Many years ago, when I was in the Far East during the Korean War, I spent some time in Japan... and first encountered female barbers. It was a revelation. Not only did these young women know how to quickly and deftly cut hair, they would end every haircut with a vigorous massage, running their hands roughly, very hard up and down my spine with their knuckles. Almost painful but very relaxing. (In some shops, I saw them doing a foot massage, where the customer would lie on the floor and they would stomp on the client's spine that way.) Like most American men, I only had male barbers from the time I was a tot getting my hair trimmed by my father's barber, until I occupied an office in the Sardi's building in Manhattan and frequented the barber shop there. Female manicurists of course - but all male barbers. When I returned from Japan in the mid-fifties, I met two efficient women who became my barber and manicurist for many years. They came to my office once a week, trimmed my hair and beard and did their best to make me look fairly presentable. That attention spoiled me for life. When I moved to California, I went to the barbershop in the Beverly Hills Hotel because a barber named Tony there knew how to cut my unruly hair to my liking. But I never gave up hope that I would find a female barber once again. I began frequenting a small, unlikely barber shop which was operated by an old Italian guy named Pascal, at 311 N. Crescent Drive in Beverly Hills. After Pascal's passing many years later, the barber shop was well in need of a face-lift. One day it got it. Pascal's Barber Salon was restored and opened up to the sunlight, made bright and nice - and there was Heidi, a friendly Iranian woman. She greeted me and when she wrapped the cloth around my neck, I felt at peace for the first time in awhile. A woman barber was back in my life.
Heidi Novian slowly told me her story, of how she had come from Iran with her Jewish family in 1991. She had been a hairdresser for many years in Tehran, providing her services to the upper elite. Once she relocated to the United States, she trained for 18 months at Vidal Sasson's Hair Academy. She continued working as a hair stylist in Beverly Hills for 10 years under the guidance of male stylists, perfecting her craft. "But I never gave up my dream of owning my own shop" she told me. "I would pass by Pascal's every day and think of how much I loved this space. One day a friend told me that Pascal's widow was looking to sell the shop. I quickly made the call and met with her." Heidi's dream was fulfilled. She quickly renovated the salon and that's around the time we met. Due to her discipline, she is proficient in both men's and women's hair. Her shop has been turned into a full-service barber shop, providing cuts, shaves, color, manicures, and scalp massage. And she even caters her business to 'events.' She told me recently about her venture into the grooming of entire wedding parties. She has created an unprecedented form of service which provides a unique grooming experience for entire wedding parties prior to the wedding. Heidi's team arrives at the hotel with scissors, razors, combs, and champagne in hand to help the groom's men get ready in style. The full pampering experiences come in different specialized packages which can be tailored to the wedding party's needs....Talk about spoiled!
She also does house calls. Celebrities are among her clientele, but she won't reveal their names. She has, however, kept true to the heritage of her salon by expanding the ever-growing wall of grateful famous clientele - which even includes signed "thank you" notes from old and new clients like Frank Sinatra, Carl Reiner, and Mel Brooks. When I told my friend Norman Bernstein, who lives in Montana, that I was doing this piece, he laughed and said that he drove 80 milers every two weeks to his favorite barber, Jenny Cahill, in Havre, Montana. So I'm not the only crazy one.
Why do I like a woman barber? Frankly, because women care more. They pay attention to little details. They are indeed more meticulous and concerned....it is as simple as that!
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