you are a professional musician, you sometimes dream about the day that your
son will come up to you and say, “Papa, what I really want is a horn.” You hope that he might want a saxophone. You pray that he doesn’t have the personality
that would ask for a trumpet. Avi asked
for his first horn at a cheap hair salon when we took the boys for
One of the great
pleasures of parenthood is being able to force your children to go through the
same horrible experiences that you went through when you were a child. So, we took the boys to a cheap salon, and I got
ready to say, “A little boy’s haircut, please.” The children had different ideas. Both had announced during the negotiation
period that they wanted to grow their hair.
Zach, who has big, curly locks wanted to start working on a Jewfro. Avi just wanted his hair to
hang straight down. He was sporting a
modified bowl cut, and his bangs were dangling down to the bottom of his top
eyelids. Jennifer, when hearing the
boy’s announcement, put on her best Jewish accent and said, “What am I going to
tell them? Their father has long
hair?” Thus began the negotiations with
eight year-old Avi.
“Avi, how do you want your bangs
“I don’t want them cut.
I want them to hang down into my eyes,” he
said while pressing the bangs flat against his forehead and peering out between
You’re not going to have hair in your eyes.”
You have two choices.
You can get your bangs cut even with your
eyebrows, or you can part it like mine,” I said while demonstrating what I
intended by parting his bangs.
“I don’t want my bangs cut.”
“Avi, I don’t care if you grow your
hair or not, but your not going to have bangs in your eyes.”
“I want it straight down.”
Either cut up to your eyebrows or parted.”
“Why can’t I have it in my eyes?”
“Because you won’t be able to see. Son, what’s the long term plan with your
hair? How do you really want it cut?” I
asked with mounting frustration. I
prepared to say “no” to the long bangs again.
Avi was quiet for a moment, and his voice took on the tender, vulnerable
sonority of honesty.
“Well, papa, what I
really want is a horn.”
Momentarily confused by his
unexpected and perplexing statement, I assumed I hadn’t heard correctly.
I said, “A what?”
“What I really want is a horn.”
The thought “Please let it be a
saxophone” flashed through my mind as I reiterated, “You want a what?”
“A horn,” said he.
“I want all of my hair cut really short,” he
explained, and grabbing about three inches of the bangs in the center of his
forehead, he twisted them into a liberty spike and continued, “except for right
I want a big horn that I can spike
up in the middle of my forehead so that I can run around and ram people with
With that he began a thrusting
motion with his head as he pushed his manufactured spike into me.
had thought that I was aiming low when I was willing to settle for a
I paused as my incredulity
passed into exasperation.
The words came
flatly, “Avi, you’re not getting a horn.”
“But I want a horn to ram people.”
“Avi…no…you’re not getting a horn.
You go ask that lady over there.
She doesn’t even know how to do a horn
I marched Avi over to the woman who
was to cut his hair.
“Tell her what you
Suddenly, a timidity that would not
normally become a horned creature seized him as he quietly said, “I want a
horn” to the kindly hair stylist.
“He wants a horn in the middle of
his head. Avi, I told you she wouldn’t
know how to do it. Give him a little boy
As I turned to
walk back to the waiting area, I noticed that our little interaction had
attracted the attention of the woman behind the reception desk. She caught my eye and said, “We need you.”
“We need you.
We are doing a show in a few weeks.
We are flying a Paul Mitchell executive down
from Philadelphia to do a trade show, and we need male models with long hair
that are willing to do something drastic to their hair.
We need you to be a hair model.”
“You want me to be a what?”
“To be a hair model.
You would get to come to the hotel and get
your hair cut for free by a famous stylist on a stage in front of a hundred
I thought of several times in my
life when I have been mistaken for a homeless person.
I thought of the time Brian and I offered a
homeless man in New Orleans the opportunity to pick through all of our clothes
and take whatever he wanted.
rejected our normal clothes outright and picked a blue T-shirt that Brian had
brought for sleeping.
Recently, a church
secretary insisted I take a bag of groceries because she was convinced I was
“Look…um…you’ve got the wrong
I haven’t combed my hair in almost
If it gets washed twice a
week, it’s lucky.”
Don’t you want to be on the stage with all of
those woman looking at you?”
I could have explained in great detail why I could care less if all
of those women were looking at me, but very uncharacteristically, I chose
You’ve got the wrong guy.”
As I turned to walk back to the
waiting area, I noticed that our little interaction had attracted the attention
of the woman that I had been married to for ten years.
She caught the woman’s eye and said, “When is
“It’s in a few weeks.
I’ll write the date down.
He would need to come to our other branch for
“I’m really not interested.”
“He’ll be there,” Jenn said.
Jennifer and I
worked out another “compromise,” and three weeks later I found myself in a
salon with my hair in foils. The only
consolation prize for being selected at the audition was that one of my sisters
came along. She was also selected to be
a model. She was taking absolute delight
in the fact that the one person on the whole earth that was the least concerned
about personal hygiene and appearance was having blond highlights put into his
hair by a Paul Mitchell stylist. As the
stylist prepped our hair for the show, we began to talk.
“Kurt, this is going to be so good
You’re going to have to be
concerned about your personal appearance.
You’re even going to have to take a shower.
I know that’s a big sacrifice for you.”
“Kristen, I bathe when I’m
I can’t believe I’m even here.”
Aren’t you excited!?
You get to be part of the fashion world.”
“I was part of the fashion world
one time in Dallas.”
did a fashion show?”
I received a call for a gig at the original
Nieman Marcus store in downtown Dallas.
I was supposed to play the piano for an Oscar de la Renta show.
I arrived, and there was a space cleared out
on one of the floors with a piano off to the side.
As I walked up, employees began to approach
One scurried up, took my hand, and
said, ‘I’m Noel, and I’m in furs.’
second immediately followed with, ‘I’m Rene, and I’m in men’s clothing.’
‘I’m just the piano player,’ I
Go over there.’ They pointed to the
They were obviously disappointed
that I wasn’t someone more important.
When the actual Oscar de la Renta representative showed up, he announced
himself as they approached.
and I’m from New York.’
playing ‘Autumn in New York’ and thinking ‘He can’t actually think that people
will be impressed with him simply because he lives in New York.’
I was, of course, completely wrong.
Nieman Marcus employees (or Nieman Marcae as
I like to call them) began rushing forward to greet him.
‘Oh, are you really from New York?
Is it so great there?
I went a couple of years ago.’
I finished ‘Autumn in New York’ quickly and
switched to ‘’So What’ by Miles Davis.
He regaled them with the tales of the New York life.
Before long, a rather striking blonde walked
by, and I started to play Ellington’s ‘’Sophisticated Lady.’
She walked in such a way that everyone on the
floor had his or her attention drawn toward her.
She vanished for a moment, and reemerged in a
This time, she not only drew
everyone’s attention but also began to primp and preen in front of people.
I thought to myself, ‘You’re pretty, but
you’re not all that.’ I started to play ‘Doxy’ by Sonny Rollins.
Before long, a stunningly beautiful African
American woman was doing the same thing.
Kristen, I had to put in a phone call to our dear sister Kelly
‘Kelly, I played an Oscar de le
Renta show, and I swear there were models showing off clothes to old ladies
with credit cards.’
‘Kurt, that’s how expensive clothes
are sold,’ Kelly responded. ‘They get
models to show you how your fat ass will never look in the outfit, and then you
pull out your credit card.’
I went on break
and headed over to talk to the girl behind the wine and cheese table. I usually enjoy talking to the “help’ on gigs
because they are the people that are closest to my socio-economic class. I started eating grapes and talking about the
job. ‘What’s all this about?’ I asked.
‘Oscar de le Renta is coming here
in a month for a fundraiser.
people the opportunity to buy one of his outfits and wear it to the event.’
Well, can’t they just buy one of his outfits
any day of the week.’
‘You don’t understand.
He may only make fifty dresses like this one
You would be one of the only
people in the world that would own it.’
Can you show up to the event wearing
something other than his clothes?’
‘Probably, but these sorts of
people don’t want to do that.
Let me ask
How much do you think
this dress behind me costs?’
‘I don’t know.
It’s a nice dress.
Maybe three or four hundred dollars.’
She started chuckling to herself as
she found the tag and flipped it to reveal a price of $12,000.00
‘Twelve thousand dollars!’ I
‘Twelve thousand dollars for
I could put a down payment
on a house for that amount!’
‘Not for one of the houses that
these people live in you couldn’t.’
‘I could buy a car!
A nice car!
If I ever paid twelve thousand dollars for an article of clothing, I
would expect it to get off the hanger, walk out of the closet, wake me up in
the morning, make my coffee, and get onto my body!’
She continued chuckling and said,
‘Those pants that the de le Renta rep is wearing go for eight hundred.’
‘Eight hundred for a pair of
They’re nice pants, but not eight
hundred dollars nice.’
I walked back over to the piano and
started a tradition that I have followed to this day.
Every gig I play in a situation where there
is a large amount of wealth exposed, I make sure to play an extended version of
‘God Bless the Child.’
When the notes
sound out, I think of that first verse ‘Them that’s got shall get, them that’s
not shall lose,’ and I mean every pitch and rhythm.”
“Great, Kurt,” Kristen
“Another long story about
We really have to do something
about your ego problem.
I’m worried that
sometime soon you won’t be able to go to some of the places you want to
Your head almost didn’t fit through
the door for this audition.”
“I know, Kristen.
I’m the hero of my own story.”
“But, you have me.
Everyone else is always like, ‘Kurt’s so
wonderful,’ but God has placed me in your life to tear you down and make sure
your ego is manageable.”
“Thanks so much, but I already have
Jenn for that.”
Do you think that there is anything wrong
with liking fashion?
I know you could
care less about your personal appearance, but do you think it’s overly
materialistic for me to care about nice clothes and shoes?”
“I was talking to Marty Barrett
about that once.
Pastor Barrett reminded
me that Esther saved the Jews by virtue of the fact that she was a hot
Even cheerleaders have their place
in the Kingdom.”
Nick, the Paul Mitchell rep,
finished our prep work and sent us home with directions to the hotel for the
arrived at the hotel and pushed our way through one hundred hair burners to the
prep room. We saw Nick. His outfit startled both of us. He was wearing something that almost
resembled an Episcopal cassock. It was
very like the outfit that Kenau Reeves wore in The Matrix. The cassock was
coupled with a haircut that was walking a dangerous line between seventies rock
star and Kentucky waterfall. The result
was that he appeared as a priest of modern hair culture. Kristen and I had been selected to have our
hairs cut and our fashion sins absolved by the priest on stage as part of the
demonstration. Nick was putting the
final touches on the models who had already been transformed and simply had to
walk the catwalk. After a brief
rehearsal, the show began and we entered into the world of hairstylists. As the show began, I was amazed that they
were concerned with issues of self-expression and artistic integrity. They were describing the problems of
balancing the desires of artistic expression and making enough money. I had never previously considered hair
styling to be among the arts, but I began to reconsider. There were certainly enough weird haircuts
and clothes. The mix between gay people
and straight people was about the same as in the other arts. They even had the requisite pretension at
some of the tables. In fact, it was the
exact same crowd that I had seen at gallery openings. The only difference was that the canvass of
their creations consisted of the dead protein that sprouts from our skullcaps.
They had assembled
here to study and improve their craft as taught by a genuine master. At a Paul Mitchell trade show, you can learn
the latest techniques for bouffanting, spiking, mulleting, wedging, buzzing,
bobbing, flat topping, feathering, afroing, dreadlocking, Mohawking, weaving,
extensioning, bowling, Caesaring, crew-cutting, fading, pompadouring,
ducktailing, page-boying, helmet heading, or corn rowing someone’s hair (Incidentally, little boy haircuts are
forbidden at the events). My specific
case this day was going to be a demonstration of (if you will excuse the double entendre) shagging. He was going to shag me in front of the
entire audience. Like a weird chapter
from the Kama Sutra, he was going to shag me while simultaneously pushing Paul
Mitchell’s line of pomades, gels, spritzers, creams, emulsions, foams, tonics,
lotions, waxes, texturizers, glosses, pastes, whips, and possibly the new Paul
Mitchell hair-in-a-can with aloe and citrus extract.
I walked up to the stage and sat in the
barber’s chair. Since I normally only
get a hair cut every two years, I look forward to the conversation with the
hairstylist. I usually like to start
with an icebreaker question like, “When did you come out?” Jennifer always rolls her eyes at me, but my
gay friends are usually more than willing to talk about it. I’m interested in hearing about it. This time was quite different. He was miked up so that the audience could
hear him. He was also straight, so my
normal icebreaker wouldn’t work. He
whipped out a patented Paul Mitchell razor blade and began chopping off about
two feet of hair. He would spin me to
one side and say to the audience, “Do you see how I am establishing the line
along the occipital lobe? I’ll show you
guys on the other side what I mean.” The
chair would whip around one hundred and eighty degrees, the razor blade would
chop, and he would continue, “We did these highlights yesterday with Paul
Mitchell Teasy Lights. Now I want to be
careful as I approach the temporal lobe to keep the line I’ve established even. Excellent.
Now, I can apply some Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Oil and…finished. He still looks like a musician doesn’t
“Yeah, like a seventies rock star,”
I heard Kristen mutter.
After the cut, he made me walk down
the catwalk, turn, and shake my hair out for the stylists.
Following the trip down the runway, I was
then asked to walk around to all thirty tables and allow the stylists to touch
my hair and look at the finished product.
As they were inspecting my new “do,” Kristen was on the stage getting a
hair-cut called “The Barbie.”
“The Barbie” and my new 70s style coif, Paul Mitchell had provided enough
ammunition for a continued sibling sparring session.
As we left the building, I turned to Kristen
and said, “I’m going to have my children stick with the piano.
I knew that nothing good would come from Avi
asking for a horn.”