Monday, 6 October 2014

Discovering myself... at Stefan's 50th anniversary bash

The carpark full of branded cars for spray tan salons was the first hint of the night that was to unfold.

As we approached the Great Hall,  a stray feather had fallen on the carpet, surrounded by a sequin or two.

Finally, it was hard to miss the massive pink boat on the back of the massive pink truck parked by the front steps.

Yes, we had arrived the Stefan 50th Celebration Awards Night.

Stefan's boat at the entrance

For the uninitiated, Stefan is a Brisbane hairdresser, businessman and boat racing enthusiast who founded his own network of hair salons, which are characterised by a bright rainbow over the entrance.

He hit his strides in the 1980s when he, along with his pink race boat and former Expo 88 Skyneedle, epitomised the glamour, fashion and excess of the the decade.

He was beamed into homes with TV ads and infomercials that begged us to ask the question: "Stefan?".

While other '80s businessmen have long gone, often departing amid controversy and debt, Stefan has managed five decades in business and last night he held a big bash to celebrate.

It was surreal to say the least.   Part formal dinner attended by "Queensland identities", and part prom where hordes of 20-something staff from his salons knocked back free booze.

A feast for the senses inside the event
While the event was listed as a black-tie masquerade ball, this was clearly open to interpretation.  

Let's just say there was plenty of fake tans, teased hair and sequins.   Breasts and thighs were also a prominent part of the evening, and not just on the menu.

With some of the Kardashian-wannabes hitting the grog hard like it was Schoolies all over again, early in the night one of the MCs implored the audience to "take it easy" and "keep an eye on your friends".  Judging by those stumbling to the toilets, it was all too little too late.

But this 50th anniversary bash and awards night wasn't just about the staff, with the Queensland Premier, Brisbane and Gold Coast Mayors, and host of other pollies all confessing their love for Stefan.

Premier Campbell Newman professes his love for Stefan

The only notable absentee was Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who was invited but could not attend, instead sending a recorded video message.   Even in his absence, Tony provided the running joke of the night by continually mispronouncing Stefan's name as "Stef-arn".   Poor Tony.  Still, it's not the first time and probably not the last time he'll provide the comical element to an event (watch out G20!).

As the night kicked off, Stefan appeared on stage, as if by magic.    Then there was an awkward minute or two after he realised the pages of his speech were out of order and he proceeded to reorder them... slowly.

Sensing trouble and "dead air", the audio guys pumped out the "Discover yourself" jingle from his 1980s ad.  Check it out below.

Pages sorted, Stefan proceeded to deliver a touching account of his 50 years in business, even bringing with him the box his father made for him to stand on so he could start tending to salon customers at an early age.   Throughout, he punctuated his sentences with his signature words "beautiful" and "amazing".

He also blamed Raquel Welch for starting the '80s' obsession with perms, admitting not everyone can pull it off and that most women really just wanted to be Raquel Welch rather than look like her.

The running sheet

 With the arrival of The X Factor contestant Taylor Henderson, the Stefan staff temporarily abandoned the bar and rushed at the stage screaming.

Taylor Henderson in full flight

More screaming followed the start of the catwalk, where hair design entries from different salons competed for the prize of a trip to Hong Kong.  

There was rainbow hair, and hair with Stefan's face in it, but my favourite was the hair complete with Stefan's Skyneedle.  

The catwalk


Skyneedle hair

After 50 years in business, Stefan sure knows how to put on a party.

While you get the sense that the '80s heydays are behind him, through his salons and charity work, Stefan has attracted a legion of loyal fans, young and old, who are willing to put their hair and their lives in his hands.

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