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Novato Advance
February, 2009
By Leslie Harlib,Special to the Advance

Fanciful Extremes at New Novato Salon

For Kathie Rothkop, doing hair is an art form. And playing with live models’ tresses so their heads sport styles from history’s most flamboyant centuries is one of the Novato resident’s passions.

Her Web site,, averages 12,000 hits a month because Rothkop, 60, doesn’t just advertise the services she offers at Salon Glam, her one-person salon at 1122 Grant Ave. in downtown Novato (and which opened in 2008). She’s devoted a large portion of the site to a complex, picture-driven celebration of the history of hairdressing. The illustrations are of Rothkop’s designs worked on living local models.

“Other than having my children, creating a Web site for my salon is second on my list of most gratifying things I’ve ever done. I love all the fanciful styles in history — they’re at the root of my profession,” said Rothkop, who’s been a hairdresser for 39 years (and who once dreamed of being a pastry chef before turning to hirsute confections).

Marie Antoinette, The Gibson Girl, a Valentine fantasy wench, a 1940s Vargas pin-up: they’re all images she’s paid homage to with hairstyles that bloom with flowers, bristle with branches or even flutter with hundreds of strands of shredded newspaper.

“Kathie really takes hair to the limit and does whatever she can with it,” said Jessica Sorenson of Novato, on whom Rothkop created her newspaper “do.”

“She’s made me see what hair is about in a new way. I didn’t know I could look like that. It’s made me want to explore more.”

Though Rothkop specializes in contemporary cut and color, her sideline interpreting hair in history began in the 1980s, when she worked with the late August Chemotti at his salon Shylocks in San Rafael. Chemotti was known for his theatrical styles, such as hair done as a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Rothkop started to research the history of hairdressing. She became inspired by the elaborate styles of the 1700s seen in paintings of French queen Marie Antoinette and royal mistress Madame du Pompadour.

She also discovered that contemporary terms have ancient roots. For instance, “powder room” was once a room where aristocrats went to have their hair powdered before going out in public. Men of great wealth used to wear huge wigs to reflect their status. The term “big wig” comes from that.

The stylist grew up in Marin and trained at Marinello beauty school in San Rafael. She began working with hair in high school.

“I used to do my friends’ hair for proms. You could say I’m in love with hair. I always tell people it’s a renewable resource. It grows back, like a tree. So have fun with it. Change it.”

As she put it, “Hairdressers can be very artsy, and eccentric. They’re caregivers, often psychologists. That’s another reason I like what I do. I give and it makes people feel better. Some days I think it’s really a silly profession and I should do something profound. Then I get my own hair done and it feels so good, I realize why I’m in the business.”

• Contact Leslie Harlib at

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