Barbers loom large in lives of the high and mighty

May 01, 1994|By New York Times News Service

As Sal Fodera prepared to take off for two weeks in England earlier this month, businessmen in and around New York City begged for last-minute appointments with him.

No, Mr. Fodera is not the indispensable psychiatrist to the business stars or the stockbroker of choice. He is much more important to these power brokers: he is their barber.

"I work around Sal's schedule," Vince McMahon, chairman and chief executive of the World Wrestling Federation, said. "I try to schedule some business appointments when I come in from Connecticut, but it's Sal's schedule I'm basing it on."

The bond between men and their barbers is a tight one, bred of an association longer than many marriages and built on a confidence that rivals that between lawyers and their clients. Johnnie Cochran, the lawyer who represents Michael Jackson and Reginald Denny, has been going to his barber, Lovie Terrell, in Inglewood, Calif., for 24 years. Mr. Cochran has a regular appointment at 8 a.m. every Thursday for a trim and a facial.

And in New York, Mr. Fodera's clients followed him when he left his old chair at the Warwick Hotel several years ago for the marble and leather salon at the St. Regis Hotel, where he now works. "Sal becomes a confidante at times," said Lee Salomon, a former senior vice president for the William Morris Agency who has his own entertainment agency.

Barber-shop confidences build such loyalty that men often shudder at the thought of going to a new barber. Given the tales told and the touch-ups done in the barber chair, the loyalty is understandable.

Although barbers say 75 percent of their male executive customers get manicures and up to 40 percent color their hair, most clam up when asked to name those whose fingers are pampered or locks rinsed.

But some clients are willing to at least hint at some of what goes on in the private salons and discreet corner chairs of barber shops in New York and Los Angeles.

Peter Ikin, senior vice president of marketing and artist development at Warner Music International in New York, acknowledges with much good humor that he not only goes to his hairstylist, Giacomo Forbes, for a great cut and good conversation, but also for the "little sun kisses" that Forbes discreetly rinses through his hair. And the investment manager Gordon Bowyer, a vice president with James C. Edwards & Co., jokes that his barber, Jacques Dussol of Peppe & Bill in the Plaza Hotel, "is very, very good at trimming away the gray. I always come out looking just a bit younger than when I went in. It's a great little trick."

Mr. Dussol, whose clients include the former mayor of New York, John V. Lindsay; a former press secretary for Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Ziegler, and ambassadors and dozens of lawyers and business people, claims that if things keep moving in the current direction, he "won't have any guys with gray hair by 1995."

Mr. Dussol says 95 percent of the men who color their hair do not tell their spouses about it, so he sends them home with instructions on how to keep the secret, including using a dark towel to dry their hair for a while.

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