'I was styling Sharon Stone in her hotel when she suddenly opened her robe to reveal that she was totally naked'
As he celebrates 30 years as hairdresser to the stars, Charles Worthington tells Anne McElvoy of one of his most surprising encounters, being awarded an MBE, and catwalk secrets
Charles Worthington is in his upstairs den, high above the clatter of his Percy Street salon, around the corner from where he first set hair trends three decades ago. The veteran of stylish London hairdressers looks like a gentler Simon Cowell: expensive tan, white shirt and wide grin. Ruffled would be the polite word for his hair, which is glossy but standing on end. "It's a good way to check if a cut works," he protests.
Downstairs a team of his stylists - 100 or so - are snipping, colouring and transforming mousy heads into shiny golden locks and pallid greys to slinky ash blondes.
This month, he celebrates three decades of telling us how to tame and tease our crowning glories.
A new generation of big names still trundles to him to avert bad hair days in the public gaze. The day I arrive to see him, Emma Stone has been consulting his chief stylist, Mathew Soobroy, on a colour change.
After her Oscar for La La Land, she ditched Titian red for honey blonde to play a maid in The Favourite, an 18th-century drama. The entire Broadchurch cast also owe their tousled hair dos in season two to the salon.
From Brondes to Balayage, waterfall braids to razor partings, Worthington has influenced the looks of the catwalk. "The risks are what you remember," he says. "We sent models down the catwalk for Erdem with waterfall braids." They're fiddly, those plaited waterfall styles, I object. Lopsided ones look great on willowy teenagers - it's harder to pull off at home for the over-25s.
The first Charles Worthington salon was set up in Charlotte Street in 1987 on a budget of under £10,000. Flicking through the styles he's imparted since Madonna and the Bee Gees were in the charts is also a guide to Londoners' changing tastes.
I remember the eighties as perms and boring bobs, but apparently I wasn't in the right hair zone. He even defends the perm. Technology has developed a lot, he says, and the perm might yet have its day again.
One of his 'dressy' stylists, Gorka, shows me how to put a medium-length bob into an up-do (answer - with more hairspray and pins than you have seen outside a Pedro Almodóvar movie).
Worthington is reserved and well-spoken in the world of attention-loving, chirpy celeb stylists. He has his MBE from the Queen. His parents expected him to be an architect. "They were surprised, but very tolerant, when I announced I was going to do hair. It wasn't the first career choice for middle-class chaps at the time in a lot of eyes."
His first famous customers were Jonathan Ross and model Jodie Kidd. Worthington has used the A-list carefully, gaining confidence and then suggesting a sweeping change of style. He persuaded the model Erin O'Connor to cut off her locks for a cropped look.
"It was risky for a model at the time, but she liked the idea that a haircut could give the impression of female power. I think we helped change how women felt about their hair and the fact that they could choose any look, long or short."
The nineties were "all about the Rachel - the smooth mid-length layers of Jennifer Aniston in Friends".
The style also moved the centre of gravity for rising hair stars to New York, so Worthington headed there in 1998 to join the select ranks of English practitioners in Manhattan.
He cut hair for Kim Cattrall, who grew so fond of him that she offered him a walk-on part in the final episode of Sex And The City, which was partly filmed in the salon.
"I was a bit busy, so I said I couldn't spare the time," he groans. "And of course I realise I missed the big TV moment of my entire life."
In the US, he styled Diana Ross's locks for the Met Gala, and his New York salon was a hive of British talent. "I'd see Vivienne (Westwood) and Joely (Richardson) come by and we kept a British vibe, down to the right sort of tea."
He launched the sleek product range, which he sold to Cussons in what was said to be the biggest product deal by a single-name hairdresser since Sassoon.
Davina McCall, TV presenter and a longstanding friend, tells me he is "the most instinctively creative person" she knows.
"He thinks about everything in design, so he'll come up with beautiful ways to wrap things or cook dinner. He gives fabulous presents."
He shuttles with his long-standing business and life partner, Allan Peters, between London, Mykonos and Sussex (the fruits of their labours are some swanky houses). He is trusted for big occasions by the likes of Tracey Emin, Kelly Hoppen, Emilia Fox and Davina McCall. "People want faster appointments and more quick sessions in between appointments, so we've adapted and offered different ways of doing things. Craft and continuity are the watchwords. "
I'd love to know if anything goes wrong. He dodges that question, but offers one of his more "surprising" moments. He was styling Sharon Stone in her hotel suite when the two talked about exercise regimes.
"She suddenly opened the towelling robe, naked and announced: 'I'm ripped!' She was stunning - completely in the buff. So I turned very pink and said in a very English way, 'Oh yes, you really are', and then we carried on with the session."