I owned a hairpiece for less than a week.
It was Chicago, 1994. I’d been a standup comic for four years, and my hair loss was killing me. My hairstyle was beginning to do a great Bill Murray impression – a receding island of hair up front and an ever-widening patch of bald on the crown.
Instead of taking it like a man and cutting it short like Phil Collins did, I fought my inevitable future by growing it long like Mel Gibson and spreading it out across the bald spots. Hairspray and baseball caps were my friends, while the wind and rain and wandering female fingers became my mortal enemies. But I soon discovered I was like a black eye covered in makeup – I wasn’t fooling anybody.
“Nice hair loss.”
That became the one audience heckle that could take me down, but since my career was on the way up, I knew something drastic had to be done. The way I saw it, there were only two options:
Get a hairpiece or shave it bald.
The staff at the South Side hair club I chose was excellent. First, they measured the dimensions of my head by covering it with a layer of saran wrap and then clear packing tape. Then they took a sample of my hair so their experts could perfectly match its subtle brown undertones. Two weeks later, they showed me my beautiful $1200 hairpiece, which they clipped into my remaining hair and glued onto my forehead.
At first, it was glorious. No more baseball caps or bald spots. The wind and rain were irrelevant. Now my shoulder-length hair was doing a full-on ‘Lethal Weapon’ Mel Gibson impression and all week the compliments were rolling in.
“Your hair looks great – new shampoo?”
“Wow, Mike, I never knew how much hair you had.”
“Anyone ever tell you you look like Mel Gibson?”
That’s when it hit me. That’s when I realized I could never wear this hairpiece for the rest of my life. Even though it looked great, even though I could barely feel it on my head, there was something about it that I knew I couldn’t live with.
It was a lie.
All that hair wasn’t me – it was a costume, one that I would have to put on every single day. I’d have to play the character of ‘Full Head of Hair Guy’ with everyone I met and hope I did it well enough to fool them each time. Plus, every morning I’d have to re-glue the front of the piece to my forehead. Every month I’d have to get my real hair trimmed and the piece re-clipped by one of their hairstylists. This fake hair would become my albatross, my ball and chain, and the worst part was wandering female fingers would STILL be my enemy if the secret of my mane was to be kept.
Two hours before a show in Rock Island that weekend, in front of my hotel mirror, I unclipped ‘Lethal Weapon’ Mel and ripped him off my head. With the top of my dome already shaved and the sides and back still thick and long, I looked like Gallagher without the moustache or the watermelon. Now I was committed to shaving the rest of my head, but I only had a small sideburn trimmer and some disposal razors with which to work. When I finally got to the show room, the other comic, Jim Wiggins didn’t recognize me:
“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome…uh, who the heck are you?”
Having a shaved head on stage that evening was the most liberating feeling I’d ever had. Gone was the pressure of hiding bald spots and fake hair. Gone was the fear of a desperate secret being revealed. Gone was the need to be ‘Full Head of Hair Guy’. My set killed and my head’s been doing a solid Michael Jordan impression ever since.
Which brings me to Donald Trump.
Feel free to attack this guy’s lack of character or leadership, please mock his billionaire-friendly appointments and policies, but leave his hair out of it. As far as I can tell, it’s the only honest thing about the man. By ridiculing Trump’s unique coiffure and listing 100 descriptions of it as the WaPo did last summer (Link to Article), we lower ourselves to being base hecklers taking cheap shots at another human who’s struggling.
In other words, we act like him.
When I brought dead Mel back to the Hair Club that next Monday, I sat with him in my lap in the crowded waiting room, but not for long. When the staff saw my shaved head and believed the lie I told about an audience member calling me out on my wig, they put poor Mel in a drawer and forgave the $400 I still owed. I walked out of there a bald, free man.
“Hello wind, rain, and wandering, female fingers,” I said, “let’s be friends again.”
- Mike Lukas
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