My hair has only been cut by Charles for over twenty-five years. Himself had one emergency haircut, which was a huge disappointment, and other than that, he has been shorn by Charles exclusively for nearly twenty years. When I first met my beloved he sported a mullet. I had been boyfriendless for many years when we met and had spent many sleepless lonely nights pondering what I had done wrong to find myself in this position. I created a number of affirmations for myself, lest I ever find myself in another relationship. Then God sent me this creature who read what I read and listened to what I listened to and laughed at what I laughed at. My beloved has problem hair, roadkill pelts come to mind. My first thought upon meeting him was, “He’s cute and has the most soulful eyes I have ever seen.” I stopped my second thought by chanting to myself over and over again, “Do not try to change him.” We fell in love and were inseparable within weeks of our first meeting and I was scrupulous, in this early stage at least, about not trying to reinvent him.
One day my new boyfriend announced that he needed a haircut and he was loyal to a hairdresser in Venice and he planned to take a two hour bus ride there from Echo Park for a trim. I said nothing, but it was a Herculean effort in restraint. Later in the day though, he called me, a bit frazzled. The hairdresser had left the state. Did I perhaps know someone who could cut his hair? I rank this moment, along with the birth of my children and the announcement that Trader Joe’s was opening in Silverlake, as one of the happiest in my life. Charles’ Studio, was closer than Venice, but for most of my adult life, a haircut has been the only reason I ventured west of La Brea. The shop was in a little cottage on what used to be a non-descript strip of Melrose down near Robertson.
Charles designed the shop himself in black and red with vintage sex-ploitation film posters and a collection of toy robots he actively discouraged my children from playing with and a collection of his own photographs of an obese naked man wearing a gas mask. Charles also believes very much in the paranormal and often vacations at Area 51. And, his phone is tapped. He had two other salon chairs installed and claimed for years he wanted other stylists to rent space from him. He also told me, earnestly, that he was hoping to find and seduce a beautiful wealthy woman who would take care of him. After knowing the man for twenty-five years, I would say that perhaps he lacks the social skills to accomplish either of these goals and he worked the shop by himself and has no significant other as far as I know. The man though, was born to cut hair and for many years his cuts have blessed my beloved with hair befitting his inner beauty.
A Charles haircut begins with a thorough wash and condition and scalp massage followed by a meticulous haircut, always a full hour process and not a cheap one. Before Harry fled north, he was a devotee of Charles. Once, I guess about 20 years ago, in an effort to control his drug use, he transferred all his money to a very conservative friend who would dole it out to him only when appropriate. This scheme, as I recall, went south really quickly but not before I received a call from the financial overseer, concerned that Harry had backslid and using again. Her concern was that he had asked for $40 for a haircut. Beauty ain’t cheap.
Charles’ little strip of no man’s Melrose started to hippify a number of years ago. The grossest example is the odious Urth Café, directly across the street. Charles’ rates rose steadily through the years but were always in what I considered in the “medium range.” I was surprised that his rent continued to be manageable in what became a pricey little strip of Melrose. The axe fell a few months ago and Charles was forced to vacate his space of twenty five years and rent a booth in an old lady shop in West Los Angeles, even farther for us and with even crappier parking than available in hoity toity WeHo. Charles also announced a pretty steep price increase. My hair doesn’t grow. Really. I have a trim about once a year and perhaps it may look ratty to others but it just doesn’t really cry out to me to be cut. Himself, however, requires serious hair maintenance every six weeks and given our current forced austerity we were obliged to question our loyalty to Charles. Himself has appeared hatted in public for several weeks but I returned home last night I found him au natural and knew that we had entered a critical phase. I consulted Yelp and called a couple of highly rated places in the Silverlake area. I managed to get him an appointment at a shop that was well recommended. After dropping the kids at rehearsal we made our way to Silverlake, although my passenger engaged in so much backseat driving he is lucky not to have been dropped off as fodder for a coyote pack as we traversed the park. The shop was hipster Chicano with all manner of gel and piercings and tattoos and People Magazine en espanol. Everyone was genial and the process took less than half an hour and cost, including tip, less than a third of Charles' current rate. I am posting photographic evidence but the real proof will be the day after look, haircut codified by shower. My haircut needs are meager and I will continue to endure Charles for my annual clip until one of us dies. I’m way over that thing about not trying to change your partner (although I have certainly struck out with the fucking cellphone HAVEN’T I?) After work I’ll give the bargain cut my final inspection but I’ve already got some copy drafted for Craig’s List—kidney available in exchange for haircut.