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The Men Who Grin and Bare Their Baldness

December 06, 1987|IRIS KRASNOW | United Press International

WASHINGTON — Arthur Liman and his plastered spaghetti slithering along his thinning pate did more than provide acerbic relief to last summer's hit TV series, the Iran-Contra committee hearings. The mere sight of the chief counsel for the Senate committee probing the scandal made women across America shudder and turn to their mates with, "Darling, don't ever wear your hair that way."

They were speaking of the crowning sin in male grooming: covering up baldness by inching the part toward the ear and stretching the hair across the Great Plains of skin. Worse yet is flipping the locks over from the back. These camouflage tricks seem to be especially prominent in image-obsessed Washington.

Shining examples of Capitol Hill heads that would be better au naturel than the object of sketchy cover-ups belong to Sens. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and J. Bennett Johnson (D-La.). As for bad toupees, they're all over the city.

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Come on, guys. Emulate instead Sen. John Glenn (D.-Ohio)--bite the Brylcreem, be bald and be proud. Sure beats the dead worms look, waiting for the Food and Drug Administration to grant final approval to minoxidil--a so-called miracle hair fertilizer--or going through the agony and expense of hair transplant surgery.

OK, so there's no denying that a shaggy mane has never hurt a politico on the ascent. The cast of presidential candidates in both camps are for the most part hirsute and boyish. Take Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), Sen. Albert Gore (D-Tenn.), Bruce Babbitt, ex-governor of Arizona, and Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. But these thick-haired contenders for the Oval Office can't touch Telly Savalas in sheer "Who loves you baby" machismo.

And former Presidents Gerald Ford and Dwight Eisenhower had something those with thinning stringies have yet to possess--the guts to bare all.

Hear it from John Capp (his real last name), founder of the Baldheaded Men of America, a group based in Morehead, N.C. Capp's motto is, "If you ain't got it, flaunt it."

The 18,000-member organization puts out a newsletter called Chrome Dome and holds annual conventions in Morehead. "We got Morehead and less hair," is a quip of the BMA.

Capp, who comes from four generations of baldies, has become a popular speaker on the men's club circuit for his lecture on "The Bare Facts." Indeed, Baldheaded Men of America may be a more effective tonic for its members than trips to shrinks or trichologists.

"From our letters, we have found that many men consider baldness to be a sign of growing old, and it's not," says Capp's wife, Jane. "John started losing his hair when he was 17 years old and he formed the organization to make people feel good about themselves. I think it really caught on. At conventions, our baldies talk about the truly good parts about being bald."

Charles Cole, one of Washington's premier hairdressers, came over and he's glad he did. Instead of lamenting over what he has lost, Cole chooses instead to show off what he's got. He wears large red spectacles to shift the focus off his sparse hair, which he wears very short to blend with what he calls his "monk's cap" on the upper back of his head.

"When you grow it long and cover it up, that draws more attention to the baldness," says Cole, whose red hair has been receding since he was 18. "There are many more ways that a man can express his virility other than the hair on his head.

"A lot of men work out, and should be showing off their great bodies. Unbutton your shirt. Grow a mustache and beard and trim it very neatly to look professional. God gave us hair all over and if He didn't supply it on top, let them see it somewhere else."

A tall, attractive lawyer in his early '40s used to play cover-up but now reveals all for the world to see. His father lost his hair early so when this man started receding in his late '20s, it came as no surprise. He does wear a mustache and beard.

"I used to do some of the combing over business, but none of that deceives anyone. If anything, it telegraphs your own sensitivity about it," says the Washington lawyer. "Now, it's something I absolutely don't worry about. I would never contemplate having a transplant. I have looked this way for a long time. Wouldn't it be sort of weird to all of a sudden go to a full head of hair?

"I think the sooner you can get to the point where you accept it, the better off you are." While this man clearly shows confidence, he and others interviewed insisted their names not be used: "I still have some sensitivity," the lawyer admits.

The Washington lawyer who has grown more gutsy over time says he may have new-found bravado, but it will never lead him into Yul Brynner terrain--all-bald land. Other men feel total emancipation comes with that daily shave of their heads. No more scattered fuzz to fuss over. No more stress about an increase in forehead size. They feel heightened sexuality--many women consider the light bulb look to be a genuine turn-on.

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