The sound of an unseen person playing a piano stopped, and the Fade Doctor emerged from behind a curtain to offer a visitor an explanation.
“I was just tickling the ivory,” he said, now standing in a one-chair barbershop set up inside his Emerson-Garfield neighborhood home on a recent afternoon. “This room here used to be my living room.”
The Fade Doctor’s real name is Brian Ottosen, and his recently launched in-home shop is his latest attempt to “live the American dream again.”
“Because I’ve had it before,” he said, “and I turned it into the American nightmare.”
The story of how that happened is one that would keep you entertained in his chair.
It begins in Spokane, where he was born and raised, before leaving to play basketball at Shoreline Community College. He quit the team, he said, to pursue another of his passions: music.
But after marrying – and divorcing – the same woman twice, he found himself single, 34 and without a career, so he decided to try barber school in Tacoma, where he was living at the time.
One fateful night, he said, Ottosen found himself “out drinking too much” and talking to a couple of guys who were carrying Glocks and eager for a fade – a hairstyle that gradually “fades” from very short to somewhat longer – at 2:30 a.m. He obliged, despite his reservations.
“I was drunk enough, it didn’t matter,” Ottosen said. “I could’ve cut the Pope’s hair.”
While he doubts in retrospect how well he did giving the first fades of his life, he said his also-inebriated clients were satisfied.
“They gave me a high-five and said, ‘You’re the Fade Doctor,’ ” Ottosen said. “And I’ve stuck with it ever since.”
His first stop after some time on the West Side was Spokane Valley, where Ottosen took over a shop, developed a meth problem and “screwed up that business bad,” he said.
But Ottosen did his best to rouse himself from his American nightmare, he said, checking into rehab, getting clean and taking a job at Dan’s Barber Shop on North Monroe Street that lasted for 11 years.
When COVID-19 hit, the shop closed temporarily. Two days after it reopened and he returned to work, Ottosen was turning out of an Airway Heights parking lot on his Indian motorcycle and wrecked.
He broke his tibia, his fibula and multiple ribs, he said, and was laid up in his home at 1318 W. Knox Ave.
While he was recuperating, his roommate contracted COVID-19. Then Ottosen did, too.
He had a relatively mild case, but the illness and the injury gave him time to think.
“This whole time, I was just dying to get this barbershop going,” he said.
So, once he was able, he got to work, replacing the couch and the big-screen TV with a barber chair, a waiting area, some Elvis and Marilyn Monroe decorations, and the tools of his trade.
But his first two weeks in business haven’t been easy.
“I’m struggling big time,” he said. “I’ve gone days when I’ve had nobody all day.”
The problem has been reaching his old customers and finding new ones, especially at a time when seemingly every business that involves close contact has struggled to survive.
Not that he isn’t trying.
He has a sign set up on the nearby corner of Knox and Northwest Boulevard. He has a hand-made sign and a barber pole fashioned from PVC pipe and duct tape on the front porch.
For now, he’s doing his best to be patient, to give his clientele enough time to find him.
“Once someone sits in my chair,” he said, “they’ll come back.”
And if enough customers don’t come , the 59-year-old is confident he’ll be able to turn his quarter-century of experience into a position in someone else’s shop.
That wouldn’t be all bad, he acknowledged.
At least then he’d get his living room back.
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