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Reflections

'If somebody's hair looks good, they feel good all over.'

December 17, 1985|PERRY C. RIDDLE

I'm from Niagara Falls, Canada. I was lucky because I'm the only American-born child in my family. My mother went across the border to have pizza with her cousins and she had me. I was born in the U.S. hospital.

I worked in all the amusement parks and the wax museum in Niagara Falls since I was 12. In my last job I was a dolphin handler. I did shows for the public with dolphins and sea lions eight times a day, seven days a week. I loved it.

At first when I had to start cutting and gutting my own fish it was rough. It just made me nauseous. I couldn't believe I was doing it. I had to prepare fish before every single show and at night I had to get 60-pound crates of fish out of this big walk-in freezer and thaw them out for the next day. But I hung in there. I did it for three years. I had a ball.

When I came to California, I was so homesick. I had to do something. A girlfriend told me about manicuring school. After the first week I got bored. I thought, "I've got to get into that hair. I bet you I can do that." It just came to me. It wasn't like I wanted to do it all my life or anything like that, it just came real natural to me.

I'm really comfortable with hair. You can blow it out and make it blossom like a rose. It's amazing to see what it does for people. And I like that. In some ways it relates to when I was a dolphin trainer. What I can do for other people.

I like to provide a service of some sort. And I like strokes, I feel it, when people are really happy and they come back to me all the time. It's just very personal. It seems like, if somebody's hair looks good, they feel good all over. It's arty, it's creative. I just couldn't see myself working in an office. I have to be in close contact with people.

In Canada, where I come from, you can work your tail off and end up with the same $15,000-a-year income. There's no growth. In Los Angeles it's another planet. There's plenty of opportunity and there's always a lot of money. People here are willing to pay for quality service. We all work so hard that, when you can go to a restaurant and have somebody wait on you and look after you, you don't mind paying for it. When you work till 7 or 8 o'clock at night, who wants to go home and cook?

It's the same way in my business. These people don't want to be concerned about their hair. That's not their problem. They've got big deals to worry about and they've got to drive their kids everywhere, I mean they've got a million other things to worry about. They don't want to have to worry about their hair. I worry about it. Where I work, we take care of everything that's ailing them. If I've got someone who's under a lot of stress, I send them upstairs to get a body massage. They'll be new in an hour, and it works.

I recommend a lot of things for people. I have a stack of business cards, people who come into the shop, you know. Depending on what you need, I've got it. I've got certain psychologists that suit people. I have doctors. In my job you meet people from all walks of life, every kind of person you can imagine.

I've worked hard to get to where I am right now, and I'm at a point where I can relax. I can go to concerts and I can go out to dinner when I want.

My mother tells me, "Germain, you live in your fantasy. I remember when you used to talk about it. 'Someday I'm going to have my own place, and my own car, and my own money, and I'll be able to do what I want to do, and I'm going to have a terrific job.' "

I reached the goals that I wanted and I'm living it right now. If I die tomorrow, I don't want anybody to feel sorry for me. I've lived my life to the fullest at 28 years old. I feel very lucky. I am basically in control of my life, and it's a good feeling, you know.

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