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SoCal STYLE: Beauty : Lasting Impressions: Three Writers
Muse on the Mystique of Eyes, Lips and Hair

A Wild and Untamed Place

September 14, 1997|Michael Angeli | Michael Angeli is an L.A. screenwriter and a contributing editor of Details

I get my hair cut in a big place where the clientele is mainly women. The outside is veiny stone bleached to a salmon hue and Corinthian columns bookend the entrance, as if Aristotle's "Poetics" were being discussed at great length inside. But to enter is to trespass on a forum of feminine mystique, a marvelously aromatic Acropolis of heat lamps, bushy paintbrushes and magic potions--a palladium of heels, attitude and ringing phones. On a Saturday, no less than 30 pairs of hands conjure beauty from hair the texture of shredded wheat and of colors that can be duplicated only by leaving sterling silver out on the Santa Monica Pier overnight.

There are squatly middle-aged women in rubber capes with enough tinfoil on their heads to pick up all the programs on DirecTV. Society dames shackle themselves in expensive jewelry for a three-hour dye job while struggling production assistants shiver, nose up at the faucets for shampoos. There are gorgeous blonds, redheads and brunets whom you'd swear had their hair done before they came in.

The salon is a place to observe certain mysteries of womanhood revealed over the hollow hush of blow dryers and the reproving hiss of the cappuccino machine. Not long ago, I heard a woman with a misbehaving pageboy lament as she glared in the mirror, "My hair is not of this earth!" And how right she was! For I have learned from my afternoons in the swivel chair that your hair is both within you and without you--a part of you to which you may loudly make suggestions but have absolutely no control over. Your hair is a wild and untamed place beyond the civilization of your face, where order and function prevail. Apart from making rich men out of New Jersey shampoo manufacturers who give their products French names, it serves absolutely no purpose other than defining who you are. Doubt me on this and you'll have to take on NASA. Twenty-five years ago, Pioneer 10, the first man-made vehicle to travel into interstellar space, carried on board a plaque bearing an illustration of a man and a woman for the purpose of identifying our species to the John Lithgows of the Milky Way. The man is depicted with short hair; the earth woman has a long, flowing mane. But don't just take NASA's word for it. Look at the movies. With her head looking like a blown dandelion, manly Sigourney Weaver rids interstellar space of aliens. Conspicuously long-haired Julia Roberts is the leading lady of romance once again. And while we're on conspiracy theories, was it just a coincidence that the mother of Rosemary's baby had very short hair?

Personally, I think a woman with a Katie Couric cut is no less a woman than one sporting the Maria Shriver look. But of the two, the long-haired woman is the more courageous one. Let me explain: The girl with the buzz cut leaves the salon knowing precisely how she'll look from day to day. Forget all that nonconformity tripe--Katie's playing it safe. For the full-haired Maria Shriver, life is not so predictable. She leaves the hairdresser knowing she'll look reasonably dazzling until the wind along the Wilshire corridor, not to mention the ravages of sleeping on it that night, reduces all that layering to a $200 fright wig. Now that takes bravery. Courage, thy name is Kelly Lange!

As for my own hair, a German woman with a long blond ponytail does a stalwart job and I leave feeling good, which is to say inconspicuous. When she's on vacation, a French woman actually gives me a slightly better cut. Still, I would never switch. My loyalty has to do with the length of the French woman's hair--which is cropped very close to her ears. And if I've come away with one lesson from the salon, it's this: In life, there are no short cuts.


Hair: Enzo Laera/Visages Style L.A.: model: Michele Rozmarin/Elite, New York City-L.A.

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