TAMPA — It was a meeting of minds.
John "Tino" Manzolillo, called to the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay to attend to the hair of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, pulled no punches.
The encounter, Mr. Manzolillo told a friend, goes like this.
"She's sitting there in her suite. I walked up, I smiled and I said to her, 'Your hair looks like s- - -.' "
The Iron Lady was unmoved. She liked her helmetlike bouffant the way it was. Perhaps it was a prophetic instinct; a survey by a hair products company would later call Thatcher's hairstyle the fifth most influential over the past 50 years.
"He says, 'Your hair looks terrible for your face and for the size and shape of your head,' " said Neil Driscoll, one of Mr. Manzolillo's condominium neighbors who has spent the past nine years dragging stories like that one out of him.
Thatcher told Mr. Manzolillo that she liked her hairstyle and that was how she wanted it. Mr. Manzolillo complied, finishing Thatcher off with a coat of concussion-proof lacquer.
When Thatcher returned to Tampa and needed another touchup, she again requested Mr. Manzolillo.
Other clients were just as devoted.
"I was the only person in the room when I was in the chair," said Tammy Waugh, 53, a customer who stayed with Mr. Manzolillo from one salon to the next for 30 years. "He wanted to make sure my needs were met. He might have thought I needed my hair to be red, but if I wanted it platinum blond, he made it that way."
For the past 16 years, Mr. Manzolillo was working at French Accent Salon in the Hotel InterContinental in Tampa. At 5 feet 1, he sometimes had to reach to snip stray hairs from the crowns of tall women.
"He would come in at 6 a.m. to do your hair if that's what you need," said Jackie Harold, a French Accent stylist and longtime friend.
Mr. Manzolillo also styled hair for former first lady Barbara Bush when she passed through Tampa, and did the same years later for Laura Bush during her term as first lady.
John Michael Manzolillo was born in Reading, Pa., in 1946, the youngest of an engineer's three children. He went to private schools and college, but always gravitated to hair. For a while as a young man, he lived in Hawaii.
By the mid 1980s he was living in Tampa with partner Christian Duquesney, a waiter at Lauro's and other upscale Tampa restaurants.
He was fluent in French, his family said, and traveled with Duquesney, a Parisian native, to France. He also prepared models for photo shoots in Europe.
In his spare time he loved to cook, and was skilled in several cuisines. "You can rest assured that when you came to his home, you would have a good time," said Maureen Pellegrini, 68, his sister.
He served for many years as president of his condominium association at Tampa Racquet Club and volunteered for LifePath Hospice.
Duquesney, his partner of 35 years, died in 2008. Mr. Manzolillo had recently cut back on his hours at French Accent Salon.
He was enjoying a late-night pancake breakfast in his condo Aug. 24 with Driscoll when some medical event cut his future short.
"We were talking about taco salad one second," Driscoll said, "and then he talked about how his mouth was dry." Mr. Manzolillo slumped forward moments later.
Mr. Manzolillo died Sept. 11 at a Temple Terrace hospice. He was 67.
Though there are others like it, the Thatcher story lives on as a shining moment of his particular charm.
"He had the ability to walk up to the prime minister of England and say, 'Your hair looks like s- - - ' and make it okay with her hearing that," said Driscoll. "That's the kind of personality Tino had."
Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.