JIM DODSON: 20 Questions for Glenn the Barber
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Last month, barber Glenn Leslie, 58, celebrated his 15-year anniversary cutting hair in Pinehurst.
To mark the occasion, The Pilot dispatched a shaggy field correspondent to have his ears lowered and pose a few timely questions to Glenn the Barber on the state of groomed heads in the Sandhills.
This is the first in a series of occasional interviews with ordinary hometown folks who have much better things to do than chat with Nosy Parker reporters but are too polite to say, "Look, would you mind buzzing off? I've got work to do."
PILOT: Is it true you are the first barber in the history of Pinehurst?
GTB: Not exactly -- well, I suppose you might say that I am, although when I came here 15 years ago, there was a part-time barber over at the resort who gave a few haircuts every day in the spring and fall. He was 85 years old, however. He eventually stopped.
PILOT: Maybe he just died.
GTB: I think he retired to Vermont or something.
PILOT: Same thing. So, what made you want to become a barber?
GTB: When I was growing up in western Pennsylvania, my father died when I was 15 and my family didn't have much money for college. Fortunately, there was enough Social Security money for me to go to barber school. So I did. I also owned a bar and ran a restaurant for a time. But mostly I've been a barber. Been cutting hair for 38 years this year.
PILOT: That's a long time. Congratulations. Do you plan to cut hair until you're 85?
GTB: Probably not. But I do love the job. Pinehurst is great. We have the most loyal customers you've ever seen.
PILOT: Someone once said a good barber is more useful than a priest or a philosopher. Would you agree with that statement?
GTB: Oh, very much so. There's something very intimate that goes on between a customer and his favorite barber. Once a customer gets to know and trust you, they'll let you in on all kinds of intimate details about their lives and families. Especially around here -- this is a very family-oriented place. Guys love to talk about their children and grandchildren, their jobs, golf, you name it. I just encourage them to talk and they do.
PILOT: Any scandalous tidbits you'd care to reveal from the pro side of the scissors?
GTB: No. Barbers are kind of like physicians. You can't reveal things customers tell you in confidence. It wouldn't be professional.
PILOT: Oh, go on. I won't write about it. I promise.
GTB: OK. Here's a funny one. Had this cute little boy in the shop once. He and his mother were waiting for a haircut and he keeps saying to me, "Mister barber! Mister barber! Guess what I found in my mom and dad's bed last night?" The shop is crowded, see, and the mother has her nose plugged in a magazine. But the kid keeps it up. 'Mister barber! Mister barber! Guess what I found in my mom and dad's bed last night?' You can see that everybody is listening and holding it in. So I finally and say, quietly, hoping he'll quiet down, "OK, son, what did you find in your mom and dad's bed last night?' He loudly declares, 'I found her bra under the covers!' and the whole place comes apart laughing. The mother turned several shades of red.
PILOT: That's it? The juiciest barber gossip you've got?
GTB: I'm afraid so. We all thought it was pretty funny.
PILOT: Why are men so loyal to their barbers? I know a guy in town who swears only you and his hunting dog really understand him.
GTB: I think it's a deep-rooted thing, frankly, something we all grew up with -- going to the same barber year after year, building up a relationship. That sort of thing. I think it's something our fathers passed along to us.
PILOT: Like respect the U.S. Constitution or a weakness for bottle-blonde women, huh?
GTB: I think it's more traditional than that. Men like to look good, too.
PILOT: President Bush once bragged, "I don't spend a lot of time looking in the mirror, except when I comb my hair." Obviously, his hair means a great deal to him. What do you think of our president's hair?
GTB: Nice, full head of hair. Kind of wavy. Doesn't seem to be losing any of it. It's always combed. Very neat. He obviously pays close attention to it.
PILOT: In a political year that's shaping up to be unusually nasty and partisan, is it possible to ascertain a true man's political leanings by, say, which side he parts his hair on?
GTB: That's interesting. I've never really thought about it. I'll have to think about that one, maybe ask my customers about it. They'll tell me, I'm sure.
PILOT: OK, let's talk in more mythological terms. Is hair power? I'm thinking of Samson in the Bible, Lady Godiva's famous ride, and Clay Aiken's psycho-waiter haircut. What's going on there? And what would Donald Trump be without his prematurely orange power wave?
GTB: I don't know if hair is power or not, but I'll tell you one thing: If someone's losing their hair, that's a subject you want to stay entirely away from unless the customer brings it up.
PILOT: Are you suggesting that if Andre Agassi only had a nice thick head of hair instead of a head like a brass door knocker, he might be in the finals of the U.S. Open and not be having to retire from competitive tennis?
GTB: It makes you wonder what he might have done. I've often wondered how bald he really is. I think Andre once had a ponytail earlier in his career. But then his hair began to recede in front. I guess he decided he just didn't want to fight it any more and just shaved it all off.
PILOT: A recent national poll indicated that next to their weight, most Americans are most sensitive about their hair. Would you agree or disagree with this finding?
GTB: Absolutely agree.
PILOT: Let's talk barber shoes, Glenn. Love 'em? Hate 'em? Think they're the greatest thing since Pet Rocks or footwear designed by space aliens?
GTB: I don't know. I wear sneakers. I'm told barber shoes are pretty comfortable. You don't see them around much anymore, though. Barbers used to wear smocks, too. But those are rare these days.
PILOT: Is this perhaps because barbers themselves are a dying breed? Everyone is called a stylist or a hair technician now. I even heard someone use the phrase 'hairtician.' That sounds like somebody who waxes backs.
GTB: Actually, I think barbers are making a comeback. I think people still like what we do. We still do razor cuts and shave around ears with a straight razor. We trim beards, goatees, eyebrows, even nose hair.
PILOT: Do you wax backs, too?
GTB: No, but your eyebrows and nose could use a trim. Most men never notice this, by the way. But their wives or girlfriends sure do.
PILOT: Who's the most famous person's hair you've cut or nose you've trimmed?
GTB: Arnie Palmer came in here once on his way to a golf course here in town. He was great. One of our other barbers, however, Tom Twig, once cut Jimmy Hoffa's hair.
PILOT: Was this before or after he disappeared? I'm speaking of Hoffa, not Palmer.
GTB: Before, I think.
PILOT: OK, wise guy, whose hair would you like to cut?
GTB: Ummm well ... Oh, I know. That actor Steven Stallone. Sorry, I mean Steven Segal, the karate guy. I really like his movies.
PILOT: You obviously have a thing for ponytails, huh? That's OK. You can admit it. Guys with ponytails bug me, too. Does anybody ever come in here asking for a mullet?
GTB: Not too often. But we've had a few. We have to do what the customer wants.
PILOT: Truthfully, now, have you ever finished giving a haircut and thought, Holy Toledo! He looks just like Chuckles the Circus Clown!
GTB: You know, I have had a few like that. There are times when your customer's tastes just aren't the same as yours. Most people who come through that door know what they want, so I do my best to give it to them, even if it looks funny.
PILOT: Should men wearing offensive hairpieces be allowed to board commercial aircraft or be required by Homeland Security to check them with their luggage?
GTB: I agree there's nothing worse than a bad hairpiece. There's a guy around town -- well, I better not go into that. Hey, it's a free country. I say you should be able to wear a bad hairpiece on an airplane. It's one of the few things left they don't make you take off.
PILOT: Let's leave the humor to a trained professional, Glenn. You just cut the nose hair. By the way, have you ever knowingly given a haircut to an escaped felon, a known terrorist, or a suspect space alien?
GTB: I probably have. We get all types in here.
PILOT: The new season of "Survivor" has teams broken down into four groups -- blacks, whites, Asians and Latinos. How do you think a team of barbers would fare on a dangerous tropical island with only, say, a pair of manicuring scissors?
GTB: Oh, I think we'd do fine. If we could survive the 1970s, we can survive anything. That's when long hair put a lot of barbers out of business. On the other hand, that's when some of us started charging more for washing hair and styling hair. Those who survived that decade came out OK.
PILOT: What's the one thing your customers probably don't know about Glenn the Barber?
GTB: That I shade my goatee to match my gray hair. It looks better that way. It also gives me more in common with my older customers.
PILOT: How much did you charge for your first haircut 38 years ago?
GTB: A buck fifty.
PILOT: Wow. Say, Glenn, here's a neat idea. Let's pretend it's 1968 and I'll give you $2 for this haircut. That includes a 50-cent tip!
GTB: Our haircuts are $13.
PILOT: Would you throw in a full back-waxing job, too? My wife would be very grateful.
GTB: Only the eyebrow trim, I'm afraid.
PILOT: Hey, Mister barber! Do I at least get one of those nice Dum-Dum suckers? I'll bet the kid who found his mother's bra under the covers got one -- maybe two.
GTB: Of course. Feel free to take one. Every kid gets a free sucker.
Jim Dodson can be reached at email@example.com.
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