Hey, I’m no one to talk, but baldo Chuck Whitcraft could pose for one of those “before” pictures on a Hair Club for Men ad.
This guy has a dome even more defoliated than my own scalpy wasteland. (Check column photo for sad details.)
The last place one would expect to see such an example of failed follicles is at a barbershop.
Yet, there’s Chuck and his polished pate in huge and hilarious cartoonish color on the north and south walls of the squat white building at 2416 N. Monroe.
Chuck’s Clip Joint.
Stevie Wonder couldn’t miss these traffic-assaulting murals.
I nearly spit up my coffee while driving by one day. I had to stop and check it out. As one of Chuck’s new customers declared, “Anyone who’d put that face out on a wall must be one damn good barber.”
As soon as I walked through the door and saw Chuck’s supply of Archie comics, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed.
The Clip Joint is a total throwback. A place where Wally Cleaver would have gone to get his Saturday morning flattop and supply of butch wax.
No appointments necessary. Seven-buck haircuts. Lever-action chairs that probably were the state of the barbering arts when Coolidge was in office.
And then there is Chuck himself, a man who wields electric clippers like castanets. “My girlfriend tells me I’m an artist, but I don’t know,” says the large, affable barber, his voice oozing false modesty.
Don’t expect any hairstyling here. Don’t even say the word.
Chuck has a special contempt for pricey stylists. He blames them and the shaggy-mopped Beatles for sending barbers to the tar pits of extinction.
But now that the buzz cut look is back in vogue, old-fashioned barbers are again in demand.
“My business is booming,” says Chuck, who opened his barbershop a couple of months ago. “I got kids coming in here looking for crew cuts. They ask me, ‘Can you do a crew cut?”’
Chuck laughs. “I could cut a crew cut blindfolded in five minutes. But these kids go out rubbing their heads and thinking they really got something.”
Kids with crew cuts. Go figure.
Chuck barbered 27 years out of an office in his home on Garland. Then Diane, his wife of 30 years died in 1993. Chuck took a sabbatical and only recently returned to his profession.
“I couldn’t keep cutting hair at the home,” he says sadly. “Too many memories.”
His friend, Jean Stran, painted the leering murals on the building. She copied it from a caricature Chuck posed for in a Las Vegas casino.
Chuck is the genuine article. He wears a blue barber smock with a soft brush poking out his breast pocket. He still uses a straight razor and hot lather to slice away stubble from your neck and around your ears.
“A lost art,” Chuck concedes. “But I was taught in barber school to give a good outline with a razor.
“When you leave and feel that cold air hit the back of your shaved neck, man, you know you’ve had a haircut.”
Skeptics can check out Chuck’s 1963 diploma from Reed’s Barber College. That was the year a much younger, hairier Chuck moved to Spokane from Arizona, where he worked in construction.
“I thought, ‘Why should I stand around outside in the cold when I could be warm inside cutting hair?”’ he recalls.
Chuck told me all this while I sat in the chair, hearing the whir of the clippers as they danced musically over my wisps.
Don’t tell me about your bad hair days. I’m having a bad hair epoch.
Considering what he had to work with, Chuck did a decent job at a bargain-basement price. To get anything more out of my head, I’d need a faith healer not a barber.
Chuck’s right, though. After paying, I walked outside and felt the cold shock my too-smooth neck like the whack of a doctor’s hand on a newborn’s butt.
Whoa, baby. Now that’s a haircut.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo