Catya Sassoon was born in New York on 3rd September 1968. As the daughter of the world-famous hairdresser, Vidal Sassoon and his actress wife Beverly Adams, she was thrust into the limelight from an early age, destined to follow in the footsteps of her celebrity parents. Their divorce in 1980 was a traumatic experience for Catya, and as a result, she began to rebel against the strong, yet understated hairstyles that were her father’s signature, instead cutting her own hair into a eye-catching multi-coloured mohawk. Abandoning her studies, she instead spent most of her time partying with her older friends, on one occasion causing mayhem at her father’s Hollywood mansion by filling the swimming pool with his own-brand shampoo. But as Catya would always claim, ‘I never listen to what people say. I mean, I don`t care what they say. I’m not living for my dad, I’m not living for my mother. I’m living for me. Me!`
At 14, she moved to Manhatten from California, leaving the prestigious Beverly Hills High School to become a model. With her willowy figure, luxuriant auburn hair and piercing gray eyes, Catya was immediately signed by one of the city’s top agencies, and was soon gracing the covers of magazines like Seventeen and Cosmopolitan. Appearing in Rolling Stone in 1985, the caption beside her photograph declared, ‘Catya Sassoon defines the word nubile.’
Yet as she recalled, in many respects, it was a far from glamorous existence and at times ‘was sheer hell living there with 12 girls fighting for one of the two available showers every morning at 6.’ After hearing his daughter’s complaints about the daily clamour for the bathroom, Vidal Sassoon bought her a penthouse apartment.
However, Sassoon’s relationship with Catya was often strained, leading her to publicly comment, ‘He knows how to be Vidal Sassoon but he doesn’t know how to be a dad.’ Similarly, her adopted younger brother David, said of their father, ‘His was conditional love. He used material wealth to control the family. If you were doing what he wanted, he showed his love in monetary gifts.’ Furthermore, David added that the four Sassoon siblings were divided, ‘There was Catya and me, the “rebel” kids, and Elan and Eden, the “good” kids.’
Shortly before travelling to Japan for a modelling assignment in June 1984, she met Luca Scalisi, the 18 year-old son of an Italian film producer. He proposed in a matter of weeks. Vidal Sassoon gave his consent to the union, but insisted it should be a traditional Jewish ceremony, and that the wedding took place at his home. Catya and Luca Scalisi were married in August 1984. The marriage was short-lived and they separated soon after the release of Tuff Turf in January 1985. Starring James Spader and Robert Downey Jr., Catya was cast as Feather, a character described as being a ‘somewhat trashy teenager.’
Above: Trailer for Tuff Turf (1985)
Despite an auspicious start, and boasts that she was ‘going to go farther in the film business than either Brooke Shields or Christie Brinkley,’ Catya’s film career quickly stalled and, she was only offered a very minor role in the 1986 drama Inside Out with Elliott Gould and Jennifer Tilly. Continuing to model, Catya had also become addicted to drugs, admitting in an interview with Joan Rivers that she had even suffered a heart attack due to her heavy drug use. Adams also spoke out, admitting that her daughter’s habit had been so serious that ‘There were times I felt I was going to lose her.’ Indeed, Catya was no stranger to the devastating effects of addiction and had witnessed the dreadful impact of her mother’s alcoholism.
Following a lengthy stint in rehab, by February 1990, Catya had conquered her demons and toured America with Adams, who was promoting her book, Fantasies. Later that year, she returned to acting and made appearances in a number of television shows, such as Hardball, The Fanelli Boys and Out Of This World. Additionally, Catya attempted to break into the music industry, founding and singing with her own girl-group, The Feline Force.
In 1992, she was given small parts in the erotic thrillers Dance With Death and Secret Games , as well as the action-packed Bloodfist IV: Die Trying. In 1993, she accepted the lead role in Angelfist, Roger Corman’s martial arts cult classic in which she played Kat, a police officer who travels to the Philippines to enter a kick-boxing tournament, in order to avenge the death of her sister Christy, who was brutally murdered by a shady political organisation.
Above: Trailer for Angelfist (1993)
Two years later, Catya appeared in her final film, Bloodfist VI: Ground Zero, which went straight to video. This time, motherhood had spirited Catya away from acting; she gave birth to her first child, a son named London Vidal, in 1995. Soon afterwards she married screenwriter Joe Meyers, and after having twin girls Mycca and Skye in 2000, she decided to focus exclusively on her family. Once asked if she was ready to have children, Catya replied, ‘I want to be financially stable. Emotionally, too.’ Pressed as to when that might be, she confessed, ‘Financially stable, about 12 months. Emotionally stable? Never.’
Above: Trailer for Bloodfist VI: Ground Zero (1995)
Ostensibly happier than she had ever been, Catya and her husband attended a party at the home of a friend, on New Year’s Eve 2001, but were forced to leave early after she started to feel ill. When he tried to awaken her during the early hours of 1st January 2002, Meyers discovered a lifeless Catya, who had apparently died in her sleep. Given her history, it was assumed that she had suffered a heart attack, however, an autopsy revealed the cause of her death to have been an accidental overdose of hydromorphone. Cocaine was also found in her system.
A year before his own death in 2012, Vidal Sassoon lamented the loss of his beautiful and, in Adams’s words, ‘wild and crazy and stubborn’ daughter, and how, were it not for her uncharacteristic submission to the demons that finally overwhelmed her, ‘she could have done something in this town. Her mother being in films, we had a whole bunch of publicity. There were studios interested in Catya but she kept shooting herself in the foot. Misbehaving.’
Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries – Paul Donnelley (2003)
Vidal: The Autobiography – Vidal Sassoon (2010)