One of the most important decisions we make in life -- probably eclipsed only by romantic partner or career choice -- is who to entrust with the all-important task of cutting our hair every six weeks or so.
I was very satisfied with my choice of Andrew Gould, a man so alive and so vibrant that to be around him for even a half-hour haircut was to glimpse true joie de vivre. He cut hair well, but he was so much more than that. He became a good friend, a confidante, a fellow lover of politics, New York, music. We developed a nice bond over more than a decade and his untimely passing leaves me with a big hole in my life.
He was the Mayor of Amsterdam Avenue, proudly holding court in his small but tidy salon and patrolling the street between 85th and 86th between cuts to see if any of his legions of fans happened to stroll by. Whenever I was walking in his direction I would often take a detour to his street because I knew that even a hello or a high five from Andrew would lift my spirits. He was always high on life, perhaps a residual effect of his wild years when he sported shoulder-length hair and seemed to always be in party pose in the pictures I've seen.
A session under the apron with Andrew was to hear a whirlwind of stories about his varied musical tastes, his drug-fueled past, the state of New York City politics, updates on his famous clients (but nothing too revealing). He had a PhD in the "gift of gab," never allowing a moment of silence to pass or an awkward moment to crop up. He always made you feel at ease, that you were special and that when he was cutting your hair, you were the most important person in the world.
I've been thinking of the hair person-haircutter relationship these past few days since he passed away at Mount Sinai Medical Center. It's probably the closest thing to therapy I've ever experienced; you sit still for 30-40 minutes, you catch up on your life since you've last seen each other, you sometimes reveal intimate secrets (although not too much because you're in an open space with other hair people-haircutters), and you often walk out feeling lighter, unburdened, more in control of your life. And it's certainly a lot cheaper than 45 minutes on the couch.
I haven't seen the movie "Shampoo" in many years but I recall that Warren Beatty played a very charismatic, chatty and highly heterosexual hair stylist. I often thought of Andrew Gould as that type of character. He was clearly madly in love with his wife, Christina, which I always found very touching. He was someone who wouldn't shy away from talking about his ups and his downs and that, too, was refreshing. He was a no BS guy, and you never felt like he had a hidden agenda. What you saw, was what you got with Andrew.
He was also a huge animal activist and his love for all furry creatures was charming, tender and fierce all at once. He was not a fan of the carriage horse drivers, he showed off pictures of his cat and he would often post on Facebook some of his animal rights crusades.
I understand that his wife Christina and his employees will be keeping his beloved New York Hair Company open. That makes me happy. It means that Andrew's spirit will live on in a place that he turned into the "Cheers" of hair salons.
Tom Allon is the president of City & State and a former Liberal Party-backed candidate for mayor of New York City. At age 54, he's happy to still need haircuts.