Paul Huntley, Hair Master of Broadway and Hollywood, Is Dead at 88

The many famous heads he worked on included those of Elizabeth Taylor and Carol Channing. Some actors requested him in their contracts.


By Robin Pogrebin

Paul Huntley, the hair stylist and wig designer who gave Carol Channing her expansive bouffant in “Hello, Dolly!,” Alan Cumming his plastered curl in “Cabaret” and Sutton Foster her golden bob in “Anything Goes,” died on Friday in London. He was 88.

His death was confirmed by a friend, Liz Carboni, who said he had been hospitalized for a lung infection.

Mr. Huntley left New York for London, his native city, in February, and made clear in an interview with The New York Times that his work on “Diana: The Musical,” which is to begin performances on Broadway in November, would be his last. The pandemic, he said, had dried up opportunities, and his fractured hip was hurting.

In a 60-year career, Mr. Huntley styled hair and created wigs for more than 200 shows, including “The Elephant Man,” “Chicago” and “Cats.” He was so respected that Betty Buckley, Jessica Lange and others had contracts specifying that he would do their hair.

“He put wigs on my head for every show except ‘Les Miz’ in London. He was the master,” the actress Patti LuPone said. “When I put on a Paul Huntley wig, I never felt anything but my character.”

The costume designer William Ivey Long called him “by far the premier hair designer on the planet, hands down.”

Mr. Huntley’s output was prodigious, and he typically worked on several shows at once. In 2014 alone, he turned out 48 wigs for “Bullets Over Broadway” and more than 60 wigs and facial pieces for the Shakespeare Theater Company’s two-part “Henry IV” in Washington.

In 2002, when he designed the hair for the Broadway musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” he also worked on “Morning’s at Seven,” “Hairspray” and the Off Broadway comedy “Helen.”

For the show “Diana” — a version of which, filmed without an audience during the pandemic, is scheduled to premiere on Netflix on Oct. 1 — he created four wigs for the actress Jeanna de Waal to portray how the style of the Princess of Wales changed over time, from mousy ingenuousness to windswept sophistication.

Paul Huntley was born on July 2, 1933, in Greater London, one of five children of a military man and a homemaker. He was fascinated at an early age by his mother’s movie magazines. After leaving school, he tried to find an apprenticeship in the film industry, but the flooded post-World War II job market had no space for him, so he enrolled at an acting school in London.

He ended up helping with hair design for school productions and in the 1950s, after two years of military service, became an apprentice at Wig Creations, a large London theatrical company. He went on to become the main designer, working with the likes of Vivien Leigh, Marlene Dietrich and Laurence Olivier.

Mr. Huntley helped construct the signature braids worn by Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 movie “Cleopatra.” Ms. Taylor introduced him to the director Mike Nichols, who a decade later enlisted Mr. Huntley to do hair for his Broadway production of “Uncle Vanya” at Circle in the Square. He eventually became the go-to designer for plays and musicals, including “The Real Thing,” “The Heidi Chronicles” and “Crazy for You.”

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