November 19, 2017 | Rome, Italy | °C

Dolce past

By Megan K. Williams
Published: 2012-10-20

The decline

Roberto We asked Ren้ if he would consider having us buy into the business and become partners. He was old by then and we were really running the place at this point. But he wouldn't hear of it, nor of paying us properly. So we decided to open our own salon across the street. This was in the mid-60s. Things had changed. People began demanding benefits, breaks, you had to start paying taxes. We ran our business above board and it was much harder.

Fabiana I insisted on paying people well and treating them with respect. The first 10 years were very good. Then business began going downhill. People left the centro storico to buy big villas outside Rome. Salons opened up in residential neighborhoods and people went close by to get their hair and make-up done. And then the kind of tourist changed. During the Dolce Vita it was all Americans from the grand hotels around us. But then the oil boom years began and it was people from the Arab countries. Women who had become incredibly rich over night, but who had lice. Terrible. I remember one who brought a suitcase full of jewels and showed it off to all of us. "Look, look," she said and we all admired them. Then she went to Via Sistina with this little suitcase to sit in the caf่ and she was robbed in five minutes.

Roberto And then No Parking signs began appearing everywhere on the via. Then the war against the Americans. We were right beside the American Embassy and every protest march seemed to go down Via Veneto!

Fabiana A bomb even exploded in our salon. It wasn't meant to explode our salon, it was meant for a Swiss travel agency beside us, but our salon blew up instead. It was called Novembre Nero — Black November. They were Armenian terrorists and the Swiss had imprisoned one of their leaders. So they began planting bombs in Swiss businesses. We came to work to find the hairdressing chairs, glass, nail polish... everything spread out on Via Veneto. And nobody paid us a penny to cover the cost!

I then became obsessed with bombs, constantly checking if anyone had left suitcases on the sidewalk. My nerves were a wreck. It had gone sour. In short, we decided to leave. But I have to say, I was so happy doing this work. I did it with passion. I still dream about it — applying make-up, cutting hair. I felt born to do it.

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