Nick and Royston: Why it's time for celebrity hairdressers to hang up their scissors after half a century
For half a century, Royston Blythe and Nick Malenko have been hairdressers to the stars.
They have flown across the world to tend the tresses of the rich and famous, dined with A-listers at the glitziest of restaurants, and their regular TV appearances made them celebrities in their own right.
And on Friday the most famous hair stylists in the Midlands will finally hang up their scissors. The pair dubbed the 'Dream Queens' by Lorraine Kelly are to retire from running their salons in Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury.
The couple's work has graced front covers of Vogue, Hello and OK magazines, and they styled Katie Price and Peter Andre for their glittering wedding at Highclere Castle in 2005.
To many they are probably best known for their starring role in The Real Housewives of Cheshire, but they have also appeared on Tamara Ecclestone’s Tamara’s World, Coleen’s Real Women, and most recently Britain’s Top Takeaway with Sara Cox. They were even due to appear on the 2008 series of Celebrity Big Brother, but the series was cancelled following a race row involving Indian actress Shilpa Shetty.
But the story began in the far less glamorous surroundings of suburban Wednesbury, and Royston dyeing his mother's hair with a toothbrush.
He says: “In those days we didn’t have much money, we lived on a council estate, but my mother used to have her hair dyed and would buy a chemist colour and I used to put it on with a toothbrush, and then I’d go and do the neighbours. I think I was only about 12.
"I had got a sister who was 12 years older than me, and I was always doing her hair. I had always got a comb in my pocket."
Royston, 66, and Nick, 64, have long been known for their flamboyant dress sense, and were always snappy dressers even during childhood.
"My sister used to spend all her wages on dressing me, she made sure I always had all the modern gear, I always had it before the other people," says Royston.
After Holyhead Road Secondary Modern School, Royston trained at a local hairdressing college, eventually landing a job with Birmingham-based celebrity hairdresser Raymond Bessone, or Mr Teasy-Weasy as he was known.
“He was the first TV hairdresser and was on the television every week," he says. "It’s really where I started off."
It was a similar story for Nick, who grew up a few miles up the road in the Wednesfield area of Wolverhampton.
"I always wanted to do something with fashion, but you had to go to university," he says.
"In those days, university was a big thing, and I knew I would never be clever enough for that. I thought hairdressing would be the next best thing, and I never looked back. I started my first job at 14, and it took off from there."
Pop star Freddie Garrity, lead singer of Freddie and the Dreamers, was one of his earliest celebrity customers, and from then on his reputation would grow and grow.
Bond girl Ursula Andress, Hollywood actress Goldie Hawn, and pop star Katy Perry, all became customers, along with model Melinda Messenger, and movie stars Antonio Banderes and Mickey Rourke.
When Nick and Royston tied the knot in a civil ceremony in 2006, actresses Rula Lenska and Lorraine Chase led the chorus at the reception.
Royston has particularly fond memories of him and Nick being invited to dinner by Welsh songstress Shirley Bassey.
"There were four of us, there was me, Nick, Shirley and Lisa Boyce, who was the partner of Billy Fury," he says.
"She was absolutely fabulous, very down to earth.
"Since then I have seen her so many times it's like we're long-time buddies."
Doing the hair for Peter Andre and Katie Price, for their marriage at Highclere Castle, Hampshire, in 2005, was another memorable occasion. The couple had met while filming I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, and the wedding attracted a lot of media interest.
"It was the celebrity wedding of the year, and was in all the magazines," Royston recalls.
Yet while the pair clearly love the glamour of the celebrity circuit, Royston says it is still his regular customers who are closest to his heart.
"I love more than anything being in my salon with my regular customers,” he says.
“People often say they can’t believe it. I’ll have been at Elton John’s house on a Thursday night and I could be queuing up outside a chippy the next. But I can always be seen.
“The mixture of customers is great. One minute I have someone who goes to bingo and works in a factory and the next I’ve got a billionaire or a titled person or royalty. But we all get on and it’s one big party. Everybody is the same, they all pay the same and get treated the same."
The couple opened their first salon at Compton, Wolverhampton, in 1989, and this was followed a few years later by a branch at the Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair, which provided them with opportunities to work with royal households, celebrities and fashion designers. Among them was Christian Lacroix who presented a show at the Victoria & Albert Museum. They also took part in a five-day event for Royal Warrant holders at Buckingham Palace, which was attended by The Queen.
"It was amazing, if somebody flew in for a meeting with Mr Fayed at Harrods, the first thing they would do was call in to have their hair done," says Royston.
But about 10 years ago they decided to quit London, and replace their salon at the Dorchester with one in Dogpole, Shrewsbury, instead. Royston says the strain of travelling to and from the capital was a major factor in this.
"London has always been close to my heart, even as a child my mum would take us to London twice every year," he says.
"We have had two apartments in London, in Sloane Square and Hyde Park, I started dancing in nightclubs in London when I was about 18.
"We have always loved London, but as you get a bit older, you want an easier, quieter life."
And by this time, Nick and Royston's reputation had spread so far that customers were prepared to travel to them.
Prince Harry's wedding to Meghan Markle in 2018 was a case in point.
“We had people getting chauffeured here from Windsor who had flown in from America, just to come here for blow dries. I couldn’t believe it. I was honoured," he says.
The couple, who now live in Chesterton, near Bridgnorth, say that for all their glamorous lifestyle, their roots are still very much in the Midlands.
"I've still got friends from when I was at school," says Nick.
"We still spend time with the same people we did when we were growing up.
"I love where I'm from, I love the people."
Their two salons will continue to operate under the award-winning team that Nick and Royston have put together.
The couple haven't yet decided how they will spend the next chapter in their lives.
"One thing’s for sure," says Royston, "it won’t be dull and boring."