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A Bad Hair Day

October 24, 2011


Bob Martin, a local barber, had a suggestion for me. “Tell the men in your congregation that if they would get a decent haircut, they wouldn’t have to sit on the very back pew.” I have noticed that when Bob visited the worship service he sat on the back row, I guess to check out the haircuts.

Albert Einstein and other eccentrics notwithstanding, most people can’t tolerate a bad hair day. Yet, even the most elegant coiffure can suffer a blustery, windblown flyaway or a steamy, hot weather meltdown. My gray hair is often is disarray because of one or the other.

Hair stylists have many stories to tell. When our daughter Betsy lived in Atlanta, her hairdresser received an urgent phone message from a regular customer. A friend had stopped in town en route to California. The visitor was a model who had an important photo shoot only two days away. While she was in Atlanta, the model asked her friend to color her hair. She had decided that she wanted to become a blond. Alcohol may or may not have been involved in the late night decision.

As a result of the amateur dye session, she looked like a clown.  When the model came into the stylist’s shop, she was not a blushing blond. She was blushing alright, but her hair was bright blue. Talk about a bad hair day!

Her desperate request was, “Fix it!”  She begged the stylist to make her a beautiful blond for her important appointment with the California photographer!

He did his usual professional job, spending several hours to correct the mistake. In the course of the conversation, he learned that the anticipated photo shoot was for the centerfold in Playboy magazine. Betsy never told me if her stylist bought a copy of the magazine to check out the young woman’s hairdo.

In Spartanburg, the local Salvation Army honors one person each year as their Toast of the Town. The annual dinner is a toast and roast recognition of their Citizen of the Year.  When the late Judge Bruce Littlejohn, retired Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court, was the honoree, as his pastor I was invited to be one of the speakers. Judge Littlejohn was almost completely bald. In my remarks I made a distinction between various kinds of baldness.

“A man who is bald on the front of his head is a great thinker,” I said. “A man who is bald on the crown of his head is a great lover.” Then looking toward Judge Littlejohn, I concluded, “A man who is bald all over thinks he’s a great lover.” Judge Littlejohn just grinned and rubbed his head.

The barbershop where I get my haircut and the beauty salon where Clare has her hair styled, are one in the same. The telephones ring constantly. Making appointments, changing appointments, doing whatever must be done to accommodate the clientele is the nature of the business.  The stylists use an answering machine to take the calls.

One October day in 1997, Pam received a phone call on the answering machine at the shop. One of her regulars wanted to make an appointment, but this time it was not for herself. Former President George Bush and his wife, Barbara, were in town for the annual Spartanburg Regional Hospital Foundation fundraiser.  President Bush was to be the guest speaker.

The caller said, “Pam, George and Barbara Bush are in Spartanburg. Could you do Barbara Bush’s hair tomorrow?”

Pam agreed and arrangements were made. After the call, she blurted out, “Y’all, I’m doing Barbara Bush’s hair tomorrow!”

For the rest of the day, the shop was buzzing. Everyone who came in had a comment about the former First Lady.

“I just loved her book about her dog, Millie’s Book.”

“You know, she’s a grandmother. In fact, she’s everyone’s grandmother.”

“The thing I like about her is she speaks her mind. She’s just a plain person.”

Later in the day, the telephone rang. Pam heard the same voice again. This time she answered immediately.

“Pam, since you’re coming to fix Barbara Bush’s hair, would you have time to give the President a trim, too?”

No chance that Pam would be speechless, “Oh my goodness! I would be honored!”

As she arrived at the Milliken Guest House, Pam was nervous. The Secret Service Agents didn’t ease her discomfort. She had purchased a new outfit for the occasion. Barbara Bush wore a terry cloth bathrobe.  As Pam styled Mrs. Bush’s distinctive white hair, they talked about their children, just as any two mothers would do. Pam had almost completed Barbara’s hairdo when the former President came to the door wearing a matching white terry cloth robe.

Pam said the former president put her at ease. “As I cut his hair, he was on the telephone most of the time. He had to keep moving the phone from one ear to the other so I could do a good job. I remember thinking, these are just ordinary people.  There was no air of superiority about them.”

George Bush offered to pay Pam. Pam declined, saying it was her honor. The former President insisted, paying the usual fee for both Barbara’s styling and for his haircut.

Pam will never forget the day she spent trimming the Bushs.

Nobody wants to have a bad hair day.

Kirk H. Neely
© October 2011

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