By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
"I think the worst thing they could charge me with would be trespassing and defacing property, which I believe are still misdemeanors," he says. "But whatever the consequences are, they are. And that would again be part of the documentation of this thing. Even if I went to court, I'd get a public attorney, get a video-friendly judge, and videotape that. I wouldn't be able to pay the fine, so I'd have to do public service, which is sort of what I'm doing anyway. So it all comes full circle. But I would think if they were smart they wouldn't touch it, because it would only make them look worse.
"I really wasn't trying to give Caltrans a black eye," he insists. "It's too easy."
Salon Tales: Sonny and Chair
I HATE GOING TO HAIR SALONS. I dread the small talk. But soon after I moved to an apartment in Pasadena near Caltech, my split ends were screaming for attention. I strolled over to the nearest hair place, a joint called Nippers, and was greeted in near darkness by owner Sonny Hughes, a loose-limbed 50ish guy with a soft twang and a macho swagger. The back of his old rock 'n' roll T-shirt read "See the Music."
"Just gimme a minute here . . ." He turned his attention to a boy in the swivel chair and flipped his young customer's hair with an abracadabra flourish like my grandma tossing salad with chopsticks. Ta-Dah.Sonny stood back, as if waiting for gasps of pleasure, then released the guy from the chair. Spidery strands of wet hair draped the boy's sheepish face, and when Sonny wasn't looking, the guy gave me a wincing smile.
I couldn't decipher that smile because I was distracted by the room. Neil Diamond songbooks and martial-arts manuals perched meaningfully by the shampoo station. Countertops were crammed with dusty frames: snapshots of Sonny and Tony Curtis, Sonny and Steven Seagal, Sonny and Phil Spector, Sonny caught midair doing a chopsocky Spider-Man leap. In each of these celebrity photos, Sonny affects an amusing I'm-so-debonair-I-don't-know-why-I'm-here expression, missing only the fez that would complete the moment.
A minute after Sonny started playing with my hair -- throwing everything over my face and declaring, "Sexy" -- he methodically began talking. He told me he's a jujitsu instructor for the LAPD. He said he once had a band that scaled the Top 20. Miming handlebar revving with stunning gusto, he spoke of riding bikes with Steve McQueen. "When I go in for auditions, people say I'm a natural -- I guess it's in the blood," he shrugged.
"One day I was this Indian kid, 6 years old, picking strawberries in Oklahoma, and the very next thing, I was living with the Old Man and his kids in Beverly Hills -- there were maids, drivers, you know, it was a real culture shock."
I must have looked confused because he plopped down his scissors, disappeared into the back and emerged with photographic evidence: him towering over "the old man" at a birthday bash, a black-and-white blowup of "the old man" as young Andy Hardy feted by the studio . . . His dad is Mickey Rooney. "I've got more," smiled Sonny, eagerly.
Glad I finally caught on, he resumed the hair snipping, grooving on his own internal wave. When he gained good cutting rhythm, he started on his professional history. One day, while working as an assistant on an unnamed B-picture -- "which happened to star a fellow by the name of Dennis Hopper" -- he jokingly started mimicking the set hairstylist's flamboyant tics. He apparently did this so well that an unnamed leading lady mistook him for the real thing. And apparently, the leading lady loved what he did for her so much she later dated him and funded his passage through beauty school. (Perhaps he wrote term papers on Shampoo.)
As he went on and on, it dawned on me that Sonny was a modern-day shaman and that Nippers was less a hairdressing salon than a storytelling salon. When he finished, my hair was still dripping wet. He extended an offer of generosity: "Want a towel dry?" Towel dry?
Combing out my hair at home, I was shocked to see that the hair to the left of my face was an inch and a half longer than the hair on the right.
"Sonny!! . . ." I shrieked down the phone.
Fifteen minutes later, I was back in the chair. Sonny picked up his scissors. "So listen," he said, as if I'd never left. "Many years ago, I wrote this script . . ."
Open Letters: The Shrinking Jean Pool
LAST WEEK, ON THE WAY HOME FROM a press screening, I popped into a local clothing store because it struck me that I had bought literally one shirt in the last six months, and since I'm going to Cannes next week, perhaps I should buy a new shirt for the occasion. I'd had my eye on the store for some time, since it's in my neighborhood (right on Beverly, actually), and the clothes in the windows looked promising -- which these days mostly means not too young. But as soon as I walked inside, I sussed out that it was completely and entirely age-inappropriate. And just as I came to this forlorn conclusion, in front of several cropped and appliquéd T-shirts that made me think yet again that Hello Kitty has had far too great an influence on American sportswear, one of the sales women said to me, "We have larger sizes in the back."