I had to call the family.

'When she passed away the family didn’t know what to do with all their animosity so they started directing it towards me. Dad didn’t like the way I looked, how I dressed, how I behaved.

'I wasn’t any worse than a lot of kids in Beverly Hills but Dad was into tough love.

'It caused a rift. There was Catya and me, the "rebel" kids, and Elan and Eden, the "good" kids.

'It was all about money. I wanted to be a history teacher. Dad said: "Why do you want to be a teacher? They don’t make any money."

'First my mum stopped talking to me. They wanted me to work for the family firm but I wanted to do my own thing. I wouldn’t toe the line – I wanted to be my own man.

'Dad didn’t like that, so then he stopped talking to me. We had problems – we could go years without talking.’

David also reveals how his father’s obsession with appearance caused the rift to deepen.

'I had a motorbike accident after college and couldn’t exercise,' he says.

'I got very fat. I got up to 25st
(350lbs for those of you that don't want to convert). Dad said he would disown me if I didn’t have laparoscopic stomach surgery. I said, "Fine, disown me".

'I was scared. It was 2005 and the surgery was new and dangerous. I told him to f*** off. Dad told me, "You are the only one in the family who doesn’t look the part."

'Not only was I the adopted one but I stood out because I was trouble, I was overweight. Everything he hated. Eden called me and said, "You should do the surgery and stay in Dad’s good graces."

'I felt bullied into it. The surgery cost £39,500. I was supposed to have counselling, and physical and mental tests.

'Dad said to the doctor, "If I give you cash can you get him into surgery next Tuesday?" That’s how he was. Everything had to be right here, right now, on his terms.'

David says he regrets the surgery to this day. The operation reduced the size of his stomach and 're-routed' his bowel to stop food being absorbed into his body.

It left him unable to eat more than 8oz of food at any given meal and caused ulcers, kidney stones and acid reflux.

'I wish I’d never done it but I didn’t have a choice,' he says. 'Dad wanted it so I had to do it. I got so emaciated I looked like a concentration camp survivor.'

David also claims that Sassoon was so concerned about his public image that he didn’t tell his family about his cancer diagnosis for more than five years: 'We went to Dad’s house in Mexico in 2007. Dad hit his leg against the side of the pool and it wouldn’t stop bleeding.

'We wanted to take him to hospital but he refused. So we cut the holiday short and returned to LA. We went with him to the hospital.

'The doctor came out and said,"I’m not supposed to tell you because he didn’t want you to know but he’s got leukaemia." He found out in 2002 but didn’t tell us for five years.

'The doctors gave him ten years which is exactly what he got. He was afraid it would damage his image, that if people knew he had cancer he would appear weak.'

David is open about his own addictions. After experimenting with drugs and alcohol as a teen, he was shipped off to various boarding schools; first to a military academy in Florida and then a lock-down reform school in Utah.

At 14, he was cautioned by police for joy-riding in his brother’s car. His rebellious behaviour led to 'blazing rows' with Sassoon and multiple stints in rehab, most recently after his father’s death.

'Family drama is a trigger for me,' David says. 'Dad came to therapy but when I tried to tell him what he’d done wrong he got angry.

'You’d say something he didn’t like and he’d attack you, point out your flaws and walk out.'

Incredibly, David says he harbours no resentment towards his father: 'He did the best he could. He was from that generation that believed in tough love.

'People think I should be mad he cut me out of his will but he was always cutting me out of his will. That was his way of controlling me when I fell out of favour. But he didn’t leave me nothing.

'The only reason I’m talking now is to say that he was generous and that I’m not broke – I’ll get money from various trusts.'

Indeed, David, along with his siblings, received £1.6million from the CEDE (which stands for Catya, Elan, David and Eden) Trust 90 days after Sassoon died.

David and his wife Molly have since used the money to buy a £650,000 home and will open a tapas restaurant, called Sasspers after his childhood nickname, this weekend.

He will also receive sums from two other trusts – The Vidal Sassoon Family Trust and the Sassoon LLC Trust – as well as a payment from his father’s life insurance.

However, he admits that his inheritance is far less than that of Elan and Eden, who, along with Sassoon’s fourth wife Rhonda, will be given a share of his £5.2million will. The remainder of Sassoon’s £100million fortune is tied up in various trusts.

David says: 'Rhonda, Elan and Eden got far more than me but I am grateful for what I have. I don’t want to talk exact figures.

'It’s not like any of us earned that money. None of us stirred a vat of shampoo. Elan and Eden were always the "good" kids. They hung on Dad’s coat tails and the Sassoon name means a lot to them. I’ve always been my own man.'

David also says his father called him twice in the weeks leading up to his death: 'Dad knew the end was near and he wanted to say his goodbyes.

'Two days before he died we spoke and he said, "It’s pretty much done."

'His last words to me were not that he loved me but "I forgive you". He could never apologise.'

When told of her son’s claims, Beverly Sassoon, 72, said: 'When we went for adoption we just wanted a little boy. We didn’t care about his race or ethnicity.

'We wanted to give him every opportunity our other kids had – and did. Vidal did everything he could to motivate David.

'It is true Vidal believed in tough love. His attitude was "If you don’t do it my way, you’re out of my life". He did what he thought was right.

'David is angry about a lot of things. He should stop blaming other people for his problems. I love David but he has to move forward.'

Last night Elan, who runs a haircare company called Sojourn in Miami, said: 'I love David, he’s my brother, but he’s showing no respect for Dad’s memory. David’s had his issues over the years.

'He had a childhood lots of people would kill for. He didn’t speak to our father for years. Dad didn’t have to leave him anything but, in fact, he left him a considerable amount.'

So this is really insanely long but I thought it was an interesting read. Family drama is generally kind of hard to figure out because everyone is always going to have different family dynamics and you don't really know something for sure unless you've lived it. I do think it's kind of interesting though that the pictures I've included are the only ones I was able to find of David. It looks like David has never gone with to events even as a child where as the others (including Catya who they said was always a problem child) have.

Viewing all articles
Browse latest Browse all 142251

Latest Images

Trending Articles

Latest Images