"You have him looking like an Italian stallion already," Gigi gushed. "Cool!"
"You look like a drag queen, dude," his friend Castillo said.
Whatever the opinion, Catalani did look different. And the makeover had only just begun.
Early in the day, in between takes, the production crew and the salon staff mingled cheerfully. They smoked together outside. They chatted about Baltimore.
Ebert was excited about the good PR for her shop, and for the town.
"I think another thing, too, is it really gives the staff a big shot in the arm," she said. "It really is very inspirational to us and it really helps kick up the creative energy."
Now, the clothes
After the haircut and color, there were many hours of waiting around, as crew members had been dispatched to a local menswear store to find new clothes for Catalani.
While they waited, the crew interviewed Ebert and Shropshire over and over, making them repeat what steps they had taken to beautify Catalani.
"One more time, with a little more feeling," a producer would say. "Say it in the present tense, as if you're doing it right now."
Occasionally, Catalani was asked to simulate an emotion for the cameras.
"Look nervous!" a producer would say.
Gigi even faked a dramatic phone conversation with Catalani's girlfriend -- emphasizing the drama of her dislike for short hair.
By 5 p.m., the production was way late, and some staple shots had been forgotten. The crew was a little stressed. Cigarettes were being smoked at alarming rates.
Catalani -- eyebrows freshly waxed -- kept tugging at his hair.
By 6:15 p.m., Ebert and the Kumbyah staff needed a glass of wine.
Finally, the clothes arrived from Brian Lefko's in Pikesville.
At Gigi's prompting, the crew had picked out vibrant colors for the mostly black-wearing Catalani. Shirts in colors like raspberry and lavender.
They dressed him in the back of the salon, and paraded him in front of the cameras for reaction from Gigi. Only one outfit would make it as the new look for Catalani, and it was a good thing that they even had that.
Without having Catalani there at Brian Lefko's to try the clothes on beforehand, only one outfit really fit him.
"I'm so horrified," Gigi said, when the cameras were turned off, as she stared glassy-eyed at Catalani in a suit big enough to fit Ray Lewis.
In front of the cameras, however, she was perky as ever, swooning over her new, more gorgeous creation.
"You look so awesome!" she said.
"I want him to keep his hands out of his hair," Shropshire mumbled, away from the boom.
A makeup artist put concealer on Catalani to cover the dark circles under his eyes (it was a long day after all), and used a little makeup to shape his newly waxed brows.
Then, there were more reaction shots to take.
In front of a mirror, Catalani was filmed looking surprised, as if he hadn't seen himself all day.
A producer helped him to seem more real in his shock.
"Say things like, `My friends are going to freak!'" she said to Catalani. "And, `Ohmigod! Look at my hair!'"
Catalani, as usual, was a good sport, even after numerous takes.
"Oh(appropriate pause) my (appropriate pause) God!" he bellowed. "It's incredible! Look at the hair!"
Finally, it was time for the money shot.
Ambush crew members rushed Catalani and the Kumbyah staff over to the shell of a new Argentinean supper club, Gardel's, which had yet to open.
When the show airs, the story line will say that Catalani needed this emergency makeover because he was opening the new restaurant -- as if he was part owner -- but in reality (ahem, ahem) it is unclear what his role is. Gardel's owners are Adolfo and Josefina Alonso. And Catalani is a glassblower.
Today, Catalani says he does "consulting work" for the restaurant, which had its grand opening at the end of September.
Whatever the case, the Ambush crew members gathered some of Catalani's friends, including his girlfriend, Jeannie Larkin, inside the empty restaurant, and had them wait more than an hour for them to bring Catalani in to show off their new creation.
As she waited, Larkin said she was amused by the makeover, but slightly tired of sitting around waiting for him to come in. And she wasn't nearly as worried about his cropped hair as the show would make it sound.
"The funny thing is, I do like long hair," she said. "But I really don't care."
Apathy is an unwanted emotion on a makeover show, so Larkin, too -- along with Catalani's friends -- would be coached about how to appear really excited and shocked.
The coaching was unnecessary, though. When Catalani was ushered in, his friends were agape. After all, the truest thing that happened all day was that Giovanni Catalani -- a man who avoided the barber shop like the plague -- had been made over.
His hair was fabulous, shiny and chic. His clothes were a far cry from the grungy jeans and sneakers he'd left Cafe Hon in that morning.
Friend Castillo and fellow glassblower Anthony Corradetti couldn't stop laughing at the transformation.
Larkin, all smiles, couldn't stop staring.
"Whoa! Who's that respectable business man?" asked chef Russell Braitsch, when Catalani walked in. "He looks great."
The Ambush staff got what they came for. A man's look was made anew.
No matter that Catalani has let his hair grow back, and wears it curly, not straight.
No matter that he still is more comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt, so that's usually what he wears.
In the end, the Ambush crew could temporarily change the clothes, the brows and the hair, but they couldn't change an artist into a restaurant owner.
You'll get no apologies from Catalani about that, he said last week from Texas, where he'll be when the show airs here. He'll likely have someone tape it for him, so he can watch it later, he said.
"My passion is glassblowing," Catalani said. "That's who I am."
And that, folks, is reality.
When: 11 a.m. today
Where: UPN, WUTB Channel 24
What: Local guy is ambushed on streets of Hampden and gets new look.