Antonio’s Evolution and The Birth of Morrocco Hair Revolution
I can recall the first time my soul awakened. I was maybe three or four years old. Certainly, long before going to kindergarten.
On that day, I went down the street and across the road—I don’t know how I got there all by myself—to a field very far from my house (at least far from a three- or four-year-old perspective). In the middle of this field was a raised mound, covered with grass, violets, lilies of the-valley and grasshoppers and praying mantises crawling or hopping all around. I walked up the mound and sat down right in the middle of it.
And there, in that moment, I actually saw the whole universe.
It would be years before I could find the language to describe exactly what I’d experienced. Even then, I was discovering that “chi,” the vital life force of our universe according to Chinese tradition, the energy that comes down to us from the universe, does not initially touch the body … it touches the hair. Although I didn’t know then that there are five types of hair on the body, the idea occurred to me that grass and bushes were the hair of nature. I could see their chi in colored auras of the grass, in shades of green pulsing vibrant and alive, bushes with their brilliant greens shooting five to ten feet beyond their branches and flowers vibrating with colors I’d never seen nor imagined before. Violets particularly captivated me with their intense shades of undulating purple and emerald green.
I witnessed the life force exuding out of each praying mantis and grasshopper. It was like an otherworldly experience. Whatever was happening with all this energy, I was beginning to formulate my earliest understanding that chi was first touching the plants’ leaves, then transforming into radiant colors, entering the branches and trunks, flowing down into roots and the earth and finally getting grounded.
I remember feeling very calm, just sitting there for quite a long time and sensing that everything existing in the universe was on that mound in that moment. This is my adult explanation of what I was feeling at the time. And even this description pales in comparison to the intensity of those moments on that grassy mound. For me, it was like heavenly Nirvana— feeling completely awake in my soul.
When I went home that day and for some time afterwards, when I was with my parents, I would say things like: “Look at the color! Look at the energy coming out of you.” And they would answer: “Stop that Antonio! You’re just dreaming. You must stop. It’s very naughty to say those things because people don’t want to hear them. It’s not real, only your dream telling you these things.”
So, I shut down and repressed my new desire to tell people about their auras, about the energy and colors streaming out of their heads. Thus, I was awakened, but shut all this out of my conscious mind soon after—at just four years old.
This experience of the grass and plants being like hair was all my own—no one else I knew or could talk to understood or even wanted to hear about it. But my brother Raymond, who was eleven years older than me, became a barber and it wasn’t because there was any history of hair care in my family. None at all and I’m not sure what lead Raymond in that direction, but he went to barbering school, maybe because he wanted a steady, reliable trade.
When I was about eight, I started going down to his barber shop. I would sweep the floor, clean up and just listen to the guys—his customers—talking. And I’d say, “You know, I could grow your hair back for you.” I meant it. And these guys, who were cool and driving around in their Chevys, would pat me on the head and say, “Okay, little boy, you have some imagination.
My bald head just needs a rug.”
My brother told me not to say that again, that it wasn’t true and he didn’t want me telling stories. So, once again, I was silenced and felt even more repressed.
No one in my family understood at all what I was about, or what I was experiencing. They were good, old-fashioned Italian—farming stock on both sides. My mother’s family was from Venice, and my father’s came from Naples. My grandparents emigrated to the U.S. during the First World War. Both my parents were born and raised in America, and they did everything they could to fit in. In my early years, we all lived in my paternal grandparents’ three-story house in Bristol, Connecticut. My great-uncle was on the first floor, my father’s parents, Virgilio and Angelina, had the second, and we lived on the third floor attic—just as we might have done in Italy. My father became very successful in our little town of Bristol. There and in the surrounding area, he owned four restaurants, two nightclubs and a catering business he called Esquire Caterers. I was born and raised in the restaurant business, so naturally, I considered food—not hair—our livelihood.
Where I felt most at home—and not like a weird little kid—was at in my maternal grandmother’s house. She was very, very spiritual. She had Buddhas, incense and candles burning all over the place. She kept a monkey and a parrot as pets. Now, my parents were strict, church-going Roman Catholics and for Catholics—especially Roman Catholics—Buddha statues were beyond forbidden! But for me, it was just pure magic being at my Grandma Lena’s house. She had not one, but two green thumbs! Inside her house was a jungle paradise, with plants blooming everywhere. The outside gardens were just as amazing—she grew all her own fruits and vegetables, kept chickens and rabbits in the backyard and lovingly tended one of the most exquisite rose gardens I’ve ever seen. There was a pond right in the middle of everything, with jumping frogs and floating water lilies. A private, enchanted world just for me through all those lazy summer days.
People would bring their dying plants to Lena, and she would make them spring back to life. Grandma was a magnificent gardener; her foliage made you think of the village of Findhorn and she was famous throughout the county. Lena could take an apple, a pear and a peach, graft them all onto the same tree and make them grow. She was also vegetarian, something which was unheard of in those days. My father, the restaurateur, regarded his mother-in-law’s dietary habits as pretty “far out.”
Obviously, Grandmother Lena had a profoundly strong influence in my life. This “far out” lady touched me at the very depth of my soul throughout my childhood. She silently nourished my wonderment and connection to the plant world that had begun so long ago on that little mound. I also attribute to her the fact that I, too, have two green thumbs!
But in my day-to-day life at home, there was none of this magic and spirit—the feelings of being repressed played out in my mood and behavior. I felt stuck and bored in the humdrum routine of public school that was my life in Bristol. Perhaps it was my thirsty imagination, or maybe it was that intuitive little boy still inside that lead to me to say to my friends, when I was eleven years old and in sixth grade, “I am going away to live in Italy. I will leave this boring life and travel throughout the Mediterranean and become an artist!”
By my senior year of high school, I was done. Being so pent up and brimming over with creativity, I was plain bored to death, so I quit. I never finished high school and instead joined the Navy to escape my bleak hometown. I got out of boot camp in 1961 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Russia was planting their weapons. President Kennedy was threatening to annihilate Cuba. My entire division was ordered to Guantanamo Bay — everyone, that is, except me. By a strange twist of fate someone in the military bureaucracy of Washington who was really bored processing hundreds of papers each day, had noticed that my surname was Morrocco, and as a joke assigned me to Port Lyautey, Kenitra, Morocco, right outside of Rabat, which was at that time a strategic military base. With three gigantic Air Force bases, it was the main strategic entrance to North Africa for the Navy. Actually, we were a gateway for the whole Mediterranean fleet sailing through the Straits of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean from Tangier.
When I arrived in Port Lyautey no one had a clue as to why I was there. Since I was really supposed to be in Cuba, I wasn’t about to explain it was just because of my name. Compared with all of the other seamen on duty, I was sort of a misfit. An officer asked if anyone knew how to type, a fair question since in 1961 men didn’t type, except those planning to go into business for themselves. In high school, that’s exactly what I wanted to do, so I got really good at it, speed typing sixty words per minute. Strictly because I could type, they stuck me in the base newspaper, typing up copy. That became my claim to fame and by default, I became a journalist.
Fortunately, being in Port Lyautey gave me the opportunity to travel. I toured all of Morocco and went across to Europe quite often, on the Navy’s dime. Buddies and I would go down to one of the air bases and get a plane to Gibraltar, Germany, Spain, Italy or England. I started to re-awaken as I explored the world, and realized that a whole lot more than I knew about was going on. I’d been just a repressed bumpkin from Connecticut, who’d never been more than fifty miles from home until I joined the Navy and finally had the chance to “see the world.” What I had told my friends all those years back in sixth grade was becoming a reality. I was visiting Italy and most of Europe. I was beginning to wake up again!
In 1962 when I was discharged, I decided to go to New York City. I determined that I wanted to be an architect and went to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. I was putting myself through school working as a waiter and bartender, but I still wasn’t happy. In school, if I came up with an idea, they’d usually say, “Oh no, you can’t do that.” They tried to make me conform to the school’s basic ideas. After a few months, I got so disgusted with the whole process that I quit. My thought at that point was to go to work for an interior designer.
Seeing me at loose ends, my brother Raymond called to suggest I go to barbering school and then come work with him as an equal partner in his barber shop. I thought to myself, “Why would I want to do that if I could go to hairdressing school and learn to color, perm and style? Barbers just cut.” Besides, I didn’t really want to work with my brother, nor was I eager to return to Connecticut. I preferred the excitement of New York City, where I felt the pulse of the world in 1962.
So, I started hairdressing school and to pay bills went to work for a caterer named Larry DeCrisante, who hired me because, like him, I was Italian. Larry was a high-end caterer in the city and at the time, crêpes were the rage. So we catered elaborate crêpes parties. We would go to pricey brownstone mansions in New York and make crêpes for dozens of people. I was Larry’s waiter or bartended at these events. They were my first chance to rub shoulders with the rich and famous.
One day, Larry called me and said, “Anthony, I have a very close friend, Rosemary
Sorrentino, who is the world’s leading hair colorist at Kenneth’s Salon.” She was this very fiery Sicilian Larry explained and had sacked her fifty-second apprentice! He added, “She is very, very difficult to work with, but she happens to be the top-rate, number one hair colorist in the world. She needs another apprentice and I highly recommended you. Be at Kenneth’s tomorrow at seven a.m. for the interview.”
I told him I couldn’t do it. I was just days away from getting my hairdressing school diploma and had already missed so many classes that I risked getting thrown out.
Larry calmly brushed my excuses aside. “Listen, Anthony, forget school. Forget everything you’ve ever done. You have no idea what is being offered to you.”
In my ignorance and innocence, I replied, “Who is Kenneth? What is Kenneth’s? Where is it? I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Then he informed me that Kenneth’s happened to be the most famous hair salon in the entire world. “You want to be a hairdresser?” he asked insistently. “You go to that interview tomorrow and your life will change. Anyone would cut off their right arm just to be a shampoo boy at Kenneth’s, and you’re being offered the chance to become an apprentice with the number one hair colorist in the world—because lucky for you, she knows me.”
That night, I had a terrible raging inside my head. Should I go to school? Should I go to this interview? Back and forth, back and forth … all night long.
In the morning, I got up, dressed and went straight down to Kenneth’s. My gut feeling was to just go and do it.
The address was 19 E. 54th Street but there was no name on the outside, just a green canopy over a doorway that had the number 19 on it. There were Bentleys and Rolls-Royces parked out front, with chauffeurs standing around, talking to each other and polishing the cars. In 1962, you didn’t rent a Bentley or Rolls-Royce—you owned it, along with a live-in chauffeur and everything else that goes with that lifestyle. I stared at that fleet of luxury cars parked right outside the place I was about to enter and I was blown away.
Remembering Larry’s words—”Your life will change”—I began to feel the magnitude of what it could mean to apprentice with the most famous hairdressers in the world. I was about to enter a new world of glamour, excitement and visual wealth I had never even imagined!
I walked up to the receptionist and said I had an appointment to see Rosemary Sorrentino. She invited me to sit down and wait. I had to remain at the entrance area because in the mid’60s, non-employee males weren’t allowed in salons.
Kenneth’s was a spectacular five-story brownstone. The interior had been done by Billy Baldwin, one of the most famous designers in the world. There were enormous
Czechoslovakian glass chandeliers, wall-to-wall Persian rugs and a tasteful combination of European, Asian and Chippendale motifs.
I sat gazing up at the two-story grand staircase that arose from the main reception area. Later, I would learn those stairs led to Kenneth’s and Rosemary’s private salons. But now, suddenly the most beautiful blonde in the world wearing dark sunglasses came down those stairs. I was mesmerized as she descended in a full-length mink coat that trailed behind her. How dramatic and beautiful! At first glance, I wasn’t sure who this was, but as she got to the bottom of the stairs, she removed the glasses. I could see it was Faye Dunaway. She casually brushed by me—I was left utterly speechless.
Afterwards, their security guard told me to go up to the third floor. There were sixty stylists and operators working at Kenneth’s. None but the world’s finest were given that opportunity. The rest could only wish for it. Kenneth himself had a private styling domain at the front of the third floor, while Rosemary had hers toward the back.
To get there, I took an elevator from reception. As I entered, the person following me in and turning to stand next to me was former First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy! She pushed the button to close the door and there I was, all alone with Jackie Kennedy. Minutes ago, Faye Dunaway, and now face-to-face with the ultra glamorous Mrs. Kennedy—it was almost more than a small town boy could handle!
I was stunned, speechless. But my brain kept on screaming, “Say something to the former
First Lady. Talk to Jackie. Make an intelligent remark. A compliment … anything!”
Alas, I remained frozen, and as she got off, so did I. I watched her walk into one of the private rooms and I must have been gawking because one of the security guards approached and asked what I was doing. I told him about Rosemary Sorrentino. He pointed out that in my dazed state, I had gotten off on the wrong floor. Sheepishly, I got back on the elevator. At that time, I never dreamed that one day I would be one of Jackie Kennedy’s personally selected stylists.
Not totally convinced I was for real, the security guard had escorted me to the third floor and walked me back to where there were six of Rosemary’s private rooms. She soon put his mind to rest. “Oh yes, yes, the Italian boy, bring him in.”
I tried introducing myself, explaining Larry’s referral , but before I could say much of anything, she cut in, “Fine. I want you to come to work tomorrow at eight o’clock and you can start then. Just come. You’ll work out fine.” Turning away, she dismissed me and left the room.
Now I was not only disoriented and overwhelmed, but also confused. I got back down to reception, walked out of Kenneth’s and met the outside world in a stupor.
It was time to get back to school. I was convinced that if I missed any more class time, they were going to throw me out. Not that I was learning anything especially valuable. I just wanted to get my license and move on. You don’t really “learn” anything in hairdressing school. Those who finish are talented to begin with and avoid flunking out. Most of us were there just to get our degree, that coveted piece of paper.
I hopped on the subway headed out to Queens, Long Island, where the school was. Then it occurred to me that if this place, Kenneth’s, was really so famous, and if it was true that two of the most famous hair care experts in the world worked there, then the school should be happy to graduate me, just for the prestige of having one of their former students working at Kenneth’s. With that brainstorm, I got to school and barged right into the principal’s office.
He was busy on the phone, aggressively waving his hand to shoo me away. I was just a student. He didn’t care to see me. His secretary warned that if I didn’t leave, they would have me thrown out.
I stood my ground. “Listen, I need to speak to him right now.” To make it more dramatic, I added, “It’s a matter of life and death.”
The principal was unmoved and shouted, “Just get out of here!”
I came right back at him, “Kenneth’s. Kenneth’s Salon at 19 E. 54th Street. I start work there tomorrow.”
He stared back in complete shock. ‘”Now, tell me that again. What did you just say?” So I repeated it. He still wasn’t believing. “What Kenneth? Which Kenneth’s?”
Now, being in the know, I said quite matter-of-factly, “Everyone knows there’s only one
“What are you going to do there?” he growled. I told him I was to be Rosemary Sorrentino’s private apprentice. Instantly, he buzzed for the secretary. “Get a release and his diploma and bring them in here right now.”
When she returned, he gave me a knowing look. “Listen, you sign, letting us advertise you as a graduate working at Kenneth’s and I’ll give you your diploma today, now.” The magic word “Kenneth’s” had me exiting the campus that hour, suddenly and officially a hairdressing school graduate!
This had been probably the most magical twenty-four hours of my life: from Larry’s phone call, to walking into Kenneth’s, seeing Faye Dunaway and sharing an elevator with Jackie Kennedy, meeting Rosemary Sorrentino and being hired, then receiving my diploma without one more minute in any classroom—I was walking on Cloud Nine!
The next day, I started work at Kenneth’s. Although I still thought of myself as somewhat of a country bumpkin, I was loving life as a New Yorker. Constantly amazed by all the celebrity faces coming into the salon. These were the super rich and super famous. Among them were a bevy of models from all over the world and star-level actresses zipping in and out.
In the dizzying pace and fanfare of it all, I endeavored to take in as much as I could. So even during my breaks or lunch hour, if Kenneth was personally doing a cut in his famous inner salon, I stayed and watched. You’d be stunned by the illustrious list of clients, but he—and they— didn’t mind at all when apprentices wanted to observe. In fact, he encouraged it. We could stand there or walk around to see what he was doing, but with no talking allowed as we studied the cutting style he had created and was world master of: “blunt snip haircutting.” No one understood this technique better than Kenneth. He was the master architect of the universe when it came to haircutting.
Rosemary was the frenzied opposite of Kenneth. Short-tempered and curt, she would flare up at the least little incident or for no apparent reason at all. She ruled her coloring department with iron gloves and allowed no one to observe her work. Later on, I would learn that she rarely ate anything at all and was living on diet pills morning, noon and night. Staying pencil thin exacted a very high price, even in the ’60s. A time when the book Valley of the Dolls was a bestseller … and realizing my Maestra of Hair was one of them was quite shocking. However, I’d made up my mind to be her apprentice and learn everything I could from her, no matter what else was happening. I’m proud that watching, working and learning all day eventually led to me becoming one of the most highly-regarded hairdressers internationally.
It was during one of my observation times with Kenneth that I was fortunate enough to meet three sisters from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They were personal clients of Kenneth’s—and only he would cut their hair. They came in on certain specially selected days. I didn’t understand why, and of course being in the room with Kenneth, I couldn’t ask. But eventually I got to know one of them very well since she frequently came over to Rosemary’s coloring rooms. In one of our conversations she explained that she and her sisters scheduled haircuts according to the best days of the lunar cycle.
I was tripped out by this. It really grabbed my interest, so I asked her, “What are you talking about?”
“In all of South America, everything is done by the lunar cycle,” she answered. “We cut our hair, we fish, farm and do our architecture all by the moon.”
I was genuinely intrigued. Her words called forth the intuition and connection I’d felt with the world all those years before. I started to recall seeing auras, sensing the energy of hair, telling guys in Raymond’s barber shop that I could grow their hair back. In the career I was now making for myself at Kenneth’s, this is where my interest really was. I pleaded with her to teach me more.
After developing a close friendship, she finally consented to my unrelenting pleas. Seeing that my interest was genuine, she said she would give me the lunar cycle for haircutting if I promised not to divulge it to anyone—except an apprentice. I gladly agreed. As promised, she thoroughly explained the entire cycle, how it worked and the way to determine the dates for the five techniques of hair lengthening, strengthening, thickening, root work and beautifying.
As I began applying this marvelous new knowledge with my clients, my confidence and certainty in what my Brazilian friend taught me grew. Every month the lunar cycle has specific days when each of the techniques (lengthening, strengthening, thickening, root work and beautifying) can be best accomplished. So if I made a chart for a client needing to grow thicker hair, I’d trim her hair on the precise lunar day for thickening, and the new hair would actually come in thicker than before. I would then continue haircuts on that particular day until we’d achieved the desired result. With other clients our goal was to lengthen hair. Generally hair grows about a maximum of four to six inches a year for the average person. However, if I cut an individual’s hair on the chart’s lengthening day, new growth would nearly double that rate— more like eight to twelve inches a year. I have followed this lunar cycle with thousands of clients over the years—and all bear testimony to phenomenal results.
At this point, I didn’t know anything about the Five Elements of Ayurveda and Chinese medicine. I just knew the five hair techniques and didn’t think of them as connecting with anything more than that. I didn’t get the significance of the number five.
But all that was about to change repeatedly, and lead me on an ever-expanding journey of hair knowledge and wisdom. It was my own personal evolution and the first dawning of Awaken Your Roots.
Working at Kenneth’s, I got to hobnob with the rich and famous, and go to fascinating high society parties. At one cocktail party given by Faye Dunaway, I met Cecilia Lu, a Chinese doctor from Shanghai. We became very close and spent a lot of time together, visiting Chinatown and going all over the city. Cecilia’s medical specialties were master herbalist and acupuncturist— both of which I knew nothing about. She would explain this or that herb or technique to me, and seeing my interest sparked, reveal even more and deeper secrets of Chinese medicine and the Five Elements. It was astonishing and my world seemed to be opening up more and more during that time. Through Cecilia, I met Dr. Fung Yi, an eighth-degree jujitsu black belt, who was one of Bruce Lee’s master teachers. It was through both of them that I became trained in how to apply the Five Elements to all aspects of hair care. It was through their knowledge that I came to better understand what I had learned early on at Kenneth’s, with his leading botanist and elixir maker, Rita.
Rita was a phenomenal scalp and hair expert, also a classically trained botanist who ran the fifth floor of Kenneth’s, creating individually tailored shampoos and conditioners —known in the salon world as hair elixirs—for the rich and famous. If, for example, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor or Katharine Hepburn came in with hair that was dry, brittle or not up to par somehow, Rita would formulate a unique, personal elixir just for that person. A steady stream of clients would go up to consult with Rita, and each would receive his or her own tailored hair elixirs. She was highly secretive about what went into any of them.
One afternoon, I remember her coming down to see Rosemary and saying, “I would give anything to have Jackie Kennedy as a hair client. If you could get Jackie Kennedy to come upstairs to me, I would be so indebted to you.”
Rosemary just shrugged her off, blithely answering, “yes, yes” to appease Rita, but not at all interested.
Later that day, I found Rita and asked, “What if I got Jackie Kennedy to come see you? All I’d want in return is to find out how you make your shampoos and conditioners, the base formulas for them,” I said.
Rita smiled. “If you get Jackie up here, I will definitely teach you how to make my shampoos and conditioners.”
Because I’d developed a close and respectful working relationship with Jackie, within a couple of months, I was able to convince her to go up and see Rita. I wasn’t doing this just for me—since Mrs. Kennedy really did need scalp work and her hair was beginning to thin at that point, Rita was the person to see. With Jackie secured as a client, Rita kept her promise to me. She got me interested in botany and thoroughly taught me how to compound elixirs, which I did for my own clients for years. It was her elixir knowledge, coupled with what I’d learned from Cecilia Lu and Dr. Fung, plus the vast body of herbal and plant information I’d gleaned from my travels throughout Europe later on, that led to the creation of my own wild-crafted, raw, vegan elixir company, Morrocco Method International.
I was delighted by all the growth I was experiencing as a hairdresser and color artist, combined with so many mind-expanding encounters with ancient mysteries and wisdom. Amidst all this, Kenneth’s was always abuzz with one drama or another. After all, this was the realm of the rich and famous. Gossip flew, tempers flared and we, the staff, often found ourselves nearly torched from “the bonfire of the vanities.”
One unforgettable incident involved Mia Farrow. It wasn’t uncommon for Hollywood to send us big time movie stars and models for their hair color or creating a new look for a particular movie. Often famous celebrities like Faye Dunaway would demand an addendum into their contracts, stipulating that no one would be allowed to touch their color except Kenneth’s team of Rosemary, Nathan or myself. If they weren’t flown to New York City for their color touch-ups, one of us would be flown first class to Hollywood.
On one such occasion, a Hollywood executive called the coloring department to say that Mia Farrow was on her way, and they wanted her to become a baby redhead for her new movie, John and Mary.
Mia arrived at Kenneth’s and was sent to the coloring department, where Rosemary and I started to prepare her new redhead formula. As we worked, Mia announced that she would like to have Kenneth cut her hair. So I sent word through Kenneth’s private secretary to arrange it. But Kenneth refused, saying, “Just tell her that I have a previous engagement and have to leave the building.”
When Mia found out, she started yelling, “Get me a pair of scissors; I shall cut it myself!” We tried to calm her down, but she was furious and unreasonable. Rosemary, not knowing what else to do, shrugged and handed over the shears. Mia then stomped off into a private booth and hacked her newly red hair to shreds. When she emerged, Mia indeed had baby-style hair (that for her was fabulous and ultimately heightened her popularity). But for the moment, we were all in shock.
When Mia got back to Hollywood, the studio angrily called our coloring department. I gave the phone to Rosemary, who cringed at someone yelling in the background, “How dare you allow this to happen to such a famous client!”
Rosemary offered a few polite apologies and referred them back to their quirky starlet. After all, Mia had given herself the “new look.” If you watch John and Mary, you’ll see Mia in her chopped, super short baby red hairstyle!
At the end of 1968, four years into my apprenticeship at Kenneth’s, Rosemary and he had a bad falling out. She abruptly quit and walked out. It was all the more jarring because she wanted me to leave with her and become her main assistant. Kenneth said that if I stayed, he would give me the hair coloring department. Within just those four years, I had risen to become one of the five leading hair colorists in the world.
That night, struggling with the decision I was forced to make, I had an out-of-body experience. I was risen to the ceiling of my Upper East Side apartment. Looking down at my body, asleep in bed, it was awesome. My consciousness began to leave the building, but taking one last glance at my body, I remember hearing myself say, “I need to know what it means to be happy.”
I thought of Kenneth’s and considered whether or not staying would make me happy. In that moment, I realized working in a salon would never make me happy! And with that realization, I snapped right back into my body and woke up, drenched in sweat. A new journey was to begin, a journey that would challenge me to find out truly what it meant “to be happy.”
Although it made sense to me, it must have seemed strange to Kenneth when I turned him down, saying that I would never work in another salon again. Wasn’t passing up the opportunity to take over the coloring department of arguably the most famous hair salon in the world insane? But I did. I had learned so much more in my time there than I’d ever dreamed possible, become so much more than manager of a coloring department. I didn’t know then what that meant exactly, but I knew that I was done at Kenneth’s, so I walked away.
At the ripe old age of twenty-six, I decided to go on sabbatical and move to San Francisco. I was in the city by the bay for several months, before it occurred to me that what I really needed was to go someplace far from any city, away from everything and just meditate. A friend of mine had a connection to a little cabin at Louis Martini’s vineyard in Napa, California. I could stay there for free if I helped out in the vineyard. The Napa Sonoma area is quite beautiful, so I went up there and stayed six months, doing a great deal of meditation and almost no socializing. After a while, I came to the conclusion that I could be content just going to people’s homes and cutting their hair. I had an enormous list of phone numbers from Kenneth’s. I could color and cut their hair anywhere, whether they were home or on the road.
I left the vineyard and went back to San Francisco, picked up the phone and started dialing.
By the next day, I had ten clients waiting to see me.
After a short time, I flew back to New York City, where I still maintained an apartment, and did the same thing. Clients would say things like, “Oh my God yes, come to my house to do a cut …” or “please do sun streaks for me …” or “I need coloring, come …” I realized I never had to ply my trade in a salon again. Kenneth’s had been my first, and last.
I worked in New York for some time and then began to travel to wherever my clients needed me. I would call Jackie Kennedy, who was by then Jackie O, and set up appointments through her secretary, either at her apartment in New York or in Hyannis Port. I also did hair for Jackie’s sister-in-law Joan, as well as my favorite customer of all time, Ethel Kennedy. My client roster included Faye Dunaway, Liza Minnelli, Nancy Sinatra, Gloria Vanderbilt, Lauren Bacall, Mia Farrow, Diana Vreeland, Mrs. Norman Rockwell, Mrs. Vincent Astor, Bunny Mellon, Mrs. William “Babe” Paley and models from Europe and the Ford Modeling Agency. Many of these celebrities and notables also became personal friends of mine.
People would hear of my whereabouts and phone me: “I’m in San Francisco. Would you mind coming by to give me tortoise shell sun streaks?” or “I have some friends who love my hair shaping and want one too.” The laundry list of rich and famous clientele I’d amassed while at Kenneth’s was virtually endless. I was now in “the club,” a very rarefied circle in which I could pick up the phone and ring exclusive private numbers. If I was planning to be in L.A., I’d contact various film stars to let them know I was available. Often, they’d invite friends and other performers to join us. This made my traveling a lot of fun and very profitable.
While I was running around like this, I thought about a goal I had set for myself back in 1963, during my Navy years in Morocco. After experiencing the culture in Europe on my furloughs, I’d had it in my mind to go back and live there sometime in the future. So twelve years later, in 1973, I decided to leave my U.S. clients behind and live in Italy for a year. I sold my apartment in New York, booked a passage on the cruise ship Leonardo da Vinci, sailed to Genoa, bought a used Ferrari and began touring the Italian countryside with no huge plan, but a definite strategy to pursue.
I wandered into little villages in the mountains, where there were mostly farmers and shepherds, down to small villages on the coast to mingle with fishermen, all for the purpose of finding out who cut hair for the locals, to see their techniques of haircutting, and put my own lunar haircutting to the test. I was convinced that this knowledge had been used for centuries in more places than just South America (although I’ve discovered that in South America, these techniques go back to the Mayan calendar), and that in small towns and villages, away from corporate influences of the big city, local barbers would still be following lunar phases. I found that to be true, not only in remote areas of Italy, but also the whole of the Mediterranean region all over Europe and all throughout the U.K.
It was well known in the salon business that if you got a hair shaping in Italy, it would be spectacular. Just one cut, like at Kenneth’s, and you would never have to style or set it daily.
You would get fabulous shaping for your hair and be carefree for three to six months. Just shake your head, get up and go, every morning. It was the ultimate haircutting in the world.
Avoiding cities and larger towns, I started traveling south from Genoa to Siena. At villages along the way, I would find the piazza, settle in at a café, get a cup of coffee or glass of wine and sit for a while to decide whether I liked the ambiance or not. If I did, stay. If not, fire up the Ferrari and go. That’s how I travelled for that entire year.
When I felt simpatico, I’d look around or ask someone where the local barber or hairdresser was. Everybody knew everybody. “Si, Maria, she is the one. Let me show you where she lives.”
These hairdressers or barbers had never seen the inside of a beauty school. Most of them were shopkeepers or tradespeople, earthy folks who had learned from prior generations about haircutting and styling.
Once I knew where to go, I would buy a bottle of wine, some cheese, maybe some bread and show up at the salon or barber shop (usually in a home). Using my comically limited Italian, I would present them with the food and drink and ask to watch when they were cutting hair. The intensity of my focus on their cutting usually intrigued them. They’d enjoy the wine, offer me a glass and pour one for their client. After a while many of them would hand me scissors and comb and observe as I did some blunt snip technique. Then they would take back the tools and share their methods; it would often go back and forth like that. With hardly any words, we were having a valuable conversation, these masters granting me generations of haircutting and styling knowledge.
I’d find people who spoke a little English and ask them about the lunar cycle of their village. They usually brought me to an elder, or someone like the village “shaman,” who would explain how, for thousands of years, farming, fishing, architectural planning and construction would all be done in accord with astrological charts based on the lunar cycle.
Of course my main interest was haircutting and soon enough I learned from barbers and stylists that they, too, relied on lunar-based charts for individual clients’ haircuts. This was identical to what I had learned from my Brazilian friend! Like the Brazilians, Italian hair stylists had followed the five techniques for eons. And the results were likewise incredible.
Learning more and more of the depth and history of the five techniques led me to ponder the significance of the “other fives” in our lives: our fingers, our toes, our five senses and the five elements.
When my year in Italy drew to a close, I met up with a friend and moved to Paris for six months, basically just cutting hair. From there I relocated to England and ventured out in their countryside, again going to small villages, meeting local barbers, cutting hair and learning their techniques. Wherever I went, I brought up this notion of five to whomever I thought would listen and from whom I thought I could learn. It was during that time that I travelled to the Cotswolds and met former residents of the Findhorn community in Scotland, who introduced me to Ayurveda, the science of longevity that came onto this planet some five thousand years ago in the Indus Valley. As Ayurveda knowledge and embodiment of the Five Elements sank in, I met an English botanist whose words and encouragement allowed me to know that in my very near future, I would create my Five Elements hair care series, plainly designating them fire, air, earth, water and ether to make it clearly simple for everyone to benefit from my products.
My far-reaching travels in the 1970s connected all of my training, study, experiences, knowledge of the five elements and the five techniques of haircutting, Chinese herbology and the blunt snip haircutting technique based on the lunar cycles. Melding all of this, I eventually created an entire matrix of wellness through hair care that transforms people’s lives.
But my own journey, my apprenticeship with all this knowledge, was not yet complete. I was on the verge of assembling Awaken Your Roots, except for one missing piece. I realized that I needed one more lesson: I needed to make the acquaintance of a hair shaman. But this would not happen for another year. First I had to fully digest my European adventures—and my own personal life was calling. In New York, I met the love of my life, CarrieAnne. Soon after, we were married and moved to Boston, where I made contact with all my old clients and went back on the road.
Then in 1978, the time was had come. While studying qigong in the U.S., my teacher
Michael told me there was a hair shaman in Honduras I should meet. He lived on the island of
Roatán, where Michael had once been a diving instructor. People came to this shaman from all over the world for hair care astrology based on the lunar cycle. I urged Michael to do whatever he could to help me meet this man. Soon afterward, he made it happen.
Over the course of a week, the shaman revealed all his different techniques harvested over many generations. He shared the various elixirs that he had created and told me he would make a chart especially for me, including an auspicious date to perform a ritual head shaving. On the appointed day, he took me down to the sea, shaved my head and baptized me in the water. This took me into a new state of being. I was now part of the circle of hair shamans. It was without doubt the most powerful event of my life. With this initiation, I was ready.
In 1979 I decided that my wife, CarrieAnne, and I needed to move to California. Within weeks, I discovered Laguna Beach and decided to settle and set up shop there. I turned my backyard into a meditation garden, the downstairs into a private salon and phoned to let my friends in L.A. and clients from around the country know where I was. I told them I planned never to travel again, and that if anyone desired, they could come to Laguna for a hair shaping. From 1979 to 2002, I did just that: I never left Laguna, while people came to see me from all over the world.
Although I was still cutting hair, the word spread far and wide that my expertise was unequaled in helping people with hair thinning, loss and stimulating regrowth. People with terrible scars from toxic hair transplants came to me from everywhere. I worked with others who were chemically sensitive and those with compromised immune systems. I used the many elixirs I formulated—based on the five elements—to help all of these conditions.
At first, I was personally compounding all of these products in Laguna. But as interest grew, the demand became so huge I just couldn’t do it anymore and started to sub-contract with a carefully-researched manufacturing company in L.A. to produce commercially. For some, this would have meant skimping on quality, but not for me. To this day, my products are 100% wildcrafted, vegan and raw. I import wild-crafted plants from all over the world. Villagers and farmers gather our raw materials based on the lunar cycle. Then, when my ingredients arrive at the plant in L.A., they are mixed and bottled, also in accordance with the lunar chart. This makes our products ten times stronger than those mixed and bottled randomly. This is how great hair preparations and perfumes have been created all over the world for thousands of years. Also, I never have nor will never cut corners by adding substandard ingredients, fillers or preservatives that I know to be damaging to the condition of peoples’ hair.
At first, I wasn’t selling to the general public or using the Internet, which wasn’t all that popular yet. Instead, I sold my products through wellness centers like the Hippocrates Institute and other holistic health and cancer clinics that specialized in toxic-free hair care products for their clients. When I did start selling to the general public online, as a purist I called my shampoos and conditioners “hair revitalizers, rejuvenators and elixirs,” but they didn’t catch on because no one understood those terms. Only my clients bought them because I had educated them. It’s important that people know what I call shampoos and conditioners on my website now are actually powerful revitalizers, rejuvenators and elixirs.
This is how my interests, passions, profession and company evolved. In 2002, I decided to move my entire operation to Morro Bay, California, on the serene and nature-filled Central Coast.
My journey has been full of ups, downs, exhilarating breakthroughs and peak experiences. I am now living out the vision of that three-year-old self who saw the grass and leaves as vibrant hair of trees and plants, and as I promised the guys in Raymond’s barber shop, I am indeed regrowing hair and loving the fact that people learning my techniques and methods see quantum changes in their lives beyond the good head of hair they were seeking when they first came to me.
But many started with nothing more than the desire for healthy, luxurious hair. And this is where I start with you. In the following pages, I’ll offer my years of experience and knowledge of the Five Elements, the lunar cycle, my five haircutting techniques and how to use them, all with easy-to-follow, fun steps to creating healthy hair and scalp. As we take the journey together, I hope you will see, as I have, that hair is not just about vanity, not just a covering for your head and brain. It’s a vital part of your health and wellness. It reveals your personal radiance and connects you with universal life energy, the chi that gives and sustains your life and makes you feel vibrant in every aspect of your living.
“Morrocco Method and its natural hair care products have stimulated my scalp and made it stronger and resistant to hair loss. The change in the thickness and volume of my hair is amazing. I just can’t get over how well the whole system worked for me. It’s just tremendous.” – Ellen Smith of Shreveport, Louisiana