[At right: Not as old as the backdrop...yet]
Before writing for Native Intelligence, I never had a blog because, as I've said here before, I don't have any opinions. Additionally, I didn’t want to share my personal life. This was not to protect me, but to protect you. Believe me, I know you suffer enough.
But now I’m, uh ... suffering.
I dyed my hair.
That’s right. I confess. However . . .
Let me say up-front that I have never disliked my hair, except for a time in the 70s when it was middle-of-the-back length and too naturally curly to achieve the lank rock star look. I’ve never minded the gradual creep of white from the temples back. My hair is full, has body and, well ...bottom line: I’ve still got hair, while the skulls of the testosterone-overloaded bullies from high school are now doubling as satellite TV dishes.
I didn’t do it because I get complaints from women – okay, my wife. She thinks I look just fine, finds the gray/white charming. Not that I ask, because I fear that’s the male equivalent of her asking me if her ass looks fat in her pants (it never does, of course). And my son would treat me as an ancient even if I’d put purple and turquoise streaks in my mop, like some of his friends.
Anyway, there I was, at the wonderful Michael Joseph Furie salon in Tarzana (818-344-0271), getting my monthly haircut from my friend Julie Edwards, who has cut my hair for so long that she now owns the place. It’s a great establishment: open, arty, many extra services, and best of all, all the hairdressers are attractively busty -- even the men.
When Julie was done cutting – “Cut it as if it had already grown out two weeks from the length you’d like to cut it” – I said that I’d always wondered about dyeing my hair. “Maybe some red streaks, like flames, at the temples,” I joked. It wasn’t vanity, I assured her, just a zest for experience – and the older you get the harder you sometimes have to reach for a good jolt. I mean, I’d parachute jump, but my wife would be so mad about me risking my life for no damn good reason that she’d hide the rip cord -- before I went up in the plane.
“Oh, well we can do it right now,” said Julie.
“Take ten minutes.”
“Ten … minutes?” I said, wasting at least 30 seconds. “I thought you had to have a whole appointment, use that tinfoil stuff. I’ve got to get home.”
“No. Ten minutes. It’s easy.”
Julie explained that she didn’t recommend Grecian Formula, and, in fact, had some miracle color in the back room that would make my hair seem like all the color was blended in graduating shades of brown. “It won’t just turn everything helmet-black,” she assured me. “The brown will be darker, the grey browner, the white greyer.
“Can’t you just cut out the white hairs individually?” I asked?
“No.” Julie doesn’t fool around.
“So what happens? Do I have to have all that tinfoil in my hair and get painted?”
“No. It comes out of a bottle. Many of my men clients use it.”
The color, Julie explained, was like a stain. Then she slowly slid her hands into some rubber gloves, snapping the fingers like she was about to stick body parts into a wood chipper.
“A wood stain?” I asked.
“Yeah. It’s hair dye for blockheads.”
She's also quick. I rapped my knuckles on my head for good luck. “Okay let’s see what happens,” I said.
Again, I remind you that I like my hair. I didn’t do this to be stylish, even though I live in one of the style capitals of the world, where looking the part often passes for actually being the part. What the director and writer John Milius told me when discussing the subject of my forthcoming book, "All for a Few Perfect Waves," about Miki “da Cat” Dora, the charming, charismatic and enigmatic surfer king of Malibu in the ‘50s and ‘60s – puts it in perspective:
“The secret, at least in Los Angeles (then), was that you didn’t have to own all the trappings; you just had to appear to. If you had a few things it could look like you had it all. To be a movie producer you only need an office, a bunch of posters, and a card that says you're a movie producer. Why? Because there are no qualifications whatsoever for that job.”
I didn’t do it to look the part – young? I’m just curious, I swear. Besides, Julie promised my hair wouldn’t grow out and leave obvious roots.
[Perhaps now is a good time to note that mentioning the seductions of style and the easy temptations of appearance altering clearly qualifies this column as being LA-centric, hence perfect for LA Observed, instead of just some self-aggrandizing b.s. from my personal life that should have been posted on a blog, if I had one.]
Speaking of style, I think my last nod to the fashion police was giving away my stone-washed jeans and putting my shell necklace chokers away forever. I also gave those white drawstring pants with the fish airbrushed on the leg to the Goodwill. No, wait. No, I didn’t. That was the pink corduroy pants.
Julie had already started putting in my new color. It felt cold and wet, and when she was done I looked like Lenny and Squiggy, after their heads had been dipped in olive oil. In other words, just like Lenny and Squiggy any day of the week. (Am I working against the whole process by dating myself?)
Then I waited.
Ten minutes later, Julie washed my hair, tousled it dry, and voila: ten years younger. Strange feeling to be 33 all over again. (I never did that well at math, okay. How about you?)
[At right: What 33 really looked like!]
Afterward, looking in the mirror, all I could see were my slight double chins, which now looked out of place on someone so youthfully vibrant. I turned to Julie. “Think you could just snip off this skin?” I asked, pinching the underhang together.
“Go home,” she said, kissing my cheek.
The big test, of course, was going home. Let me cut to the chase by telling you that three days later I finally asked my wife if my ass looked fat in my pants. She hadn’t noticed. “But now that I look at you, I can see it," she said. "It looks great.
“Feels weird,” I said.
“Looks good,” she said.
True. But I just didn’t feel like me – in the mirror. There I was, youthful, all dressed up, and nowhere to go but into the den to watch my nightly ration of TV.
The next day I went to lunch with a friend. Nothing. Two nights later I went to Yamashiro for the monthly media gathering. No one noticed. Okay, it was dark.
Desperate, I went to see my mother on the weekend. She told me about attending a late night talk show host’s birthday party – she knows better than to actually leave the house; she transports through the TV set – and asked me to go to the store and buy her a few bags of Hall’s cough drops. She also said my brother needed to lose a few pounds and asked why I had dark circles under my eyes. That’s it.
Look, I get it about doing something for yourself to make yourself feel good. A lady friend says La Perla underthings do the trick; and we've heard all we need to about why women get boob jobs, and men get ... whatever it is we get. All that’s well and good for the “It’s for my self-esteem” crowd. But isn’t the point that someone’s got to notice? Maybe chat you up? Smile from across the natural foods and colon cleanser aisle? Maybe take you for looking as young as you feel -- and have always acted?
Maybe next time I’ll go for the red flames – as long as it doesn’t turn out like that feeble reddish wash that middle-aged male TV stars end up with before giving into their natural color.
Or maybe I’ll just let it grow out and try, hmm, an avocado/cucumber wrap or go to a monster truck rally.
Of course, I'll keep you posted.
In the end, I gotta be me.