A case of tonsorialitis

Russell Baker

June 02, 1993|By Russell Baker

NO, I'm not sore about the president taking his business to another tonsorial artist. If he thinks Cristophe of Beverly Hills can give him a better trim than Lary of Little Rock, OK, he's the president, it's his hair, more power to him.

That's Lary with only one "r," please. It used to have two, but my bride said "Larry" looked overstuffed with alphabet. I said to her what did she mean "overstuffed with alphabet," and she said it just looked too old-fashioned.

I said what's wrong with old-fashioned. Next she'd probably want me to quit having eight-month-old copies of True Detective and the Police Gazette lying around the shop, I said, just kidding her, you know, the way you do with your bride after you've been married 20 or 30 years so she knows how to take a joke.

So she said no, she's serious. The modern thing in the barbering art is dropping letters from your name, she says. Look at Cristophe of Beverly Hills. Drops an "h" and his second "r," quits calling himself Christopher, and he can not only raise the price to $200 per trim, he can find plenty of saps who'll pay it to show they can afford a barber who's barbered his own name.

All right, I hear you, I hear you. You want to know what it was like cutting Bill Clinton's hair before he became famous, speaking of which, did you see the pictures of him at West Point in the Sunday paper? I don't want to sound like sour grapes, but I want you to tell me your own personal opinion of that haircut.

Would you personally pay $200 for that haircut? The man's ears are hardly visible, can you believe it?

I used to tell Mr. Clinton, even after he got to be governor, and he'd come in here and say, "Just a light trim, Larry" -- I still spelled it with two "r's" in those days -- "just a light trim, Larry, scissors on the side."

And I'd say, "Governor, the public don't trust a governor when they can't see his ears. If you want to get re-elected you'd better let me use clippers."

The problem, see, is that when he was governor, and even before, come to think of it, Mr. Clinton's ears were awful close to the side of his head, instead of sticking out sort of flap- like, like your average set of ears. So when he'd come in and say, "Scissors on the side," I'd always say: "No sir, governor. Clippers on the side, and don't ever forget it if you want Arkansas to go on believing in you."

One day he came in here with Gore and that Stephanopoulos fellow and said to me, said, "Larry, these two good old boys both need a trim, clippers on the side." Well, they both got ears about the size of cabbage leaves and this Stephanopoulos knows it because he says no, he doesn't want clippers on the side, he wants scissors on the side, otherwise he's not going to have the trim.

But Gore says he's always wanted to know what he'd look like without all that hair for his ears to hunker down and nest in, and this is a good time to find out since his buddy Mr. Clinton has ordered him barbered clippers on the side. Stephanopoulos saved him, telling Mr. Clinton it was all right to have a little campaign joke at Gore's expense, but this one giving the whole country full disclosure of Gore's ears could mean the loss of four states in the Electoral College.

I kind of liked young Gore. He's got a nice jaw, doesn't he? The other night I was telling my bride I thought Gore would probably be president one of these days because he had the jaw for it, and she said, "Well, if he doesn't make it to the White House, he can always drop the 'r,' become 'Goe of the Nation's Capital' and be barber to the stars."

Come to think of it, I could do that myself, couldn't I? If the stars really settle into Washington as the bride says they're bound to. She read that Barbra Streisand now spends all her time reading Thomas Jefferson and watching C-Span I and C-Span II when she's not watching CNN.

My bride says this sounds to her like a woman getting ready to be the first female Ronald Reagan, which reminds me by the way, you don't by chance happen to know who did the Gipper's hair dyeing, do you?

Growing up in Baltimore, Russell Baker had his hair cut by Georg of Hollins Street.

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