This was previously published on Eat.Greg.Eat!
I have spent most of the last ten years recovering from a bad haircut. Once upon a time, I had no worries because Lorenzo was in my life. Lorenzo cut hair like a wizard and he looked exactly like his name sounds: he had a long flowing mane of dark hair, and high cheekbones. He could have jumped off the cover of a romance novel: 50 Shades of Grey No More. He would take the “reader” by the hand, shirtless, and help them personally fulfill their fantasies. Lorenzo wore black leather pants so tight they looked like his legs, and he kept his black silk shirts open to the navel. When I paid, I wanted to slip his tip in his waistband along with my number. But he had my number. I would see him socially, and would melt a bit when, at a party, without a word, he reached up in casual conversation and gently brushed my hair off my forehead, as only he could with his trained hand.
In his salon, I could feel him walk up behind me as I sat in the chair, nervous with thrilling anticipation. I gasped a bit as he gently but firmly touched the back of my head. He took his time running his fingers through my hair, as if he were reading my love letter to him, written on my scalp in Braille. He could do anything he wanted, and I felt safe in his hands and with his skills. His confidence was contagious, he made everyone look and feel good.
His own long, black hair was a marvel and an inspiration. People would touch it, under the guise of asking conditioning tips. His hair was like boobies in a strip club: you just want to touch them, even though you might not understand why and it is not at all cool with the owner.
When Lorenzo leaned over and passionately cut my hair, his hands rhythmically clipped away like Edward Scissorhands. Hot music pounded in the salon, and I swear he timed the trims to end as a song reached its crescendo. His hands flew up at the end, as if he were being arrested: he was spent. An assistant swooped in from nowhere and mopped his brow. I hated that the haircut ended. When I left the salon, I always had to pause and reach in my pants to dress right from left, so I could comfortably walk to my car.
Rubbing shoulders with the famous is inevitable in Los Angeles. It can be arranged, like meeting Carol Burnett in her dressing room at CBS, or a total shock. I have innocently been shopping in Fred Segal and bumped into Speilberg and Oprah, and during that really weird period I saw Janet Jackson shoe shopping with Lisa Marie Presley. It’s unsettling to see Penelope Cruz eating pizza.
When one does encounter them in the wild, try not to startle them. And if you marry a gay icon like Barbra Streisand, fly in coach. Don’t sit in first class, James Brolin: that’s where the airlines quarantine the gays, and you bet I see a five-hour flight as my way to deliver a message that hopefully gets back to your money, I mean wife, that she is singing my pain and I am glad she never had her nose fixed.
Movie studio lots are “safe” ground, and rule has it that one isn’t supposed to look them directly in the eyes, much less ask Miss Cicely Tyson for an autograph for your brother “Bradley” to add to his collection. She snapped back I am not part of any one’s collection. I was thrilled: I’d rather have this story. An autograph just sits there and fades, but by the time she whirled around on her well-worn heels, I had formulated a tale which had her hair woven into a large bird cage, with a little finch swinging from a perch, chirping confirmation of her philosophy. When I tell it, it takes me about four seconds just to purr paaaaaaarrrrtt like Miss Tyson.
My Lorenzo met Elton John at a party. Elton made a smart move and left LA to stay sober. He started his amazing Elton John AIDS Foundation and learned to come back to Hollywood and stuff his pockets with cash, by the queen of fundraising-with-fame herself, Elizabeth Taylor. She metaphorically grabbed him by his last seven strands of hair, pulled him close and said, Elton, do what I do. If they want to see me, they have to pay. She commanded millions to show up at dinners and left a huge, marvelous, charitable legacy. Sir Elton planted his seeds of philanthropy at the same time he implanted his famous hair plugs, and he didn’t want to personally tend his new garden. I imagine Lorenzo walking into the party, his long hair blowing in the breeze, a little fluff of sex falling off his shoulders, leaving a happy trail that Elton sniffed out and followed.
He totally courted Lorenzo to work for him. At first, it was so innocent, just when Elton flew into LA. He would shut down Versace on Rodeo, and have Lorenzo point at things he wanted. As any normal business relationship progresses, soon Lorenzo had meetings with Elton’s decorator to outfit an apartment in Atlanta. I wasn’t really worried. I saw Lorenzo once a month or so, and his affair with Elton seemed just that.
One day he was snipping away and he let it slip that he had flown over to London on the Concorde and stayed with Elton. I was gutted. Up to now I was happy for me—my hairdresser also did Elton John’s hair! When someone complimented my hair, I whipped it in their general direction, slung my drink and let them loudly know that it was manhandled by the same hands as the fabled tresses of a legendary pop singer.
I was better just from Lorenzo’s association with Elton. My hair had never looked more taken care of, Lorenzo was flourishing, and I benefited. Then the Bad Day happened. He finished my cut, and instead of the usual, ceremonial whipping off of my cape, he placed his hands on my shoulders and took a deep breath. I agreed, we needed to pause and honor this moment. Our eyes met. We needn’t speak: we both knew that he had achieved the perfect haircut. I sat there, completely fulfilled with the confidence that my hair would always look like this because I had precious Lorenzo, forever.
He spoke slowly. We need to talk are the four most hated words in any language. You can hear them clicked by an African tribe and know that heads are landing on a stick.
He was moving to London. Leaving his salon, his home, his family, and worst of all, me. I wanted to be angry and yell at him for falling for the glitz, begging to know why I wasn’t enough. In my fantasy, I screamed and cried, pulling on my hair, hard, to show him what the real thing was, to show him how foolish he was for leaving the stability of a solid head of hair for temporary plugs.
But I had no follicle to stand on. Elton had pulled the ultimate trump card and introduced Lorenzo to Princess Diana. And his apartment had a window seat overlooking Hyde Park. My world was crumbling, but I kept it together and wished him well. Rejection is a total erection killer: I walked out of the salon in the same state I was in when I left the dentist—limp, confused, shaken, and in pain.
I walked the streets for years, looking raggedy and homeless. I tried to go back to Sassoon, but it felt weird, like it does when you go visit your old elementary school and the desks look tiny. I hit the skids. I walked into The Hair Cuttery, it was inevitable. I had it done by someone wearing a hand written name tag, she was probably just released from prison. I once let a guy in Paris cut it, just because he was swarthy. I didn’t even speak French to him, I don’t deserve open and honest communication about my hair. I just sat there, reflecting.
Maybe I got cocky and karma is a bitch with a British accent and six Grammys. All those comfy years of Lorenzo’s loyalty and my assumptive belief that my hair would always be perfect lulled me into a false sense of security. Did I shred my Elton CDs in a drunken mascara-running-down-my-face rage? No, I’m not Linda Gray in the last season of Dallas. I sold them at a yard sale and gave the proceeds to Elton’s foundation—anonymously. I will not freely give him more power.
I’m on my own now. I have made so many bad decisions unguided. Sure, I have had my share of mullets. Life doesn’t come with a hair manual. Left to my own devices I might, and did, walk in for a haircut and walk out with a royal blue shock of bangs—but life grows out.
I am better. I’ve talked about it, am patient, take a few deep breaths and resist the urge to go down the disastrous road of self-cutting. I learned to live a simpler life. I rarely have it cut now—not from a trust issue as much as resignation and the cold hard realization that I am getting older, and I might as well grow it out before it falls out. Hair will leave you just like Lorenzo did.
Be grateful for what you have, and that should start with your self. Hug it out.
Image of handsome hair stylist courtesy of Shutterstock