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Studio City | Valley Focus

Salon Owner Aids the AIDS Walk Cause

September 25, 1996|DADE HAYES

As usual, some heavy hitters will participate Sunday in AIDS Walk Los Angeles: GTE, The Gap and DreamWorks SKG will all sponsor walkers.

But in sheer numbers, a modest, second-floor beauty shop is beating out these world-famous corporations. Salon Paul/Florent, with only five employees, has registered more participants for the walk benefiting AIDS Project Los Angeles than any of the corporations named.

During this final week of registration, the salon ranks fifth out of more than 800 teams.

"We decided we'd ask everyone in the vicinity," said owner Paul McKay. "We hit people over the head, whether they like it or not."

The salon, located on Ventura Place, is not a novice at building a team for the walk. Last year, it raised more than $28,000, ranking sixth behind Sony, Disney, DreamWorks and the city and county of Los Angeles.

Raising money for AIDS charities took on an urgency for McKay in 1992, when his business partner, Florent Cossette, died of complications from the disease. McKay signed up 100 walkers for the event in 1994. In 1995, the salon team numbered 375. This year, it's at 460 and counting.

"I swear, it didn't take a whole lot," McKay said. "We just asked everyone who came in to ask five of their friends. And the word just spread."

The team is usually easy to spot on the walk. Curiously for a hair salon, it uses hats as its key fashion statement. Last year it was umbrella hats; straw is in vogue this time.

"We like everyone to look like geeks," cracked McKay. "Other teams do T-shirts. We wanted to do something more fun."

Unfortunately, McKay himself will not be walking in the event this year. About two weeks ago while on his motorcycle, he was broadsided, sending him flying off the bike. He broke his hip and two leg bones.

Doctors say his recovery may take more than a year.

"It's been a real bummer," said Jennifer Kunz, McKay's girlfriend and a walk organizer. "But he'll definitely be out there next year and in the future."

On Sunday, McKay will receive the APLA's Crystal Apple Award, annually given to the event's outstanding fund-raiser.

To register for the walk or get more information, call (213) 466-WALK. To join the Salon Paul/Florent team, call (818) 980-3166.

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