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Beauty Bubble Salon and Museum Near Joshua Tree Is a Shrine to Hair Products

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Fri, Apr 4, 2014 at 7:21 AM
click to enlarge Jeff Hafler at the Beauty Bubble Salon and Museum - PHOTO: J. SWANN
  • Photo: J. Swann
  • Jeff Hafler at the Beauty Bubble Salon and Museum
Jeff Hafler's Beauty Bubble Salon and Museum is hardly the biggest or most glamorous museum in Southern California. There are no programs or organized exhibitions, no admission fees other than the optional donation, and getting there requires a rugged drive down a dusty dirt road off of Twentynine Palms Highway.

But the collection of historic objects and artifacts housed within three pastel-colored trailers in Hafler's backyard is unlike any other. In fact, it's made up of the stuff Hafler says most people consider trash: old beauty products, salon equipment and antique hair styling tools. 

His museum and home-salon, located about ten miles northeast of Joshua Tree National Park, is a shrine to all things hair: antique curling irons, cheap plastic combs, gaudy wigs, ancient powder-blue hair dryers, hair-growing Barbie dolls and about a dozen vintage salon chairs that are scattered outside amongst the astroturf and dirt.
click to enlarge The Beauty Bubble Salon and Museum - PHOTO: J. SWANN
  • Photo: J. Swann
  • The Beauty Bubble Salon and Museum
"The history of it was just being thrown away, stuff that was considered garbage, really," says 41-year-old Hafler, a self-described "hairstorian" who's been cutting hair for more than half his life and collecting hair products ever since he discovered ebay when it was founded in 1995. He didn't own a computer at the time and had to do his bidding from a West Hollywood Internet cafe, where he purchased about three or four items from ebay auctions every week for several years.

"Nobody was bidding against me, so I got everything super cheap," he says. "I accumulated maybe 20 or 30 things and I thought, you know, this is really interesting and nobody else is preserving it."

See also: A photo gallery of the museum

click to enlarge PHOTO: J. SWANN
  • Photo: J. Swann
That initial collection of vintage beauty products eventually found a home when Hafler opened his own hair salon, named for his home state of Ohio, in West Hollywood in 2001, just six months before 9/11. "It was a terrible time to have a business," Hafler says. Besides that, he had recently visited a friend in Joshua Tree and fell in love with the openness of the desert. Knowing he needed to get rid of his West Hollywood salon but unsure of how to do it, he visited Joshua Tree one weekend and saw a shooting star.

The next week, when a former colleague asked to buy Hafler's business, he immediately sold the salon and drove out to the desert with his beauty products to start a new life at what would eventually become the Beauty Bubble. It's a series of events that he refers to as "instant manifestation," the kind of synchronicity that he believes is cultivated in the desert.

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