It had all the right ingredients: a Greek mother, charmingly Southern white-haired ladies and gregarious gay men. "This is 'Steel Magnolias' meets 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,'" the actress declares in an interview with Style last week.
And then there is Matenopoulos herself, a vivacious talker who overflows with laughter while describing her own foibles, like showing up to meet Barbara Walters sporting pink hair, a miniskirt and big black boots.
She has high hopes that her show proposal will succeed. A six-minute presentation tape of footage from Opulence Salon and Day Spa, on West Cary Street, was received well by E! producers, she says. When she returns to the West Coast, she'll shop it around to VH1 and Bravo.
The Oxygen network has also signed Matenopoulos to write a TV movie based on her life growing up in Richmond "exaggerated to the hilt," she warns called "Made for TV: The Debbie Matenopoulos Saga."
Last week, while on a brief trip home to Richmond, Matenopoulos spent hours gathering material as she whirled around Opulence, camera in hand. She filmed her mother, stylist Froso Matenopoulos. She filmed curious ladies getting their hair curled and set. And most of all, she filmed salon owner Ray Dull and other male stylists as they tended to their clients and took innumerable cigarette breaks.
"Are you spraying your hair?" she demands of stylist Jaime Watts, camera in hand.
Indeed, that is what he is doing. "Look how feathered that is," he says. "It's beautiful."
Dull, a Richmond stylist for 35 years, has known Matenopoulos since she was a little girl. Her mother would bring her into the salon, which was then known as Bailey's, next to the Carytown Ukrop's. He dotes on her like an adoring uncle and saves all the magazines that mention her name.
Dull was one of those who taught Matenopoulos everything she would later need to succeed: "Drugs. Party. Hands on hip," he says, grinning. Her mother protested the early makeup and hair lessons, Matenopoulos says, and mimics her Greek-accented tirades: "No. I sorry. She little girl, you no put makeup on her."
The protests failed, as evidenced by the actress's camera-ready look and long curls perfectly coiffed, although she left her regular stylist in Los Angeles. "Everything I know about being a fabulous woman I learned from these men," Matenopoulos
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