Townsend tames 'that Kennedy hair'


If the band had played a song for Kathleen Kennedy Townsend yesterday, a fitting number would have been "Lady in Red."

The eldest child of the late Robert F. Kennedy made her debut as the state's first female lieutenant governor in a stylish red tweed suit and short new hairstyle -- leading to speculation that she had a make-over before assuming her historic post.

But her chief of staff, Alan Fleischmann, says she didn't revamp her image. She simply got a haircut that gave her a "sporty . . . winter look."

The upswept 'do resembled one tried once by another much made-over political figure: Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Denise Klicos, owner of D.K. Salon & Co. (formerly Stars) in Lake Falls Village, gave Mrs. Townsend the $50 haircut on Monday. She said the two women decided to create something "easy to handle, yet smart and feminine."

"That Kennedy hair is a lot for women to handle," she says. "I tried to give her something that's not so wild."

The cut -- similar to the style worn yesterday by Mrs. Townsend's mother, Ethel Kennedy -- drew compliments from other local stylists who saw the lieutenant governor on television during yesterday's inaugural proceedings.

"It's a finished, polished look," says Tony Sartori, owner of Sartori's in Mount Washington. "It's up and away from her face. It lifts up her chin."

Corbin, a stylist at Ashley's salon in Baltimore, called it "a bob-y little number" and praised its subtlety.

"Not everyone is a glamorous person. I would say she's not," says Corbin, who doesn't use his last name. "A gentle enhancement was the best way to go, not demolition and reconstruction."

In the past, Mrs. Townsend, a mother of four, has appeared unconcerned about her image -- turning up, for example, at speaking engagements wearing no makeup.

But since moving here more than a decade ago, her appearance -- heightened by her prominent Kennedy hair and teeth -- has drawn attention. A 1986 Baltimore magazine profile, written when she ran unsuccessfully for the 2nd District congressional seat against Helen Delich Bentley, mentioned that she had dispensed with "loose-fitting, earth-tone clothes," was "seriously studying makeup for the first time" and had "practiced speaking with a cork in her mouth" to improve her voice.

In recent days, Mrs. Townsend, 43, has turned up at seemingly every public event in show-stopping red. At Tuesday's Camden Yards party, she wore a red cocktail dress trimmed in gold bead -- a flashier outfit than the white blouse and black skirt worn by the governor's wife, Frances Hughes Glendening.

For the inaugural itself, Mrs. Townsend selected a red suit from Saks Fifth Avenue. And at last night's ball, she was planning to wear a red beaded dress by A.J. Bari.

"Red is a bright, happy color to her, and she's celebrating," Mr. Fleischmann says.

Her fashion efforts caused some local beauty consultants to wonder why the new governor hadn't fine-tuned his appearance for the day.

"[Parris] Glendening could use a make-over," says Mr. Sartori. "I'd like to see him in more natural fibers, and he could use a cellophane [tint] to control the gray in his hair."

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