Rosalind Russell, Carol Channing, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess and Margaret Truman, Barbara Bush, Abigail Van Buren and wrestler Gorgeous George have at least one thing in common: They all went to Buddy Walton for haircuts in St. Louis.
During 35 years as hairdresser at his Chase Park Plaza salon (and a total of 55 years in the business), he cut, colored and blow-dryed people from all over the world and all walks of life, but especially the rich and famous.
Elvin P. "Buddy" Walton died May 25 (2009) at his home in St. Louis Hills, where he had been under the care of a hospice, his family said Monday. He was 87.
In an introduction written for Mr. Walton's biography, "High Styles: Stories of a World Class Hairdresser," Mayor Francis Slay described what movie stars, dance troupes, theater companies and visiting royalty did in St. Louis: "For most of these celebrities, the first thing on their To Do list was to phone Buddy Walton for rinse, set and style."
Mr. Walton grew up a country boy in Mineral Point, near Potosi, and recalled how he had known by age 15 that he had a flair for hair.
In an interview in 2004 with the Post-Dispatch, he described his unhappy time at a teachers college after high school. After a year, he refused to go back.
"Despite a lot of negative pressure from my brothers, who considered hairdressing a feminine profession, my mother and father helped me enroll in cosmetology school at Moler College in downtown St. Louis," he said.
His first job was at a beauty shop in Festus. He lived in a Methodist minister's home and made $15 a week.
He later got a job at the De Soto Hotel's salon in downtown St. Louis. A popular hair supply salesman noticed his work and helped him get more prestigious positions, first at the Congress Hotel in the Central West End and then, in 1950, at the Chase.
Mr. Walton became the favorite of high society customers, including heirs of the May Co., Anheuser-Busch and Stix, Baer & Fuller. Although he left for a time, the Koplar Family, owners of the merged Chase Park Plaza Hotel, wooed him back in 1960.
He reigned there supreme for 20 years. Mr. Walton's name became synonymous with St. Louis style. He profited, living in a Lindell Boulevard mansion with longtime companion Sam Micotto (owner of the Chase's Poodle Palace dog grooming salon). Mr. Walton also opened four salons in the Fort Lauderdale, Fla. area.
St. Louis lawyer David Newburger, said Mr. Walton, long retired, had continued to cut his hair until five or six years ago.
"He was enormously gregarious and enormously charming," Newburger said. "And, my guess is, terrifically talented. He used to talk about how, when he was a boy, other people would be playing baseball and he'd be cutting hair."
The funeral is at 11 a.m. today at the Mineral Point United Methodist Church. Burial will follow in Potosi at the Masonic Cemetery.
Mr. Walton was the last of six brothers, and there were no immediate survivors. A niece, Susan Seagraves, had cared for him in recent years.