September 2006: Michelle Della Fave of The Golddiggers

Hairstyling trends come and go with time, but we're convinced every generation has its share of Super-Hair. We first noticed and admired great styles in the 1960's - and we spotted one television program in particular which seemed to have plenty of them.

MICHELLE DELLA FAVE was a member of singing and dancing troupes on The Dean Martin Show -- first with "The Dingaling Sisters," then the likely better-known group "The Golddiggers." That larger group had summer replacement shows for Martin on NBC, and a few members became celebrities on their own. We were impressed enough by Paula Cinko to put her on our Ultimate 50 list -- and in an update there, we mentioned Michelle and our admiration of her long blonde locks. So imagine our pleasant surprise when Michelle sent us e-mail about them! That led to a phone conversation with Michelle about styles past and present, as she talked to us from the Florida Gulf Coast.

Michelle began by telling us about her busy current schedule, with music and acting....

MICHELLE DELLA FAVE: The last musical I did was Camelot here in town, where I played Morgan LaFaye. (Laughs) I had long purple hair in that show.... (both laugh) yeah, that was wild.

SUPER-HAIR: Had you ever had purple hair before?

MDF: Only at an unfortunate time when I think years ago when they used to blue [?] the hair, and then I think they put the toner on after it. There was kind of a purplish hue to it. It was pretty interesting (laughs) - but thank goodness it washed out as time went on....

S-H: How would you describe your current hairstyle -- for those who haven't seen it?

MDF: I've always loved long hair. My hair is long and blonde....

S-H: How long is it these days?

MDF: It was really, really long. But I had to cut a lot off because -- what I did, which is one thing you shouldn't do - I had it really long and red. And I liked the red, but it just didn't seem to give me enough - I don't know, after being a blonde for so long. And it grew to almost my mid-back. It was really long and thick. And then I decided I wanted to do it lighter, and I had my hairdresser do it lighter over the colored hair. And it looked really great for about six, seven months, and then it started to look dry, and unfortunately a little damaged. So I had to kind of cut it in layers.

But in my age, long hair was always one layer and straight -- pushed back and pouffed up. But now, everyone wears it long with different layers. So you can have it short on top, and gradually get it to the longest length in the back....

S-H: Do you like that better than the old way?

MDF: I like it for the volume. But the only thing is, if I just want to wear it straight, then I have to use the iron to kind of calm down the ends. I finally mastered - everyone told me, "Oh, you've got to learn how to use the flatiron." And unfortunately as life goes on, my gray hair came in curly! I don't know why....

S-H: Gray hair? You??

MDF: Long straight hair, with some grays in the front that came in kinky-curly. So I said, "Oh this is great." So I've got two types of hair: I've got straight long hair, and gray kinky hair (laughs).

S-H: That is unusual.

MDF: Anyway, to kind of combat that, I've used a curling iron to kind of smooth it out. And then in Florida, the humidity - I mean, frizz is a part of life here. So if you want to master your frizz, you have to condition it all the time as well as -- using that flatiron helps a lot, although I don't like to use it unless I really, really have to. I like to wear it as natural and as free as possible with gray and bangs. I have bangs now.

S-H: When did you make the switch to bangs?

MDF: I always had it long and straight and split in the middle. But then I decided to go with bangs - after I had my son, I kind of went with short hair, which was really interesting....

S-H: I was going to ask, have you ever had a shorter style....

MDF: Yes, I did, and.... I didn't feel like myself. I don't know - it brought a different feeling to my whole personality. It changed my personality in a strange way. I decided after I had it short that I was going to grow it out again. I tried different colors, too; I like to experiment with my hair, so I tried it darker, and I didn't like that too much. And then after my son was born, it was always getting in my eyes and I couldn't have a short-long shag-type. But I like bangs, so I kept the bangs - and I decided that it would be easier, to clear it so it doesn't get in my eyes when my head is.... (laughs) down as much. And when you're dancing, it's easier because it doesn't swing into your eyes.

S-H: How short was your style, when it was short? How much did you cut?

MDF: There was one time that I was in New York and - in fact, I was going out for work, and I had an offer to go up for the Black Velvet blonde that does the - I really wasn't too happy about doing an alcohol ad, anyway. But my agent said, "Oh, this is a great opportunity. The girls that usually do this have long blonde hair. And it's like the look, with the black gown...." Anyway, right before that I cut it all off - I mean, real short. Like Annie Lennox-style.

S-H: Ooh!

MDF: Yeah, I know. I think I was trying to get out of the memories of an old relationship (both laugh) -- cut that man right out of my hair!

S-H: Indeed!

MDF: So anyway, I did. But I thought it was kind of neat - I just wanted to have a different look. But it was interesting at that time, people were not into that real real short look. So people kind of looked at me like: what did you do to yourself? That as it grew out, it grew out to its natural color - and it was kind of a brownish color. But it was so healthy and thick, and felt really good. And it let it grow for quite a while, as my natural color, for quite a long time. And I enjoyed it, and then I had the bangs, too. And then I went back to blonde again....

S-H: And that's what you are now.

MDF: Yes, I'm back to blonde again. (Laughs) I like the blonde look on me - it feels more who I am, so I guess I like the look.

S-H: Now in the e-mail you sent us, you said: "Long hair is high-maintenance, but worth it." What about your hair is high maintenance, and why is it worth it?

MDF: Mainly, I found with blonde hair, you have to condition it a lot more. It dries out a lot faster. It seems like it doesn't shine, it doesn't pick up the shine, like natural virgin hair does. And so usually I have to color it every month to get the color I like. So I find that I have to condition it -- a deep conditioning, at least once a week. And then to have it the style that I like.... to keep it nice and shiny, I have to really baby it. It's just a different texture. It can break a lot easier, so I have to really make sure I maintain its health. Which means a little more conditioning, and making sure I don't pull and tug at it.

And also, when I go out -- I like to go boating -- I have to make sure I have a hat on my head or it'll dry in the sun (laughs).

S-H: What is the biggest problem you face, keeping your hair in good shape? You've mentioned humidity. You've mentioned the sun, down in Florida.

MDF: Right.... and trying to make sure I get a good style, without having to use too many hair products that are going to dry them out. If I use the flatiron - I've learned how to master that and to use products with it, so it doesn't burn the hair. There are certain things you spray on the hair that help protect it. So I do that. And then if I want a curly full look, -- I still love these Caruso big rollers. I don't know if you've ever heard of them. But they are like spongy rollers, only they use the steam. And I have really straight hair, and it's one thing that'll help keep my hair with lots of body and curl for a long time. So I use that to get the curlier look.

S-H: What other products do you use? Do you have any favorites that work especially well for you?

MDF: Yes, and.... (goes upstairs to check name) it's called S-a-h-a-g Air Power, and my hairdresser told me about it. It's a mistifying hair spray. If I spray this on before I use my flatiron -- and I can even make curls with it, if I've mastered my flatiron, to curl it after I use it to make it straight. And it stays. And I like the way it gives a lot of body. And I like Profound products, and I like Jhirrology products, too. They're all very, very good.

S-H: Let's go back to the days when you did The Dean Martin Show - I guess three decades ago now. Was there a particular style that the producers wanted for your hair, or did they....

MDF: Yes, it's funny. I remember one time, he liked me to have the long blonde straight hair, split in the middle. And other girls, I remember, there were a couple of girls that he wanted - Jayne Kennedy has the most.... absolutely beautiful.... he wanted her to wear this short curly wig. And also I remember with Linnette McKee, and she and I were the Soul Sisters on The Jonathan Winters Show, and he wanted her to look -- have the short hair. And yet she had long beautiful black hair.

He didn't like the girls to change their hair too much. And once I was doing a number, and I wanted to wear it differently -the hairdresser decided we were going to cut it in layers, and then flip it out in different layers, kind of like a long shag that fluffed out. And I came on the set with this new hairdo and Greg Garrison said: "Put your hair back to the way it was!" (Laughs) He didn't like it. He was very particular about the way we all presented ourselves. He didn't want us to change - and it's true, I guess the fans, they get used to us being a certain way, and a certain look -- like each girl was remembered. And my sister, who was in the Golddiggers for a little while, my sister Tanya, she had pigtails for a while....

And he liked long hair, the producer - it seemed like. And Paula [Cinko], who I knew very well at that time, she had the short hair - but it looked great on her, and she always had it fixed perfectly. And there was another English girl named Pauline Anthony, who also had short hair, and we got her when we went to England and did our show from London. She had cute short hair. But Greg Garrison also loved Joey Heatherton; she had that cute short hair....

S-H: Yes, she did.

MDF: And so did Goldie Hawn.... she had shorter hair. But most of the girls, he just seemed to put long hair on.

S-H: What sort of routine would you have to go through, to get that ready -- say, for a taping?

MDF: It was funny, sometimes; if you came in curlers, Greg Garrison hated that.... I was very spoiled at a young age, because we always had.... we had our makeup man and a hair person; it was wonderful. The people that did our hair were great. And if I wanted a fuller look; I one hairdresser that I liked a lot -- she took me to this place in Los Angeles, to get a fall.

And in those days, a lot of us would wear falls so we wouldn't have to damage the hair and get a really full lion's mane look. When I had that look, where it was really really full, I wouldn't have to tease it out to the point where it was ridiculous. I'd put the fall on in the back, and then kind of fluff the crown and the side of my hair so that it would kind of blend in to get this real lion's mane-type look.

S-H: For those who may not know - a fall. Is that like what they call extensions now?

MDF: Yes, it is very similar. It's something that was attached to the back part of the top of your head, and get a lot of fullness. Extensions, as far as I know, are like pieces that attach to pieces of hair. But this was like one thick piece of hair. It helped a lot to save on hair, you know, damage. I liked wearing my own hair (laughs) - all of my own hair. So if I wore it, I kept it straight and tried to - I had someone blow it straight and take care of it. So I was really spoiled in those days.

S-H: Did anyone ever compare you to Barbie? I saw some vid-caps online, and I said you're a Barbie doll come to life with that blonde hair like that.

MDF: (Laughs) Funny you should mention that, because in this new little acting troupe, I play a part where her name is Barbie, and I dress up like the same....

S-H: Oh really?!

MDF: At that time, I don't know if Barbie had that hair. But who knows, maybe I inspired them. But yes, it is very much like Barbie's hair. (Laughs)

S-H: How were you able to keep it in line, through all those dance numbers and moves you did? Because I don't recall your hair ever getting out of line, in all of those maneuvers that you used to do on TV.

MDF: If anything really got out of hand, they would stop tape. But I'm sure to save money - most of the time, I guess I mastered it so that if I wanted to get my hair out of my face, I would kind of pin it back a little - sometimes the top, and that's the side that hangs down straight. If I wanted that fuller look, which seemed to be more popular as time went on, I would spray it to death. You know, lots of hairspray.

S-H: It worked, apparently, from what I could see.

MDF: Yeah -- and after a while, I would know how to set my hair back, so it wouldn't get in my face. And they'd style it so it was kind of sprayed and glued into place. I know that sometimes if I was dancing and I'd kind of flip it around to get it out of my face. Oone of the things you learn to do when you have long hair, and you're going to be performing, you learn how to work your hair.

S-H: Yes indeed, and you do it very well. It seems to me, though, that nowadays, dancers in general - and I guess I'm thinking the cheerleaders at sports events -- they don't take as much care with that anymore. They don't care if their hair seems to just plop down in their eyes when they're performing or moving around. Would you agree with that? Or is it just me?

MDF: I do agree with that.... I don't like it, especially when an attractive girl, she covers her face with her hair. That doesn't work at all. I think that you can still have your hair long in the back - maybe pin up the sides and top part, and have it so that you can see the face. I don't like hair to be too sloppy, anyway; I've always liked when it looks pretty in place and neat.

S-H: Is it just a matter of changing times and tastes, you think?

MDF: I do notice, though, that the younger girls seem to - when you see any of the competitions with the cheerleaders or the dance lines - they pin their hair up, and then their put these little bows and things.....

S-H: A lot of them seem to do that now.

MDF: The older girls, I know that they want to have the long hair. Also, it's not good as a dancer to have hair in your face and your eyes, because it throws your balance or your timing off. So it can be a problem as a dancer, because you can't see to get it out of your eyes right.... Of course, they probably want it more natural looking, and not so stiff. I'm sure in my day, they'd probably say, "Your hair looks like it doesn't move!" (Both laugh)

S-H: So what advice would you give someone who wanted to develop what we call Super-Hair? Especially if they're going to be doing dance performances, like you did for years?

MDF: You're going to have to realize that you're going to have to set your hair - or like I do the Caruso -- you're going to do a lot of swinging around and moving around, you're going to have to prepare the hair. And it's going to take a while. Sometimes, I hate saying it, but teasing it a bit and doing a lot of extra-hold hairspray helps. It really does. And if you have to use extensions for performances, or falls, I think you should.... to make it look fuller. I'm sure a lot of the big stars today do that. I don't see anything wrong with that, especially if it adds to your character or to the look that you're trying to achieve. It's part of the whole overall look - you have to have the great makeup.... and your hair should be part of this.

S-H: One more question for you. We like to ask women who they consider to have the best head of hair they've ever seen. Perhaps with The Golddiggers, perhaps outside of The Golddiggers - who would you say has the best you've ever seen?

MDF: I thought that when Kim Basinger did Batman - her hair was beautiful. She had it really long and blonde, and I thought: how beautiful her hair was then.... There are so many that I have seen. You know, walking down the street, I want to say: "Gosh, what a beautiful head of hair you have.".... Jane Seymour when she was in Goldfinger with that long hair.... I like Shania Twain...

S-H: Shania Twain, yeah.

MDF: She's got pretty hair. And of course, Cher had beautiful hair with that long look that she had.... she wears so many wigs that I don't know what her real hair looks like! (Laughs)

S-H: I know what you mean.

MDF: But I think that my friend Helen Funai has the prettiest hair that I've ever seen, 'cause her hair was long and thick and black and no breakage....

SUMMARY: Michelle openly longs for a Golddiggers reunion with Helen, Paula and the rest of the troupe. (She admits she hasn't seen Paula Cinko in years.) Hair Fans probably would want invitations to that meeting, because Michelle admits in that group's prime, "hair was definitely a plus." Do some online searching or historical hunting in magazines, and we think you'll agree.

Michelle's also happy to see more women older than 40 wearing her hair long. She cited Jane Seymour, but we would cite her as a good example for middle-aged women to follow. Michelle's interest in hair is reflected in what she told us, and how she keeps her style in shape nowadays. With good treatment and preparation, great hair truly can go on for decades.


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