On a narrow road off Aberdeen's main drag just past a tiny Chinese takeout place and a U.S. Army recruiting station is an unobtrusive hair salon.
Inside yesterday, it was weekend business as usual at the Odyssey salon at 29 N. Parke St., with customers packing the place for manicures, makeovers and new hairdos. But in a room tucked away in a corner, owner Heidi Zuchelkowski, armed with a huge can of hair spray and a sturdy-looking steel brush, fussed over a special customer.
She was a petite redhead dressed in a black velvet mock turtleneck and pants with a spritely smile and a crisp voice you know you've heard somewhere.
Like, perhaps belting out the infectiously happy lyrics from the alternative rock band The B-52's hit: "Love shack, baby, love shack!"
Kate Pierson, lead singer for The B-52's, has been a sporadic client of Zuchelkowski's for three years now. In a city with few real claims to fame apart from its proximity to Aberdeen Proving Ground and the Orioles' Cal Ripken, Pierson's patronage is unusual.
But Pierson, 49, who lives in upstate New York, said she likes coming to Zuchelkowski to get the huge hairdos that have long been the trademark of her group, named after The B-52, a Southern name for the big bouffant hairdos popular in the 1950s and 1960s.
"She's one of the few people in America who really knows how to whip up a big hairdo," Pierson said. "I don't know if they really teach it in hairdressing schools any more."
Zuchelkowski confessed that she wasn't too familiar with Pierson's music the first time she walked in. But she bought a few B-52's CDs and asked Pierson to autograph them during her first visit anyway. She said she loves doing Pierson's hair, and enjoys any opportunity to do the big bouffants that haven't been as popular as flatter, shorter styles in recent years.
"It's more challenging, especially if you do fancy curls and twists," said Zuchelkowski, who's been doing hair for 30 years. She opened the Odyssey 20 years ago when she married an American soldier and moved to Aberdeen from Rothenburg, Germany.
Pierson's regular hairdresser of 10 years is a man named Danilo at John Frieda Salon in New York City. But she said she heard about Zuchelkowski through Brian Gray, a friend of hers who lives in Wilmington, Del., but goes to the stylist for haircuts. Gray, whom Pierson and her longtime boyfriend visit a few times a year, had told her Zuchelkowski was the "Hair Queen," she said.
Odyssey's styling price of $30 is well below Danilo's, which averages about $250, according to his salon.
Pierson also said she's a little more adventurous with different stylists because she has to rely on hairstylists all over the world to create her mammoth hair when she goes on tour with The B-52's.
"Sometimes there will be a horrible one in a big city and sometimes you find a genius in a small town," Pierson said. "You never know where you're going to find a genius hairdresser."
Even so, Zuchelkowski remembers Pierson being nervous during her first visit just before Christmas three years ago, when the singer was scheduled to ride on a float in the Cecil County Holly Tree Parade, which Gray organizes.
"She explained what she wanted and she was like, 'Can you do it?' " Zuchelkowski said.
Pierson liked the style enough that now she comes back whenever she's in the area. Remembering the visit, Zuchelkowski excitedly points to a framed poster-size picture of Pierson she displays near the back of her store.
The inscription says: "To Heidi, the Hair Queen, You rule for BIG HAIR."
Pierson said she and fellow B-52's singer Cindy Wilson began the huge hairdos as a band statement when it formed in 1976. She said they admired the women who had it in Athens, Ga., where they lived at the time and wanted something different than the hippy looks many women had then.
"It's an exaggerated version of womanhood -- the big, big hair," she said. "We were also very inspired by [Italian film director Federico] Fellini and his archetype of a woman who is ultra-glamorous to the point of the ridiculous -- the big hair, the big breasts, the big eyelashes."
The group started out wearing oversized wigs, but Pierson said she began poufing up her natural hair a few years ago. Since then, it's been tough finding stylists who can do it well -- or are even willing to try.
"There was this guy in Atlanta, he just huffed and didn't want to do it because he said it was out of vogue," she said. "But usually people will say sure, they can do it, then they put a lot of product in your hair and it's flat and they try to tease it and then it's still flat and then they go, 'Uh-oh, I can't do it.' "
Zuchelkowski said her method is to use hair spray -- about four layers of it.
Yesterday, after Pierson arrived at the salon at 9 a.m., Zuchelkowski set her hair in rollers for about 15 minutes then "backcombed" it -- that is, brushed it inward into the hair's roots to fluff it out and create volume. She repeatedly did this while styling and spraying regularly. She also used a curling iron and Pierson was done just after 10 a.m.
The B-52, however, did not get a true-blue B-52 at Odyssey yesterday.
Pierson, who stopped by Odyssey before participating in Cecil County's Holly Tree lighting yesterday, said she's been opting for slightly flatter bouffants recently.
"Now there's so much big hair everywhere, on drag queens and people like RuPaul," she said. "We can't compete."
Pub Date: 12/07/97