David Bruce: Hair Anecdotes

Believe it or not, changing hairstyles suddenly can put you at a disadvantage in competitive gymnastics. In Moscow, at the 1958 World Championships, Soviet gymnast Polina Astakhova suddenly decided to change to a more fashionable hairstyle, so instead of pulling her hair back into a bun as she usually did, she wore pigtails decorated with blue ribbons. Unfortunately, because of the change in hairstyles, the audience did not recognize her and so they did not give her the burst of applause that can so helpful in releasing adrenaline and influencing judges. Of course, as soon as she was able, she went back to her usual hairstyle, and the audience recognized her and gave her the usual ovation.

Phyllis Diller performed in a fright wig that has hair sticking up everywhere. Early in her career, she used to perform in her own hair. Once, worried about hair loss, she went to a specialist who told her that to stimulate hair growth, she should use a curry comb. She did, and it worked, but it made her hair stand straight up. She went out on stage like that one night, her hair got a laugh, and she started to use fright wigs in her act.

You’d think it would be easy to cut a bald guy’s hair, but Billy Consolo, who worked as a barber after leaving professional baseball, says it isn’t so. He works in a barber shop with more than three chairs, and in order to give all the barbers a fair shot at walk-ins, haircuts have to last a certain amount of time. It’s very difficult to make a bald guy’s haircut last long enough to avoid upsetting the other barbers.

While working at Darmstadt, Rudolf Bing knew a comedian who was completely bald, but had three wigs with different lengths of hair. The comedian would wear the short-haired wig for a while, then the medium-haired wig. When he finally put on the long-haired wig, he would tell everyone he needed a haircut. Whenever the comedian began to wear the short-haired wig again, everyone complimented him on his haircut.

Fred Astaire wore a hairpiece — which he hated — throughout his career. In 1946, he thought that he would retire after filming a movie titled Blue Skies. After filming the final scene of the movie, Mr. Astaire took off his hairpiece, threw it on the floor, and started jumping on it, shouting, “Never, never, never — never will I have to wear this blasted rug again!”

George Goldtrap once challenged another religious joke teller to a contest. He told the other joke teller that he would allow him to tell his best jokes, then he would get a bigger laugh without saying a word. The other joke teller accepted the bet and told all his best jokes, then Mr. Goldtrap stood up, bowed, removed his toupee — and won the bet.

Kelly McCormick won silver and bronze medals in the Olympics in the 1980s as a springboard diver. While training at Ohio State University, she was coached by Vince Panzanno. As a joke on him, she and the other divers on the team colored their hair bright pink, but the joke fell flat. Later, they discovered why — Mr. Panzanno was colorblind.

At one time, Quaker men did not let their facial hair grow because that was regarded as vanity. Some Quakers talked to fellow Quaker Henry T. Humphries because he had a mustache and a beard — one Quaker advised Mr. Humphries, “Put away childish things”!

When Linda Thorson joined the cast of the British tongue-in-cheek spy series The Avengers, the producers felt that she should be a blonde. Unfortunately, after the dye job, Ms. Thorson’s hair broke off, leaving a large bald spot. (Through necessity, she wore a wig in the series.)

Francis Hodgson Burnett, author of A Little Princess and The Secret Garden, used to tell her two young sons “hair-curling stories.” These weren’t stories that frightened the two boys — they were stories to keep the boys quiet and still so she could curl their hair.

Ice skating Olympic gold medalist and announcer Dick Button is openly bald nowadays, but earlier he wore a toupee. Once, he was on the ice demonstrating a move for television when his toupee came off during a fast move. Like the trouper he is, he carried on.

If you ever see the TV series All in the Family, you will notice the long hair worn by Mike Stivic, played by Rob Reiner. Actually, it’s a toupee. Rob Reiner was — and is — as bald as his famous father Carl Reiner, the creator of The Dick Van Dyke Show.

Albert Schweitzer’s hair was unkempt and would not stay brushed. Before a lecture, a man asked him what he should say to introduce him. Mr. Schweitzer replied, “Just say this fellow who looks like a Scottish terrier is Albert Schweitzer.”

Miles Malleson was an actor whose speciality was playing comic old men. In one play, he wore a full wig, underneath which was a bald pate, underneath which was his personal toupee.

Muhammad Ali was capable of teasing his good friend Howard Cosell. Speaking before a group of college students, Mr. Ali offered to pay $1,000 to whoever brought him Mr. Cosell’s toupee.

When lieder singer Lotte Lehmann was a child, she had a very thick pigtail, which she put to good purpose by allowing a small friend to grab hold of it and then swinging her in circles.

At a party screenwriter Denis Norden once asked a woman, “Hey, what happened to that skinny blonde your husband used to be married to?” The woman replied, “I dyed my hair.”

Lycurgus advocated the wearing of long hair by the Spartans, saying, “If you’re good-looking, it improves your looks. If you’re ugly, it makes you still more frightening.”

Early in his career, before becoming a famous dancer, Jacques d’Amboise was listed in a program for John Cranko’s Witch as one of the two “Bald Heads.”

When bald comedian Myron Cohen went in for a haircut, his barber told him, “There’s one thing you can say for badness — it’s neat!”

Horror writer Stephen King’s beard is often seasonal — when it isn’t baseball season, he shaves it off.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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