January 13, 1992 12:00 PM

CUTTING EDGE NEWSWOMEN

The trend is growing even if the hair isn’t: TV’s female anchors are lopping their locks. First to succumb to the scissors was 20/20’s Barbara Walters, 60, who opted for a shag back in February. Then followed Good Morning America’s Joan Lunden, 41, in June. After Labor Day, Deborah Norville, 33 (late of Today, now a talk show host on ABC Radio), had her hair cropped by Manhattan’s Stephen Knoll. “My hair was never my own on television,” she says. “Now I have a whole new life.”

Last month, PrimeTime Live coanchor Diane Sawyer, 46, joined the crowd. Sawyer’s shearing has earned at least as much ink as did her ballyhooed Dec. 19 interview with Patricia Bowman, the accuser in the William Kennedy Smith rape trial. And that has Sawyer miffed. “I do a year doing investigative reporting,” she told News-week, “and you call about my hair.”

Sawyer made her cutting decision while vacationing last month. “She called me as soon as she got back from her trip,” says her regular Manhattan stylist, Vincent Roppatte. “She said, ‘Vincent, I can’t believe what I did. I want you to see this. I did it on impulse.’ ”

The distressed Sawyer put her head in Roppatte’s hands. “I said to myself, ‘Oh, dear God,’ ” he recalls. “I told her, ‘Listen, it’s hair. It grows back.’ Then I gave it more of a statement.”

Roppatte layered the top and sliced off the sides, creating the now famous style he calls “the cool sophisticate.” According to Roppatte, Sawyer’s husband, film director Mike Nichols, called it something else—at least, at first. “He told me that he went to bed with a sex symbol,” says Roppatte, “and woke up with Peter Pan.”

A different wake-up factor may account for the reaction Joan Lunden has been getting. “Our hair is of interest because we come into people’s homes,” says Lunden, who had hers cut by Manhattan stylist Harry Balderstone. “Charlie Gibson [Lunden’s GMA cohost] makes speeches at universities and comes back saying, ‘All the questions were about your hair!’ ”

Then there was the Friday that New York City hairdresser Bryant Renfroe trimmed Barbara Walters’s shoulder-length bob. That night, 20/20 aired a Walters interview with Russian leader Boris Yeltsin. After the show, Ted Koppel phoned in. Was the Nightline anchor calling to congratulate his colleague on her coup? Not quite. “I like your haircut,” he said.

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