THE INTERNATIONAL HOUSE OF HAIRDOM
Being new to a big city did have its advantages, but unfortunately with those advantages came the disadvantages. The bigger the city, the more diverse, perverse, decadent, unusual, and sociopathic it becomes. All of those adjectives would describe the future experiences that I was about to unveil a little at a time. It was a good thing that I was still young enough to have a certain amount of innocence intact as the experiences that were to follow would have had a different impact if I had been older.
There would have been different outcomes if I had a little more life knowledge under my belt, but fate held my hand and removed the innocent layers one at a time. Slowly my eyes opened to just how much craziness existed in the world. Most of this newly found information had been held back by living in a smaller town and pure naivety, but then I was jumping in with both feet and could hardly wait to get wet. Looking back I can see where I should have made a right turn instead of a left, and which door I should have shut before I opened another door.
All things that most of us human animals must experience in order to gain the life knowledge needed to stave off any other crazy situations that may appear. Knowing when to leave is the smartest thing that anyone can learn, and luckily that was to be my first real lesson by living in the big city. After settling into my new home and my new city I began the task of looking for a new salon to begin work in. While it seemed there was a hair salon on every corner I was not willing to settle into another ordinary work environment. I would spend a couple of weeks visiting several places with which to work in yet nothing arrived that was a comfortable fit. As fate slammed its gavel once more, I was out once again shopping when I took the direct wake up call. Located in the elite shopping mall that I was in was the salon that I was to begin my next phase of hairdressing.
Entering this new area of HAIRistocracy was my premier visit to the world of well to do society matrons and dashing blue blooded men. Crossing through the doors of this salon put you into a past world of elegance and waning 1960’s décor. The grand crystal golden chandelier lighted the way into the marbled front foyer. There you were greeted by the reception staff. Always buzzing and chaotic receptionists would check you in and see to your needs before the stylist would be ready to see you. The receptionists decided the fate of the stylists each day by the correct booking of time, client needs and client tolerances and insecurities; in other words, incorrect booking meant a disaster that would destroy any semblance of a calm and flowing day of elite hair maintenance.
As you made your entrance into the large flowing styling area, custom made styling stations lined the walls. Matching themed décor golden mirrors hung elegantly to entice a view from every angle. The styling chairs emanated auras of the previous past decade of clients who had frequented the salon. It was obvious that the grandiose furniture had seen better days, yet all the pieces still held their regal appearance and still functioned well. Even though the decorum could have used a renovation most clients just accepted it as it was.
The area where you were taken for shampooing and chemical services was strategically placed away from the styling area to insure the privacy and security for the clients who did not wish to be seen during some rather unattractive processes. Six deep black shampoo sinks stood behind the line of long lounge chairs, where the clients laid back and let the professional techs take control. All techs wore their white uniforms and white polished shoes, and were only seen when they escorted the freshly washed and toweled client to the stylist’s chair. They were to disappear as quickly as they appeared. We were told to stay away from their area and only use the shampoo area if time was of the essence and the techs were all busy, otherwise you remained in the styling area.
It was a very new and different scenario from the past work situation yet the atmosphere was always charged with a vibrant energy which I would later understand as too much testosterone in one work environment. I was a fish in a big pool and the sharks swam around all the time just waiting to take a bite out of me and watch me drown. I learned how to be a different kind of fisherman, and survive without getting hooked, caught, and thrown back out to sea. Although there were some times when the hunter got captured by the game, I still managed to live to tell and came away with a whole different point of view.
This NEW styling position that I became a part of was once again a Salon Europa and this time I would be working for an owner from Germany, as if the Italian had not been enough. Nothing could have prepared this country boy for “Allemange Attitude” which is French for German attitude. It was there that I would be slapped awake and would learn how to keep my eyes and ears opened more than ever. This International House of Hairdom turned my working hours into a complete and utter challenge like never before. Evilness is created by those who seek to control and manipulate, which is probably why they hired me in the first place. I would assume that they felt that I could hold my own, and as a novice actor I guess I convinced them that I could but was really faking my way through it all.
The salon was one big sea of testosterone and only one other female stood behind the styling chairs. By the owner’s German standard way of thinking no woman could style hair the way a male was able to. Only one female made it on the roster of stylists in this salon. The only other women of employment were the receptionist’s and the shampoo tech’s who would diligently work and be completely subservient to all the roosters who strutted throughout the salon. If ever there was a sexual discrimination suit to be won it would have been here.
The owner was one of a healthy stock of German and European stylists who were trained and brought to the states by the former owners of the salon establishment. My new boss was one of many young European male hairdressers that were brought to the Unites States to work for a mere pittance for the chance to work in a salon in America. He had worked his way up through the ranks as an apprentice and survived those hard working years of the 1960’s when you would shampoo and set up to 30 women a day. He started with learning to shampoo and then after that slowly learned the skills shown by the previous owner who ran the large operation that he now called his own. Unfortunately he felt that all the other stylists were beneath him and no one was better than he was in his styling skills. Tall and strikingly handsome, he seemed to command any room that he walked in to. Whenever he walked, his dark blonde hair would bounce on his head and he always had a rude comment to share if he should get in your line of eyesight. I often wondered why he would choose to say such mundane and irritating comments and now I realize it was his way of trying to stay above everyone else. By trying to degrade others presence it gave him the air of superiority. Anyone of us who showed him up would always reap the consequences of his insecurities. The one great quality he showed was his love of family. He was married to an American woman and he had two children to complement his solid marriage. Despite his manners or lack thereof in communication skills with his staff, he was one hell of a hairdresser. I just had to learn his body language, and in doing so I learned how to react to his attitude.
Trying to keeping in step with this kind of behavior was a challenge that I did not like very well and made it my goal to prove that I could take him on at any time. The fact that I was twenty years younger than he was, only made his vulnerability show through even more. I was the youngest in the salon and being the new kid on the block, I had to take his knocks and keep fighting. His arrogance and attitude seemed to create some rather embarrassing situations in the salon. His flippancy and condescending ways suggested strongly that he knew the most about everything. It would take one situation to prove his vulnerability amongst his staff and it served up a healthy dish of crow that he would eat most deservingly.
In the fashionable city of Atlanta the one thing that most of the ultra riche and society matrons looked forward to was the Governor’s Ball. The event to end all events, and to get an invitation was to be on the A list of people. On this particular Saturday, the whole salon was packed with madams and messieurs that were to be attending the function that evening. It was on this day that we had an early meeting and he told us how important this event was and how necessary it was to stay on time with our work schedule. At that same meeting he took the time to show off this fancy new super blow dryer that he had recently purchased and told us to plan on buying one for ourselves so that everyone would have the same dryer. The “YellowBird” was a forceful dryer and was the top of the line when it came to blow dryers in the 1970’s. Because of its blow force it also required a lot of air and the side vents on it were like a mini vacuum. I watched him use it that morning and noticed that when he got too close to the head with it, I could see hair lifting towards its side vents from the suction of air power.
During lunch I mentioned what I had seen to him to make him aware that it appeared that his new dryer could possibly suck hair into it vents. He rudely told me that could not happen and that I should just pay attention to my own clients as he knew how to handle the dryer. I made it clear one more time that it was an accident waiting to happen and he ignored me and went back to work. I took his advice and just ignored what he was doing when suddenly a scream was heard throughout the salon. I glanced around to see where it came from when I noticed his client sitting there frightened as the “Yellow Bird” dryer had swallowed a small section of her long hair. The dryer was now resting on the back of her head, and the motor was still smoking from the hair that now clogged its dryer chambers. I rushed over and pulled the plug to stop the current and saw that he was totally shocked at what had just happened. I knew it was in my best interest to keep my mouth shut and two of us stylists came to his rescue to help him try and remove the hair that was so entangled inside the dryer. Unfortunately her hair was not letting go as we tried to tug and pull it out easily. Our only other choice was to take the dryer apart and remove it gently and hope that the section of hair had not been burned and ruined. We located some tools and set about dismantling the dryer and as we removed piece after piece, the fears we both felt were confirmed. Wrapped tightly around the motor was the one section of hair. It had melted it into one cinged mass that was unsalvageable to remove and it had to be cut in order to get the dryer off her head. The client was frantic beyond belief and was emotionally falling apart before our eyes. Having no other choice, he made the snips that finally set the dryer free which left a gaping section of hair that no longer blended with the rest of the clients hair. The woman was livid and began verbal threats and attacks but he was not able to speak for his embarrassment shattered his demeanor and he was speechless. It took a while to calm her down and we explained that it would not be a problem to repair and I casually explained how we would do it by slightly re-layering the cut.
At first I thought I would be in some sort of trouble for taking over, but I smoothed the situation into a happy ending. After such a scary ordeal she left with a congenial smile and an apology for the threats. As I picked up the mess from the parts of the dryer, she made her way toward me and presented me with a personal gratuity for her hair rescue. I was completely taken aback and graciously thanked her. I was prepared to be asked to leave the salon but instead was humbled when he acknowledged that he should have listened to me as he was also noticing how strong the vent suction was but he just did not like people telling him what to do, and that he let his arrogance get in the way of the observation. From that day forward his attitude toward me had changed and would be noticed by everyone on staff. I was no longer the new guy and now felt more a part of the staff family.
All the other working stylists were from different countries and it was always a continual bevy of languages going on at all times. At any given time you would hear at least six different languages being spoken which made for a truly European experience. In this salon I would learn the true meanings of adultery, sexual deviation, perversion, solicitation, intimidation and survival. On one side of me, to the other side, I would be privy to absolutely amazing conversations and topics. Personal stories and dalliances were shared by both client and stylist
The male stylists were the studs and the rich women that graced the salon came for the closest thing to a Warren Beatty they could get. Each one of us was at their disposal no matter what it cost. I had no clue, once again, to what I was getting into and but I just went with the flow, which would pay off handsomely. It did not matter what your sexual preferences were these rich dames needed attention and not just for their hair. The owner made sure that we were taught exactly how to handle the women, which meant how to upsell their salon needs and how to up charge their service when required to do so, and oh yes, house calls were mandatory.
I always laugh when I hear the word UPSELL. That six letter word would mean an entirely different thing when away from the salon for a home appointment. Very quickly I realized it was synonym code for a coiffed liaison. My working partner to my left would be my guide to the world of home salon satisfaction. He was the definition of a true man-whore who would partake of any free moment to satisfy his appetite for the female sex. He was not a real handsome man, but his swagger and his mane of reddish-brown hair would dance lightly around his shoulders which exuded masculinity. He donned the ruddy complexion of a red head and his freckles made his face always look tan. The bushy moustache that graced the upper line of his mouth only served to make his plump red lips look even redder.
The sexuality that oozed out of him was self-contained within the tight form fitting pants that he always wore. His German dialect would always sputter his English grammar and always served as a way for his clients to help him try and speak the sentences correctly. Therein would lay the ploy and trick of his trade to win over most any female that came within his space. The clients that came to him for services were the cream of the money crop. They were the southern debutantes that came from Daddy’s money and their southern dialect would always drip from their mouths like honey from a bee. Their feminine voices were soft and slow with a seductive drawl would always excite him, which was fairly obvious from the anatomical outlines that would always appear from the exterior of his pants.
Clients would come into the salon for an appointment with him and I always noticed that most of them would disappear for a while with him. When they returned, he would then begin their styling appointment. I never asked where he was always going to but would find that out entirely by accident. This would parlay into one of those life moments that you would see in a Hollywood movie only it really happened to me. In retrospect, I would have to say I just fell into it by accident.
The salon as I stated before was very grand and large with lots of hidden areas for supplies and storage. It took the opening of a wrong door that would answer the mysterious question of the disappearing clients. Shocked and surprised was an understatement, as I was mortified to have been unfortunate enough see the carnal activity that was taking place atop the stack of boxes in the storage room.
I will forever have that image in my mind which only serves as a reminder to knock before entering any closed door. As I had exposed myself to the secret that had been kept hidden, I knew that I now held the key to open the door to the contacts and the divine divas. I kept my own little nugget of newly unveiled information to myself knowing very well the he knew he had been caught.
I promised sincerely that I would keep this from the owner pending assistance from Mr. “Red Riding” Hood. It did come to pass that the wolf came around to my way of thinking.