Hair has always held an inflated importance for me. When The Cowsills lyrically extolled the superiority of long hair in ’69, I shrieked, “You ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie, sister!” As chronicled in my hair history, I bought into that myth for 61 years.
It all began in 1954 when I exited the womb with an impressive tuft of hair and an attitude. Legend has it I was already talking and barked, “Who’s in charge here?!” The doctor was so intimidated, he defied custom and slapped my mother.
I don’t recall much about the next six years, but by first grade, I was all about the bangs, emulating Ringo Starr. Although it was four years before The Beatles made the scene, I instinctively knew what looked good and was pretty sure my first crush, Patty Kapitan agreed.
My third grade class picture reveals a brief experimentation with the “pompadour,” inspired by a young Elvis. But I was “all shook up” when I showed my pictures to fifth grade stud, Gary Berzonski on the school bus and he called me a sissy for smiling in my photos. I was more curt than angry.
Adding an unpleasant stench, “BR,” as he later became known in high school and eventually prison, compared my pictures to Eddie Mishler’s, saying, “Eddie’s not smiling, so he’s cooler.” (He may have said “groovier;” this was 1962 after all). I held back my tears, lest I cement my “sissy” label.
It’s worth mentioning the Mishler family, a half-mile up our dirt road, ran a dairy farm. Ed was my best friend, but there was no denying he reeked of the family vocation. It was as if he slept in the barn — and that was well before cow manure was considered a seductive smell. Thus, BR elevating Stinky Eddie above me cut deeply. As if the smell of Brylcreem was somehow more offensive than heifer!
I learned a valuable lesson that day and from then on, I seldom smiled until well into fifth grade. By then, the bangs were back and I wore the smoldering glare of a young Ricky Nelson. Patty was now well within reach.
Junior high found me with the coolest set of bangs to ever hover above a paisley, Nehru shirt. My hair peaked just about the time Patty’s shirt was starting to poke out on top. In those post-Civil War days, hair overlapping ears was forbidden, but I always pushed the limits and there wasn’t a time I didn’t have the longest hair in class. You might say I was a rebel without a pause.
When I first came to Cody at 16 to play American Legion baseball, I was still “the long-haired kid.” Although the handsome stranger quickly stole the third base position from the local boys, coach Larry Martoglio demanded I get a haircut before my fielding legend could commence. I was often compared to a young Brooks Robinson, although the botched haircut from an Irma Hotel chop shop made me look like an older Alfred E. Neuman. It was so hideous, I had to sneak up on a glass of water. Literally!
Returning to Pennsylvania for my senior year, my bangs had grown back and only class president Bill Lease had bangs closer to the eyeballs. He also was 6 inches taller with a clear complexion, so, unlike me, he didn’t look like his mother fed him with a slingshot.
Well, a lot of good all those years of great hair did me; Patty later married Bill Lease and in ’89 my disgruntled fiancée — at the peak of my bodybuilding physique and flawless mullet — moved on and married a skinny guy with Ted Koppel hair. Ah, but he was rich. I was slowly catching on … hair size (or length if you will) really doesn’t matter.
By now you’ve probably caught on to the gag: the photo you see actually is me. Even my trademark headband couldn’t save my eyes from the burning perspiration during brutally hot, July roofing days. I finally acted my age and abandoned my aging rock star look. No worries though; I’m told I now look like a young Warren Beatty. I’m back to smiling for the camera, about the time ol’ smelly Eddie is probably getting fitted for dentures. Who’s groovy now?!