Friday, July 25, 2008

Firings: take heed and watch your back!


            Doing hair involves a good share of prostitution-ism: you have to service whoever happens into your chair be they smelly or delusional.  Hopefully the Hairburner becomes successful enough to be able to choose who is paying their rent, yet we still must work on people you’d never talk to in real life.  While making a living washing and cutting people’s hair is actually a business, it includes physical and thus emotional contact. As Allen Edwards once pointed out at a hair seminar: “You may be the only person actually touching your client that day.”  People get attached to their stylists and while this is fun and rewarding, it can also turn south.

            The first client I fired was in the Palisades on a rare Tuesday that Maurice was not working.  That was when I grabbed the opportunity to cut off a John that gave me conniptions.

            His name really was John and he had much less than average looks: a long and bulbous nose and pea-sized brown eyes.  I worked on him for three months before THE INCIDENT.  His forgettable appearance and easy-going manner, combined with an accountant haircut, meant one more no-stress guy was added to my growing cache of clients.  I loved the majority of men who I serviced in the Palisades.  Those khaki and polo shirt wearing dudes were a snap and paid well--John was one more paycheck-padding Daddy.

              When John got cut he was very happy to paw over issues of Cosmopolitan and Vogue, practically drooling over the underwear ads and growling low to himself like Billy Bob Thronton in Slingblade.

            “Mmmmm hmmm, wow, looksie here, yeah.”

             I pretended not to hear and while I was grossed out, still thought this was vanilla enough.  I didn’t care as long as I didn’t have to talk to the dork too much while he got little stiffies over Carol Alt.  The second time I cut his hair he returned from the changing room and asked me if his sideburns were even.  I checked and they were.  He then asked if there was maybe a little more hair over one ear than the other, this too I checked, found two hairs cresting his ear and snipped them off.  He thanked me, paid and left. 

            The next time John came in all went as before.  He drooled looking over the girl magazines, more small talk, asked about the sideburns and paid.  He used the restroom before he left and on his way out asked me if I thought it might be a little too long on top.

            “It could go a little shorter if you like, but I think it looks fine.”  I said, meaning it.

            “It’s your call Mike, just asking while I’m here really.”  He said, smiling buttermilk-colored teeth.

            “Sure, lets cut a little bit more, no worries.”  I cut a snip off his milk-white dome and Mr. Pleated Dockers left.

            The next time he came out of the bathroom and asked if it was his imagination or was it longer on one side.   I told him to sit down and we’d have a good look at it.  Looking at him head on in the mirror I combed and combed and showed him that his stupid, insipid, lame-ass head was even on both sides.   He laughed morning-breath at me and said how sorry he was:

             “It must have been the mirror or the lighting in the bathroom.”

 I falsely laughed back at him, wishing he’d get creamed on the Pacific Coast Highway on his way to work.

            “I guess I’m just neurotic, huh?  He offered, those piggy little eyes of his glued to my face.

            “Not at all, you’re just detail oriented!”  I said.

            “I appreciate it, see you in three weeks.”  

            “Terrific!”  Twenty-one days till another round of chuckles.

            When he returned I was ready.  I had all the magazines with the skimpiest layouts on my station and I was revved up to give him the most even, consistent and technologically perfect haircut of his life.  I cut each side with focus and matched each side repeatedly; the fuck-wad was not going to have anything to complain about.  I spun him around like a Lazy Susan making sure that shit was on.  His elongated nostrils pulsated as I whirled him around.  I smugly finished and he detached his moistened fingers from the magazine to survey his dorky image.

            “Hey Mike, looks really good, thanks man!”

            “Pleasure John, thank you.” 

            “I’ll just make a pit stop and then get out of here.”  And off to the can he dashed.  I shook out the cape and cleaned up my station, knowing he would be pulling at his oily little nubs to find one long hair.  While I knew he couldn’t, I braced for the worst.  He came out, smiled as he passed, paid, waved goodbye and was gone.  My next client, a weekly blow dry arrived and was getting washed when John came back in, all smiles.

            “Oh hi Mike, I hope this isn’t a problem, but can you check my hair in the back, it feels long, here in the back.”

            “Uh lets see, sit down.”

            I turned him around to look at the back of his hemorrhoid-like head in the mirror.  It was even.  My lady was out of the shampoo chair and making her way to my station.  I shoved a mirror in his pedophile hand.

            “Here John, hold this and look, it’s even to my eye.”

            He looked and looked and looked and pulled his hair with his other hand.  He pushed the hair up and over and yanked it down.

            “Huh, it doesn’t look long to you?”

            “Not really, no.”

            “What about here?”  He dug his finger into the middle of his neckline.”

            “No, looks good, really, looks perfect.”

            “Okay if you’re sure.”

            “Yeah, I’m sure.”

            “Great, sorry I’m so picky.”

            “Not at all, see you in three!”

            He left and I got busy on my blow dry.   Five minutes later, he was standing next to me.

            “Hey, sorry, what about here?”  He held a sprig of hair on his crown.  I turned my drier off, excused myself from my client and walked John over to the reception area, feeling vaguely feverish.

            “Look, I appreciate your business and I think you’re a nice guy, but I obviously cannot make you happy and I have to suggest you find another stylist.”

            “Oh no, it’s not that, it’s just this feels out of balance and I know it’ll take two seconds to fix it.”  He held onto the hairs so tight his fingers were white.

            “Your haircut is perfect. I’m sorry but you need to go, NOW, thanks again!”  I ran back to my client and started back on he blow dry praying he’d leave and take his mental illness elsewhere.

            “DON’T YOU DARE WALK AWAY FROM ME!”  Mild mannered beige-clad John barked and the whole salon, three other stylists and three clients, were now his audience.

            “Please don’t.”  I pleaded.

            “I WILL NOT BE DISMISSED!”  he growled still tightly holding the top of his head.  Jill the receptionist came out from behind the desk and tried to take charge.

            “I’m sorry you’re not happy, but can we handle this in a civilized manner?”

            “Yes, he can FIX MY HAIRCUT!”  he yelled.  Now everyone was really getting a show.  I thanked Christ that Maurice was in Laguna with her visiting sister.

            “Please leave, there’s no way I’m touching your hair ever again, just go!”  I shrilled.

            “THIS ISN’T OVER, I’M TELLING YOU IT’S NOT OVER!”  He pathetically ranted cinching up his pants giving himself a fine wedgie before storming out.  We all watched the door, waiting for the return of the beast but he had finally vanished.

            My client Sybil, who had watched the exchange with wide-eyed amusement, picked up a magazine and sarcastically said:  “Couldn’t you just have fixed the poor man’s hair, he seemed so reasonable”

            I was quivering and mortified but got into styling her, one whacko down and more to come.  I loud-whispered over the blow-drier:

            “That was my first client firing, don’t make me do it again!”



Thursday, March 6, 2008

And In Conclusion....


            I looked at our cluster of people Terri, a surfer-type guy and a very short round girl with her hair in pigtails.  The booming voices of the actors onscreen punched the room, causing my eardrums to literally quiver.  A live man’s voice called for us to gather in front of the screen. Bright lights beamed down and I couldn’t see the faces of the five men seated behind the electronic desk in front of us.  It felt like I was in a police lineup.  Then we got our motivation explained.

 “The scene is at an art-opening. Have a little conversation with someone and then move on to someone else.  Talk low to medium in tone and some laughing is okay.  Got it?”

The screen showed the party.  I found myself in a stoned zone of focus and delivery, calm and ready to perform with conviction.  The scene began to roll and I turned to the guy next to me.

“Great use of color don’t you think, not too obvious but really telling a story.”

“Um, yeah dude.  It’s cool I guess, yeah.”  

“Have you seen his work before?”

“His work?” 

“CUT!  Excuse me, what’s your name with the blonde hair?  The director was referring to my scene-mate.


“Ron, you’re talking too loud, ok?”
            “Um, sorry man, ok.”

During the next take “Ron” snorted when he laughed and had to be sorted out again.  The director called Terri over for a couple of minutes then she called a group meeting under searing lights in a tense whisper.

             “Listen, they think you guys are professional actors.  When I got the call to book this I told them you were all the real deal.   Please, please do your best. I know this is a lot to ask, but try.” 

            The whole time she laid this out, her eyes darted from our faces to the row of staring, humorless men behind the electronic board.  She was freaking and I jumped in.

             “Don’t worry, we can do it right gang?” 

            Just before the next take I whispered to Ron. 

            “Just chill man, pretend you’re just hanging with pals, have fun.”            

            He did and it went fine.  They taped a few more party takes then gave us a take ten-minute break.  The director called Terri over again.  My band of non-actors moved toward the snack table.  I popped a Sprite and shoved half of a white-chocolate macadamia cookie in my mouth. 

Ron crunched on a bag of chips and we quietly chuckled at how we were masquerading as actors.  Ron turned out to be Terri’s Dad’s pool cleaner and the chubby girl was his little sister.  Terri appeared from the shadows looking pale.  She spoke through clenched teeth.

            “Look, listen close.  They want some individual takes.  They’re worried that maybe you guys aren’t up for that, but I told them you can do it, please guys do your best and I swear I’ll make it up to you, can you just totally try please?”

            We stared.  Ron spoke.  “Individual takes?”

            “Yeah, it’s easy, a voice on an answering machine.  They want both of you guys to do it, to compare.”

            My heart thumped with horror and excitement, like when I was an altar boy and Father Collins ambushed me in the rectory.  He wrestled me to the ground and pinned me, only letting me up when I started to yell. 

 The men re-assembled at the desk, the lights re-lit, it was Showtime.

            Terri looked at me and whispered if I wanted to do it first.  Yep I squeaked. 

            “Sure?”  She hissed.


            “You sure?”  She repeated.

            “Yeah, yep.   Mmm, right?”  She leaned in.

            “Michael, you really really sure?”

            “Uh, sure, yeah, why not.  I can do it.”  Someone said they were ready, NOW. 

Terri urgently said  “Ok, but can you, you know, try to really sound professional?”

“Yeah, I’ll do my best.”

“And can you, well…try not to sound, too gay?”


 She turned and I followed her.  The enormous room swung out in all directions. I felt both clammy and hot.  I was starving and bloated and fearful of anal leakage. I went up the platform with a microphone above it.  A guy handed me earphones and explained the scene.

            “You’re really really pissed.  You’re leaving a message for this guy who had your place trashed and then sicked the police on you.  Read the lines and we’ll have a run-through.”

            The whole world watched and waited as I looked at the three lines.  Good Christ on a cross, how was I here, not home eating pretzels and peanut butter and sitting at my new desk?  The lights were so hot that I could smell the nylon-blend of my shirt. 


            “Uh, Yeah.” 

            “Put on the headset and when you hear the third beep, start.   Got it??"

            “Yeah.”  Somehow this was happening and I had to handle it.  Beep…Beep…BEEP!! With a quivery breath I summoned as much John Wayne as I could. 

            “Listen Rabonowitz you coc*sucker, you greasy bastard fuc#wad!   Putting the cops on my tail was really fu@kin’ smart.  Now I’m gonna show you what bustin’ balls is all about.  Better watch your ass you dog-#unt eatin’ cheese-dong!”

            The wall-sized speakers on the stage shatteringly echoed an irate Girl Scout screaming at her Barbies. 

            Man’s voice: “Uh, ok, let’s go again but this time start out slower and when you get to the “bustin’ balls” part really pull it out and ride that out big.”

            I was moist in places I didn’t know had sweat glands.  And not just damp, a rashy, itchy hot wetness, flu-like in intensity.


            “Three beeps and hit it man.”

            A sliver of light found Terri as she stood very far from me.  She chewed a nail and held the top of her head with her other hand, she was shitting herself too.  Beep…Beep…BEEP!”

            I started in a low growl, threatening as Alvin & The Chipmunks and did my gosh-darndest to sprout a pair of giant heavy testicles as I croaked toward “bustin’ balls”.  I squealed so loud that by the end I thought I tasted blood.

            “Once more, this time pull it out all the way.”

            I wanted to wrestle the headphones off my head and run wailing to the green exit sign.  I needed a shower and eight jelly donuts.   Three beeps later I was barking and chewing and slamming the words.   By “dong” a few tears mixed with the sweat dripping from my chin.  They decided to break after that take and they told Terri to have us sign our release forms and get our amateur asses the hell out of there.

            An hour later my head lay on the new desk.  I hugged it and drooled.  Joni Mitchell played as I sprayed Pledge on the cheap wood surface.  I rubbed and swirled till the polish absorbed then applied another coat then another making circles long after the album ended.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Left turn--Shifting gears, here is another snippet from later in the book. I'll give you the rest of the story next week, anticipation, it's a killer



            On a Wednesday when I worked in Beverly Hills I had no clients and decided to hang out, smoke some weed and set into a little home project I had been putting off: a desk that needed assembly. 

            The box had sat in our condo storage area for months and today was the day. The pot would make the bland experience interesting.

I ripped open the box in the bright sun-warmed section of the living room rug and placed the hunks of wood-like pieces in a circle, biggest to smallest.  Now it was time to get my groove going. 

I stuck a fragrant bud in my green acrylic bong and, exhaling smoke, I picked up the instructions.  The first instruction was to gently yet firmly attach four of the grooved wooden pegs into the pre-drilled holes on the sides of the eight or ten pieces. 

The exact number of the pegs was included with no extras.  This meant that if I broke one it could result in the entire desk being off kilter and then good luck trying to return it to the office supply store.   I sat and watched myself lugging a riot of right angles into the store with dismissive Hispanic employees wordlessly daring me to ask for their assistance.

Mexican food, I hungered for heaps of saucy enchiladas and Chile rellenos. Piles of steaming salted hot tortilla chips leapt into bright-red salsa. 

My stomach gurgled as I sat sprawled on the carpet with my brain flying, quite a productive twenty minutes so far.  I crawled to the kitchen to chow down for the next five. 

While I devoured cashews, pickles and leftover pasta I tried to get excited about my furniture project: Once I get going with it this will be really fun, how great to lose myself in the process, I just had to get to that losing part.

 I shouted to no one, cashew particles flying out of my mouth.

 “I can do this, and I can do it well!” 

I shoved a final handful of food in and marched over to the CD player.

 This called for disco music, rife with high fructose energy and sexual innuendo. As the base beat thrummed I snatched the bag of grooved pegs and ripped them open.            

 I stuck them in their destined slots to the beat of “Hotline.” (“Hotline hotline…calling on the hotline…for your love for your love” (clap clap).  Then I moved on to step two.  This involved hammering metal screws that would act as receptacle slots for the legs.  I swung the legs around like a tube-topped dance partner and screwed them in with cruel force. 

 My universe consisted solely of the next step on the instruction sheet, the pumping of the dance beat, checking my work and then off to the next step.  An hour into it I could see the finish line- a few minor details and the desk would be done.  I took a couple more puffs and began another round of munchies when the phone rang.  It could have been work calling to say someone made an appointment for today or it could be my Mother wanting to check in so I sat and screened.  My cousin Terri’s voice anxiously inquired if I were there.  I pushed speakerphone.

“Hey girl!”

“Hey, so you are home!  I called your work and they said you didn’t come in, what are you up to?”

“Uh, finishing up a desk.”

“A what?”

“A desk. (Proudly) I put it together.”

“Oh, I’m in a tight spot here and I’m not far from your house, are you available?”

“For what?”

I braced myself for what might come next.  I loved my cousin but the last time I heard that tone in her voice her she needed “background” for a cheesy vampire movie she was in charge of casting extras for, many of who did not turn up.  The shoot was a party scene around a pool in casual clothes with forty other schmoes.  The no-budget production took nearly all night and the only food on hand was potato chips and a few warm orange sodas.  I had dragged along my other half and a couple of our friends:

“Oh c’mon it’ll be fun!”

 And I got verbally abused from all three of them for a year, but Terri was family.  She continued her pitch.

“It’s nothing like “Bleed Brothers” trust me.  I’m on a dubbing stage in Santa Monica.   I booked four atmosphere actors and one didn’t show up.  All you need to do is walk around and talk with the others for some scenes, ya know small talk stuff and they’ll insert it into the film.  It’s a legit movie and you’ll get paid, can you come…like, now?”

My stoned brain swirled: nearby & make a few bucks doing nothing.


            I blasted the disco CD in the car during the ten-minute drive and savored my day.  I had almost finished creating a functional, even impressive. piece of furniture and I was to get paid for mulling about for a halfway decent Hollywood production.  Very high and happy I screamed along with The Village People’s “In the Navy” and turned it down when I pulled up to the guard at the gate.  I forced myself to refrain from channeling Kate Hepburn kindly engaging one of the little people.

            I parked the car and squirted my glazed eyes with Visine.  Entering the reception area a tired looking security guard asked my name and had me sign in.  I did so and tried not to breathe out too much ganja breath.  He pointed to a door and said to go in quietly.

            It was a huge darkened room with five men hunched over a vast computer board covered with levers and switches.  In front of them a movie-theatre sized screen showed a scene of two men trying to break into an apartment.  I waited till someone whispered

             “Are you Michael?”

             And was directed to cousin Terri located somewhere in the dark.  I unsteadily made my way dodging cables and table legs paranoid I’d trip and bring production to a halt.  Finally I found Terri and her band of voice talent huddled like the Von Trapps hiding at the convent.  She shushed me even before I said anything.

            “Quiet…touchy director on premises!”  She whispered.

            “Is there any other kind?”  I whispered back.  

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Audition Blow-Out


            A muffled voice said to come in.  Sitting behind the vast glass-topped desk was a very thin blonde woman with giant collagen lips.  She wore glasses and a headset and looked at papers in her hand.  

“If it’s not there than where is it?” She said.

She looked closely at the sheet and after a beat looked up at me.

“ Oh Yes. Hey.  Have a seat.”

A board that covered one wall listed upcoming projects: “Ambush Makeover March 11th  “German Vogue April 2nd” “Mother/daughter” shoot date to be determined.”

“One more minute...” Nicole said.

I wasn’t sure if that was directed to me, if she was on a call, or if the headset was a prop.  The silence in the room was huge as I sat back on the clear-plastic chair.  Why did I have to be so late? I’m never late!  If I was on time Paige would be here, nice, tattooed, funky Paige who had given me a firm and friendly handshake last week and told me not to be surprised to get a callback.  Nicole peered at me over her glasses.

“So, yes alright let’s get started, I’m Nicole.  Michael right?”

“Yes, Hi.”

She sighed and leaned back in her chair.

“Sorry, I have a deadline and am not getting too much help around here.  First things first.   You’re aware that we have an affluent clientele here and we expect work of a certain standard.”

“Yes, sure.”

“As President of Myles.Studio I need to reiterate that fact to potential employees.  Please go and style your model.  Myles will be out to check your work.  Thank you.”

 She adjusted her glasses and turned away.

            “Thanks.”  I said and got up.  She said nothing.  Any hopes that the job was in the bag vaporized as I walked out to set up my gear.  Where was Myles anyway?  Was he hiding in the recesses of that office?  I passed down the hall that had framed articles about Myles.Studio-- doing makeovers on women in the Army, Myles talking about styling Roseanne’s hair, A mention of Myles.Studio “Disco Gel” in Cosmopolitan… would I be part of this gallery?  The music was low and my footsteps loud as I tried to just do my best and to think lightly of the moment, but my gurgling belly and failing antiperspirant said otherwise. 

            I quietly washed Sue’s hair and got right to styling her.  As I tried to focus, Nicole’s declaration of the “Studio standard” took over and Sue’s hair got bigger with each section till she looked ready for the Grand Ole Opry.  I tried to pat and flatten it, but it bounced back with untamable body perfect for a 70’s shampoo ad.  While I sweated and fussed Myles came out wearing a skullcap and a tight t-shirt with the word: “Whiteboy” on it.  He looked at the Texas-do and said:

“Um it’s a bit “done” for my taste.   Can you make it kinda more mohr-derhn?”

“Sure thing.”   I said and got to pressing with my flat iron. I sizzled each section and pulled the hell out of her hair and she took it like a trooper.  I downsized her to a current Loretta Lynn and decided to step away, sinking in the chair next to Sue.  I felt like I was eight years old and sitting in the confessional before the priest slides open the partition.  Myles popped out again and raked his hands through her hair with a brute force that made her whimper.  He said:

“Yeah-ar, that’s more how I like it.”

 He grasped Sue’s shoulders, thanked her for coming in, turned to me and said              “Come back to the office when you’re red-aye!”

And off he ran down the hall again.  Sue sat holding her head while I packed up and readied to face whatever was waiting for me in the office.

“Geesh, that guy’s hands should be registered weapons.”  Sue said rubbing her crown.

“Sorry for your second manhandling session in a week, I’ll make it up to you!”  I said.

“Just when the burn marks were healing from the other day.”  She said, half-smiling as she left.  I made my way down the Hall of Fame once again and spied an article featuring Nicole in a white suit lounging on a sun chair.  The piece was a Q and A from “Boutique Business” magazine titled “President and First Lady.”  Nicole clearly had the dick here, was it going to swing in my direction? 

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Three's a charm....

 I was almost a half-hour late when I dashed into the Studio.  I didn’t have a cell phone yet so I couldn’t call to let them know I was on my way.  My hopes of becoming part of the magic dwindled with each traffic light.  When I finally arrived Addison, the-even-cuter-than-I remembered concierge, told me that Paige had left and I was to speak with “Nicole” (Mrs. Myles) before my try-out.  He showed me to the same blue chair and I sat and palpitated.  Where the hell was my model Sue?  If she didn’t show up I was double screwed.   The only other people in the giant room were two female Asian stylists who fawned over a single client.  I flipped through a magazine and tried to cheerlead under my breath--“You’ve got the goods, this is no big deal, you can do it and do it well! Sue will show up at the perfect time and this is actually going to be lots of fun!”  These lies rolled by like movie credits and were as easily forgotten. 

            The magazine on my lap was turned to an ad for the army.  A group of khaki-wearing teens were rock-climbing and having a ball.  The quote was “Making money for college was never so adventurous.” Was it too late to go to college? Or could you put the money in retirement if you wanted to?  Did they take forty-three year old hairdressers? Don’t ask don’t tell was still in effect right?  And if it is, is that a good thing? 

            One of the Asian girls looked at me--did I just say “good thing” out loud?  I tried to turn the page but my moist fingertips were stuck to the ad.  Addison’s angelic face peered out from a sheer curtain separating us and said that Nicole was ready to see me.  Then Sue entered the Studio panting and I pointed at the seat I vacated.  Addison walked me back to where I had talked with Myles the previous week and knocked on the door. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Hairburner take number 2

Here, humble readers is tidbit #2, I'm new to this blogging thing and was unable to get back into the site of my first posting,,,,,god willing that will not be the case with this one.  And without further delay I present mo':

 A posting on Craigslist caught my eye.  It was for a stylist interested in working in a hip and cutting edge “Studio”, a space that serviced clients and also hosted fashion shoots.  I don’t consider myself particularly creative or trendy, just a good everyday burner with occasional incidences of flair.   But after repeated readings of page eighty-four in “The Power of Now” and a good third of “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff” I faxed my resume.  I got a call the next day from Paige, the studio manager, who enthusiastically set up a time for me to come in.  I knew this place was not for me, but I looked at it as good practice-interviewing.

            When I walked into the huge modern loft I was blown away: skylights filtered the sun, real Warhol’s lined the walls and a handsome, blazer-clad concierge greeted and directed me to a sky-blue designer chair where I sat and found myself praying to work there.