Splitting Hairs

(Illustration by Ronald Kurniawan)

A funny thing happened on the way to the hair salon. A few years ago, Art Cardiel was cutting my hair. He was working in a salon in Los Feliz but wanted to strike out on his own, so he found this great space on Hollywood Boulevard near Vermont — next to Wacko and upstairs from Cobras & Matadors — and opened Works of Art. Everything was cool. But then a woman called L’nor moved into a house a few doors down from me in Los Feliz, and one day we ran into each other walking our dogs. I hadn’t had a haircut in a while, and she lit up, saying, “You should grow it longer!” So I — typical guy easily swayed in fashion matters by convincing female — said, “Okay.” In spite of my happy history with Art, I started going to L’nor, my neighbor and the architect of my new, longer look. I figured she deserved me, and I her, for better or worse.

For years, L’nor had been ensconced in the little backroom of a salon near the Beverly Center. She was a singer back in the day, did Madonna’s hair for Like a Virgin, and now had a clientele that included musicians, movie people and otherwise nice ladies from around town. They liked the privacy her little room provided. She was colorful, a little wacky, fun to talk to — and did good things with hair. But then the guys who owned the salon decided to move to a new location, and there was no spot for L’nor. After 13 years, she had to find a new place.

Meanwhile, back in Los Feliz, Art was doing well, but his second cutter had just quit. L’nor talked to Art, but at first things didn’t click. She tried a couple of other places; they didn’t work out. She called Art again.

To make a long story short, there I was the other day, sitting in the chair at Works of Art, talking to Art while L’nor cut my hair. Those two make an odd but interesting pair: one dark and Latin, the other blond (sometimes pink) and Jewish. But it works. The shop was hopping — Art always seems to be cutting the hair of a very attractive young woman, and now he’s got pictures of his also very attractive girlfriend, a photographer, on the wall. Art took the shots she’s in, including the one in which she’s lying atop a car, wearing only cowboy boots. Very attractive cowboy boots. “That’s my girlfriend, naked,” says Art with the sort of smile that could be a shrug.

L’nor’s childhood friend Lavina was sitting opposite me, her head in a plastic bag under the dryer. Lavina lives in Brentwood and has driven all the way out to Los Feliz for her cut. In fact, many of L’nor’s old clients live on the Westside, and most of them now continue to come to her. Not only that, she says, but most of her new clients are Westsiders, because the old clients recommend her. They like Art’s space, says L’nor — all the light. They like the neighborhood too. And maybe, who knows, the nice Westside ladies even like going to Wacko down the block and getting a look at Billy Shire’s big salt-and-mostly-pepper mane.

It’s crazy-weird what people will do for their hair — and what their hair will do for them.

Works of Art Hair Studio 4655½ ?Hollywood Blvd., L.A., (323) 667-0072

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