and drew straws to see who would wear it.
Joe Franzolini, the Italian gentleman
who'd been the corner barber in our
town for well over 100 years,
wasn't quite sure WHAT to make of our request.
"You wanna WHAT??" he sputtered in a pidgin
Romano English, wrapping a wheezing old Slovak
patron's face in steaming hot towels.
His English was as broken as his DeSoto.
"We want all your hair, sir."
"HOWMANY TIMES AH HAFFA TO TELL YOU,
"YOU HAFFA WAIT-A DE TURN, BOYS!
"Now sit down an-a read-a da comic book."
We weren't ever really sure if
Mr. Franzolini could not hear us,
did not understand quite enough English,
or if he was simply operating on a
plane far different from that which
one might consider to be the norm.
Mr. F. took the boat over from the
old country fleeing Mussolini and his weenies,
and brought to our revered shores an innate
marketing sense and a sharp business acumen.
He had a million gross of black
unbreakable Ace pocket combs
(still in broad circulation today),
printed with his own name and phone
number along with a strategic slogan:
"I CUT HAIR."
And cut it he did. All the men-heads
in our sad little slice of suburbia
were touched by Joe's scissors. He
had a broad repertoire of haircut styles:
bowl and business.
Every now and then he'd pull out his
jughead special for those math geeks
among us whose hair was predisposed to
standing up in a fright-take
Sergeant Carter bristle.
But we weren't there to be shorn.
This was show biz.
"Mr. Franzolini, we don't WANT a haircut,
"we want to sweep up all the hair on the floor and take it."
"WE-WANT-TO-SWEEP-UP-A-YOU-FLO'!" I averred,
figuring he might understand me if I tried on a
bogus Italiano inflection.
"And we'll sweep it for FREE if you
"give us all the hair."
It was a deal. At the end of the day
our recently-pubescent gang left Joe's
in cracking, cackling hysterics,
with a lifetime of WWII stories from
the ceaseless parade of shaggy grizzled patrons,
and most importantly, several shopping bags
full of all shades and hues of human hair,
cigarette and cigar ash and
the general detritus that made up
Joe Franzolini's floor.
This is the way Spielberg must have started.
But the end of his story is far better
bankrolled than ours, as
you might well imagine, dear dads.
We were a stoopid bunch; generally
less concerned about school than we
were with Black Sabbath, Grand Funk Railroad
and other bands with thumpy dopey bass guitars
to which you could do a wicked and histrionic
air guitar long long before Tom Cruise
ruined the whole air guitar scene
and made it a tired cliché.
Of course the acne onslaught was another
constant action item.
And while the idea of dating was still as
foreign as France, one of the guys
started having a "special feeling" whenever
the subject of Joe Franzolini's daughter came up.
Years later they would marry and engage
in a cataclysmic divorce.
For the time being, the fact that our
little band of hoodlums was flunking honors
English in the ninth grade was
front and center in our troglodyte teen medullas.
We were thrown a bone by our tired teacher,
who was less concerned with our lackadaisical
approach to school than with the threat
of confrontational parent-teacher conferencing.
"Make a movie.
"Get your parents to loan
you their movie cameras.
"300 extra credit points."
Now, back in the paleolithic age,
it wasn't as easy as firing up the VHS-C, young pups.
(I know what my demos are out there, faithful readers!)
It wasn't quite the age of Lumiere, but
it was dang close. Then, our work was
cutting-edge stuff --- filming in the
technologically advanced "Super-8" format.
It was a major advance over regular
old 8 millimeter in that the sprocket holes
running the film through the clanky
projectors were smaller, so you wound up
with all this fabulous expanded image
area onto which the budding auteur
could paint their celluloid vision.
Ours was nothing less ambitious than a
re-make of Merian C. Cooper's 1933 classic,
But our telling of the classic beauty
and the beast tale would have none of
the pathos, none of the redemptive plot points,
none of the inspiration, talent or
competence of even the crappy, yappy Japanese
Kong versus Godzilla classic shoot-out.
Our vision was a malevolent Kong,
hell-bent on nothing less than
the complete annihilation of the universe.
Jim S______, our unfortunate "actor,"
was a kid who gained his entrée
into our little droogie clique
with a monster air guitar/lip sync
rendition of Leslie West's "Mississippi Queen."
But Jim drew the short straw, and wound up
laying a patina of Elmer's glue all over
his torso, arms and shins in
readiness for the wretched fuzzy spoils
collected from Joe Franzolini's floor.
We laid great clumpy gobs of hair
--- coarse and fine; salt and pepper;
straight and curly; foul and defiled
--- onto the Elmer's to create our Kong.
Very convincing, he was, particularly with
his rolled-up khaki bellbottoms and
horn-rimmed glasses. A fearsome and
fire-breathing primate, was Jim.
But his travails were only beginning.
When you are wearing a quilt of gluey
human hair affixed directly to your skin,
the mad urge to scratch scratch scratch
like a Labrador in the throes of itchy
lunacy had our hairy thespian bouncing off the walls.
Now, as any of you ever involved in
any sort of film or video production shoot
can well attest, a shoot can drag on and on
forever and ever because of bad lighting,
bad blocking, bad egos or even bad catering.
That long-ago afternoon, as you can well imagine,
was the most insufferably long afternoon
in poor Jim's short little life.
And now it was time for the
special effects shooting sequence.
In my compulsive Poindexter planning
for the shoot, I signed out a
Bookmobile book explaining the A-B-C's
of movie making; and I picked up a
useful tidbit for a stunning special
effect --- now our teeny
production crew was set to operationalize
the technique in a punishing adaptation
for our extree credit flick.
The scene was admittedly derivative.
Kong leaps atop a skyscraper,
is strafed with ammo --- the sad
death scene redux follows.
In the land-o-suburbia, the closest
we could get was the garage roof, from
which we had leaped time and again into
an algae-infested 36-inch pool the summer before.
We had tested the jump stunt and were
ready to commit its adaptation
to the ages on celluloid.
The special effect, after crafty
post-production editing, would show
Kong/Jim leaping from the ground to
the top of the skyscraper
(i.e. attached 2-car aluminum-sided garage)
to vanquish the enemy
The technique was simple.
"Climb up on that roof and jump off backwards,"
we nonchalantly directed our shaggy friend.
Our hirsute thespian made the tenuous
backward jump eight feet straight
down over three takes, until the
crew was sufficiently happy that he
had landed square on his haunches,
freezing in a leering, snarly,
statue-esque pose on the Kentucky blue.
We shot it from a low angle
to heighten the dramatic effect, 'natch.
The segment, once developed after
a nail-biting week's wait, was
removed with a razor blade and
physically flipped around and
spliced back in to the 3-minute reel,
and when projected, voila! Kong
appears snarling on the suburban lawn,
and with superhuman (superprimate?) strength,
leaps up onto the asphalt-shingled
garage roof in his mad bristly bid
to conquer the universe.
The effect worked like a charm.
And along with other scenes showing
Kong stomping out entire platoons
of the sort of little green soldiers
again made desirable by "Toy Story",
along with a summer-of-love Kong
close-up of his hairy mitts symbolically
crushing a teeny-tiny paper American flag
plucked from one of his dad's daily
Mai Tais along with a little paper parasol,
the film, which we dubbed "I Am Curious (Fuschia)"
was a wild success.
The extra credit, naturally, was cinched.
We all went our separate ways,
and I never heard from Jim S______ again.
Last I heard from the grapevine, he was
somewhere out California way, his dad
opening a Greek bistro and Jim probably out
there at Schwab's touting his filmic
experience in a bid for superstardom.
All I can impart for certain, dear dads,
is that Jim's dad had to pay handsomely
for a plumber to come snake the hair-stuffed J-trap
under the family shower stall in that
little white suburban bungalow,
and boy, was he torqued.
Many years later,
I had Fotomat transfer the film to video
when VCRs became available on the consumer market.
The splice with the Kong leap,
expertly executed with Scotch invisible tape,
had become yellowy and brittle
and simply fell out of the film.
The award-winning effect, alas,
had gone the way of Abel Gance's missing
"Napoleon" triptych, lost forever.
I put a goofy soundtrack under the silent epic
(Sparks' "Everybody's Stupid" really adds
the necessary ambiance), and drag it out every
now and then out so my own brood can hoot
and chortle over my vertically-striped
bellbottoms, and yuck it up over
King Kong (ten times as big as a man).
I sit back and watch the flickery images
play out --- the tricycle knock-off
of "Laugh-In;" a Halloween Superman
costume getting a second life in a
corner telephone booth schtick ---
there we all are ---
We all had the invincibility of Kong back then;
and to be honest, we all thought we
were lucky that Jim S______ lost the
draw and was the only one among us
forced to spend his day doing dangerous acrobatics
with a rug of dead human hair
glued all over his crawling skin.
But if somehow I could re-convene
that little group in a dadly cappuccino
(or, more likely, Coors or Killian's) klatsch,
we would all readily admit to you our
acceptance of the inevitable
sad mortality of dads;
and agree that Jim S_______ blazed a trail,
as we all wind up wearing
a hair shirt of penitence for our
unfulfilled dreams in life,
for whatever reason,
refused to let us realize.