Saturday, April 12, 2008

Attack of the Awful Toupees


You’ve got to love spring in New York.

The weather is warm, people are wearing t-shirts and sandals, and all over town, men are strapping on hideous hairpieces.

Yes, it’s open season on bad rugs in New York, and you don’t have to be Buffalo Bill to spot one of these monstrosities coming down the avenue.

They seem ready to leap off their owners’ heads and go right for your throat.

I spotted one last night while waiting outside the Guggenheim Museum, when a guy walked by me with this thing on his head that could have easily been a piece of modern art.

I nailed another one in Manhattan two days earlier, but the wig in question was so horrible I have since forgotten the exact location. You could call it post-traumatic rug syndrome.

Maybe I have keener eye because of my own follicle-challenged dome, but I’ve seen a couple of road kill specials that just make you want to body slam the occupants, rip the offending toupee off their melons and hurl them down the nearest sewer—the toupees, not the men…at least not for a first offense.

Hey, nobody likes being bald and I can only thank the Good Lord that head-shaving has become so popular in recent years.

It sure as hell wasn’t like that when I was growing up. Back then, shaved heads were reserved for escaped mental patients and Curly Howard. That's it. Either you were being slapped by Moe or you were being dragged away by burly men in white coats.

It wasn't considered cool or sexy. In those dark days, a shaved head screamed "freak" in block letters.

Yes, we had Telly Savalas and Yul Brenner, but they were celebrities, for God’s sake, they could do anything. They didn't have real jobs.

Today there are more baldies than ever and we’re not automatically tagged as Nazis or androids. But it can get a little annoying if there’s more than one of us in the room.

When I spot another skinhead, I usually drop the line, “hey, we go to the same barber” for a couple of cheap yuks.

More than two bald guys, it gets a little iffy, and if there’s more than four of us in the same room, it looks like a cult.

I went to a free screening a few years back of the Hulk (the one they’re pretending didn’t happen—if only) and there were so many guys with shaved heads we could have had our own section. Hairless or non-hairless?

There are people with a full head of hair who actually choose to shave their heads, which perplexes the ever living hell out of me.

As a balding man, I can only say what is wrong with you people?!? You should be down on your knees thanking the Almighty for this great gift, not throwing it away!!

I knew a certain police chief in one of the towns I covered in the Poconos who got a hairpiece. He had been bald for years and then one day he wasn’t, so you really didn’t need Colombo to figure out that something was afoot. Or ahead.

Hair Raid

He was later charged—and acquitted—of stealing the town’s parking meter money (no, I’m not making that up) and the state attorney general had alleged he used the ill-gotten coin to buy a tanning bed and “top of the line hairpieces.”

I tell you, if that hairpiece was top of the line, I would hate like hell to meet the bottom of the line rug in a dark alley. Or in the light of day, for that matter.

When I was a reporter in Connecticut, I once did a story about business owners who made their own TV commercials. The champion of this particular sector was, of course, Sy Sperling, capo di tutti toupee of the Hair Club for Men.

You remember him, right? The guy who wasn’t just the president of the club, he was also a client.

I thought it would be fun to interview old Sy so I could HC HQ, left a message, and waited…and waited…and waited some more.

I didn’t want the company to call and leave a message because I feared it would look like I was interesting in getting a hairpiece, that I, too, wanted to be a client--instead of trying to further the cause of good journalism.

This was back in my thinning days, when I kept my hair short, but I still kept it. I had not yet learned the joys of head-shaving, where you just wipe the slate clean and put your barber out of business.

I had to get to the bank before it closed so finally, I hot-tailed it down to the branch on East Main Street and came streaking back to the office with the wind whistling through my scalp.

And there was the message with the receptionist, the little pink slip marked “While You Were Out” or some such crap: “the Hair Club for Men called.”

I was tempted to explain the situation to the receptionist, but I thought I’d just make things worse, so finally I pulled the plug (s) and went skulking back to my desk. And I’m a first class skulker, I’ll have you know.

I forgot whom I spoke with at the Hair Club, but it wasn’t Sy. I’m glad I never went that whole hairpiece route (root?) since it seems like a lot more trouble than it’s worth. Fittings, and trimmings, enough already, just shave everything off and be done with it.

A lot of balding men tell me they'd love to shave off their remaining hair, but they have the wrong-shaped head.

Wrong shaped head? What exactly does that mean? Is there some cranial commission going around town inspecting shaved heads and ordering the offending alopecia sufferers to get to the nearest toupee emporium.

I treated myself to a new electric razor this week in honor of my new job. I had been using blades for a while, but the electric feels close enough and hopefully I'll be cutting down on the blood loss.

But since this is America, I guess people have the right to wear atrocious hairpieces if they so choose.

Hell, George Washington wore a wig and not only was he the president of our country, he was also a client…or a citizen…or something like that.

So, yes, wig-wears, you and your vinyl hair go forth into the sunshine, secure in the knowledge that while others may snicker, nothing will separate you from your hair, unless it’s you.

But you comb-over guys had better watch out...

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