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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

From a tress to distress: Celebrity stylist returns home to Spokane, shares hair-raising artistry at Salon Nouveau

It didn’t take long for Bradley Irion to go from a tress to distress when he learned of the potential impact of the pandemic last winter. Unlike many Americans, the celebrity hairstylist was aware that the novel coronavirus was serious.

The Spokane native’s friend and client, actress Leslie Grossman from “American Horror Story,” revealed that a horror story was on its way to America.

“Leslie told me (in February) about this show that is like the ‘Dateline’ of Australia,” Irion said. “It focused on these Australian tourists stuck in Wuhan due to the coronavirus. After I saw that, I freaked out. I knew the coronavirus wouldn’t be over in six weeks once it reached America.”

Irion, 49, who had been living in New York since 2001, quickly bought a one-way ticket to his hometown in mid-March since he feared Gotham would become the equivalent of a Stephen King novel.

“I was worried they would close the bridges, tunnels and airports,” Irion said. “I couldn’t wait to leave. Once they closed the bars and restaurants in New York, I knew it was trouble.”

When Irion arrived in Spokane, bars and restaurants were also shuttered, but he was able to relax since he felt safe.

“I immediately felt better,” Irion said. “My mother picked me up at the airport, and I’ve been back here ever since.”

It’s been nearly 20 years since Irion, who handles the hair of actresses such as Katie Holmes, Jennifer Coolidge, Lana Condor (“X-Men Apocalypse,” “Deadly Class”) and Miriam Shor (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” “Swingtown”), toiled in a salon.

Irion made a name for himself at the late, lamented 30th Off Grand, which was run by his friends Terri Brazil and Stephanie Sather.

Thanks to his friends, who own Salon Nouveau, Irion is creating art with scissors and treatments once again in Spokane.

“It’s such a blessing to have Bradley back here,” Sather said. “Bradley brings so much energy, experience and excitement to our salon.”

Irion, an amusing extrovert with an enviable mane – dark brown lustrous hair with highlights that is just past his shoulders – fits right in with the shop, which is a glamorous oasis.

Brazil and Sather, who look like they could step off a Hollywood soundstage, set the tone. That was particularly so a generation ago when Irion’s friends were a pair of bombshells. For proof, check out a photo of the trio from 1991.

“They’re both wonderful people,” Irion said. “I’ve known Terri since I was in high school when I had my hair colored for the senior picture.”

After graduating from Lewis and Clark High School, Irion attended beauty school. Thanks to Jerry Geier, who owned Salon Au Post and 30 Off Grand, the South Hill native started working at the former.

When Brazil and Sather opened Salon Nouveau 23 years ago, Irion joined them. When a job opened in hair education in New York 19 years ago, Irion jumped at the opportunity.

“I told my mother that it was now or never,” Irion said. “I wanted to go to New York, and I packed two suitcases and a bamboo plant and I was off.”

It took a pandemic for Irion to return. “I’m happy to be back,” Irion said while on a break at Salon Nouveau downtown. “I love it here.

“Fortunately, I kept my Washington cosmetology license. I love being here working on old friends who have done so well. Everyone is so nice in Spokane.”

Irion’s return isn’t permanent. He has retained his Greenwich Village apartment and intended to fly back to Manhattan in August.

“I’m going to go back, but I’m not sure when,” Irion said. “I don’t think 2021 is going to be easy. I think there is still much to deal with, and I’ll stay in Spokane while that is all worked out.

“As much as I enjoy it here, I have to go back to New York, which is like being in a bad marriage you don’t want to quit. It’s expensive, overpopulated, and it stinks, but you can make any dream happen there, and you can move mountains in New York.”

Irion has realized a dream and made many friends and strong impressions. Irion’s hair attracted the attention of Fabio, who possesses locks that are nearly mythic.

“Guys with long hair do check each other out,” Irion said. “I caught Fabio checking my hair out. It’s cool. I have enough hair to be able to be in a hair metal band.

“It’s fun and it’s great because hair is what I do. I cut it, I style it, and I’m doing it back here in Spokane.”

When Irion isn’t in Salon Nouveau, the self-described squirrel whisperer can be spotted in Cannon Hill Park feeding his pals. “I love squirrels,” Irion said.

“When I’m in New York, I grab coffee in the morning and visit the squirrels in Washington Square Park and relax.”

And then Irion works with his celebrity clients. “It’s fun working with someone as nice as Jennifer Coolidge, but I enjoy working with everyone in Spokane,” Irion said.

“No matter who I work with, we roll out the red carpet at Salon Nouveau. We make everyone feel special. It’s so good to be back here.”