Surreal Raphael, 1971.

Surreal Raphael in 1971

Photo: Klaus Lucka

Raphael Santarossa had been the Raphael of Raphael & Leonard Salon fame with a 5 story mansion on Upper Grosvenor Street In London and had tressed the hair of the superstars and supermodels of his time, including Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, Catherine Deneuve, Jean Shrimpton, Veruschka, for the world’s best magazines and media. He had done the hair for fashion show greats like Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, did the hair for the movie “A Space Odyssey” and he had been the real deal.

He claimed an Italian Father, a Mexican Mother (or an Italian Father and French Mother depending where he was) and he spoke 5 languages fluently, he was a matador for a short time and he “performed the sexiest hair cut in London, dancing around his client like a matador, flourishing such scintillating, skilful scissors that he became a celebrity himself.”

Raphael came to Montreal with high credentials. A big personality, a reputation as one of the great hairdressers of the world, International press to drool over and, well, and and and…

He had been painting in Rome (“surrealism and fantastic realism”) and had acted in films there as Raphael Santos – in a “Spaghetti Western” and with blonde hair in “Hornet’s Nest” (1970) with Rock Hudson. Who knows why he left London, what happened before he came to Montreal with a new lovely Canadian wife.

Whatever, I opened The Raphael SuperSalon for him in Montreal, in 1971. Not just a salon, a boutique, too. The press literally went gaga over him, he had an opening with all the top models walking his salon runway, and I found out what a wiz he was in a photographer’s studio with the “La Femme Fatale” campaign I produced for his opening. It featured hair flicking at the front, and the world took notice of Raphael again because that was very new then. See photos on the Hair/Then menu.

Raphael stayed just a few years in Montreal, then went to New York to work at a top salon, and then opened his own salon, then he vanished.

Wherever you are, Raphael, you were one great hairdresser.

(Added: Raphael Santarossa passed away on October 16, 2006 in New York City.  He lived a few blocks from where I live for many decades … )

For more of The Raphael Santarossa Story by Helen Oppenheim  in Modern 2017, click HERE



  1. Aug 9, 2020

    Raphael was a great hairdresser who I had the great pleasure of working along side for many years, he taught me so much about the hairdressin trade along with life’s experiences. I miss him dearly.

    • Aug 9, 2020

      Yes, he was a great hairdresser and I am sure he taught you a lot about life as well! Thank you for posting, Martin

  2. Nov 4, 2013

    I was one of Raphael’s biggest fans. He was not only an exceptional hair stylist, but he was a very talented painter. I saw his work in New York and did not realize that he was so multi talented. He is sorely missed but no doubt charming his way around heaven.

    • Nov 4, 2013

      Yes, Marina, he is no doubt charming his way around heaven. And he was certainly talented.
      Thank you so much for posting.

  3. Aug 24, 2013

    Linda. You must have some stories to tell. He cut my hair a few times, I saw
    him at work in a photo studio, and he was one of the all-time greats.

  4. Aug 24, 2013

    I remember Raphael in London and New York. He was wonderful.

  5. May 3, 2013

    Love you love the history, Mary. We connected, check out my Facebook page, May 3rd 2013.

  6. May 3, 2013

    I love hearing all the history … I hope you share your stories when you re connect … I love how you write too -H

  7. May 3, 2013

    Ah, I am so happy to hear from you, Raphael. Let’s speak.

  8. May 3, 2013

    I’m Raphaël, Raphael’s son and I live in Montreal. I would love to get in contact with you. I can be reached at (514)862-7273

    • Aug 3, 2013

      I worked for Raphael at Raphael and Leonard in the early 1962 to1965 and I always had great memories of Raphael as a mentor.i always thought Raphael would end up in LA like Vidal Sassoon?

      Jack Craig. London

      • Aug 3, 2013

        Good to hear from you, Jack. Thanks for posting. Raphael was one great hairdresser, one of a kind, but he had personal problems that stood
        in the way of progress and lasting fame. He did end up in New York City.

    • Aug 3, 2013

      Sorry to hear Raphael had problems I’d love to know more about Raphael ? Regards Jack

      • Aug 3, 2013

        Some who are very talented get to be great, and make it big. Others don’t make it. Vidal did and
        Raphael did not. That’s life.

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