It seems like it happened overnight. All of a sudden barbershops and hair salons with names like “Joe’s” and “Gloria’s”, had changed their names to “Hairz Looking at You”. “Best Little Hair House”, and the salon I went to in my Astoria, Queens neighborhood, “She Goes to Your Head”. (All absolutely real names, I swear!) But probably the worst name I ever heard for a unisex salon was “Your Fathers Mustache”. Why would a 20 to 30-year-old want to walk into a place named “Your Fathers Mustache”??? It is neither witty, nor tongue-in-cheek, nor does it make you say to yourself “I want those people to stand behind me with scissors and whack off my hair”. However, in 1984, the Minneapolis-based owners of “Your Fathers Mustache” not only liked the name, but thought it should be a national chain, so they embarked an advertising campaign that included a “Wild Spot” TV commercial that they hoped would soon turn into a “National” TV commercial. This is where I, and my birds-nest hair, come in. I was cast in their very first commercial, mostly because I had trained in a style of dance that would look good in silhouette, which part of the commercial would be shot in.
Six years earlier I was lucky enough to win a scholarship at the Nat Horne Dance Theater for two years. Their space was right on Theater Row, a string of Off-Off Broadway Theaters on 42nd street between 9th and 10th Avenue. That whole block is now a giant luxury residences building. In return for performing in two or three shows each year, the scholarship students received voice and acting classes, in addition to about 20 hours of Jazz, Tap, Modern dance classes a week. And the greatest blessing of all was Nat Horne himself. He had performed in 10 Broadway shows, included the original companies of “Finian’s Rainbow”, “Golden Boy” and “Applause”. Nat trained and performed with the illustrious choreographer Jack Cole. (If you don’t recognize the name, click the link, you’ll recognize his work) Cole influenced many of the great choreographers of the theater, from Jerome Robbins, and Michael Kidd, to Bob Fosse and Michael Bennett. Gene Kelly also had been heavily influenced by Cole’s style, so Nat’s style of dance looked a lot like Kelly’s – strong, athletic and emotionally based. Nat, himself, taught the advanced jazz classes and he taught us how to be “acting dancers”, where each move, each step, was motivated and connected not only to our emotions but to the story of the dance.
OK, back to the commercial shoot in Minneapolis. Since it was a commercial for a hair salon, the owner wanted total control over what our hair looked like in the spot, so we were sent to the salon headquarters a few days before the shoot and our heads were quaffed like you wouldn’t believe. They gave me a perm and styled my hair so high I had to duck to get through doorways. On the day of the shoot we danced all day, and a lot of good stuff ended up on the cutting room floor.
My voluminous hairdo lasted for about 4 weeks, and the salons dreams of national fame didn’t last much longer than that. I think it might have had something to do with the name! Or my hair! Or both!!!