As seen on TV

 Posted by on October 31, 2011  Baker's Dozen, Drawings, WRITING
Oct 312011
 

The older I get the longer a haircut takes, despite having fewer and fewer actual hairs on my head to cut. A similar principal is in effect at a grand-master chess match: fewer game-pieces on the chessboard means longer deliberations between moves.


Despite receding hair, getting a haircut now causes me no anxiety whatsoever. Ironically, I most worried about my hair when I had plenty to spare. As a small boy, I saw the world through an unruly mop, but even attempts by my mother to merely WASH my hair caused me to howl with as much tonsil-quavering gusto as being dragged to the dentist.


The drama of childhood dental appointments is easy to understand –my yowling correlated precisely with the actions of a bloke jamming a drill in the nerve-endings of my teeth– but it isn’t immediately clear why anyone grooming my hair caused such dread. Of course, in the 1970s, even grown-men loathed the barbershop but that was mere fashion. My hair-angst went much deeper than that, and was not connected to aesthetics at all. Like some tiny SAMSON, I saw grooming of my hair as an attack on my very self.


No matter how “good” the haircut, even if done professionally at the barbershop a few blocks from our house, I hated it anyway. Mum’s desire to save an inevitable public fracas, not to mention personal expense, meant that the haircuts were more likely to be done at home, by her. There were already 4 of us boys when I was 7 years old, so trimming our hair must have been an unending and utter misery for poor Mum. However, there came a savior: THE HAIR MAGICIAN.


In the 1970s, the K-TEL corporation solved the problems of common folk with little doo-hickeys, whatsits and thingamajigs. A particular point of interest was that each product had been “seen on TV” though only in the commercial that pointed out that fact. One such advertisement promised that a product called THE K-TEL HAIR MAGICIAN would deliver a haircut by merely combing your hair. Why, after a few strokes of this gadget (which looked like a long-handled comb) you’d be the very picture of style! (Such as it was in 1973). All this, without having to pay for a haircut! Mum must have thought all her prayers were answered at last.


I remember sitting out in the back yard on a kitchen chair as Mum swooped in with her newly-bought miracle gizmo. Predictably, as she combed it through my hair, I howled like a banshee, though this time with good reason; a haircut from the HAIR MAGICIAN hurt like holy hell. The K-TEL wizards had cunningly installed razor blade cartridges between the teeth of this comb to do the cutting. In theory. In reality, a few strokes from this new-fangled comb left hair entangled in the fangle, cutting capacity was lost and subsequent styling was achieved by hair being not so much cut as TUGGED out by the roots.


Sadly, a wave of the Hair Magician’s wand did NOT magically transform me into the smiling BRADY BUNCH kid of the TV commercials. Instead, I was transformed into something resembling a mangy dog who’d had chewing-gum cut from its fur with toenail-clippers. In terms of an identifiable fashion style, it could be compared to the punk look, but about 5 years too soon to be either identifiable or appreciated.


The only consolation was that it was relatively easy to blend in, even with such a hair disaster atop my head. Not just because the 1970s was the time when everyone’s hair went wild but also because mine wasn’t the only Mum to fall under the evil spell of THE HAIR MAGICIAN.

  24 Responses to “As seen on TV”

Comments (24)
  1. hahahaha.. mann.. this is a great post! :D I had a similar experience when I was a kid.. omg XD

  2. Hey Charles, Good to hear from you! Sorry though to find out that you TOO have a story like this from your childhood. Were you molested by the HAIR MAGICIAN too, or the famous FLOWBEE?

  3. I love this! Luckily, I never had to endure the Hair Magician!!

  4. I am glad to hear it, Russell! That thing was BRUTAL! Although my brother just pointed out to me that a haircut from our GRANDMA was actually worse! ha ha!

  5. Haha! I remember going through a similar torture. The one my mother used looked a bit different —shaped less like a toothbrush and more circular like a woman’s compact. Don’t remember what it was called, but I’m sure that thing would be at least as effective as waterboarding.

  6. Wow! You too, Benton? And it was yet ANOTHER torture device?! How many of these knuckle-headed torture-gizmos were invented, I wonder?

  7. I remember that too, though I didn’t remember the name. I don’t know that my ma ever used it, but I remember seeing the dang thing in here drawer.

    I threaten to cut my son’s hair all the time; I did away with his baby mullet.

  8. Ha ha! “baby mullet”

  9. Found a picture of the torture device that was used on me. Got the shivers just looking at it!

    http://www.retrothing.com/2010/10/hair-trimmer-comb-barber-ism-begins-at-home.html

  10. Hilarious. Yet… Sinister.

  11. Dear Jamie, I can’t remember the haircuts but I do remember the NEEDLE. It was made of glass and steel. If I remember the glass insert was fitted inside solid steel casing. The needle was old school… none of this tensile flex that disposable needles are made from. If I remember it took two nurses in Brisbane to hold me down for my hemoglobin shot. Well that’s how I like to fantasise about it. Whatever they were paid I am sure it wan’t enough!

  12. ANYONE KNOW IF I CAN STILL BUY A HAIR MAGICIAN SOMEWHERE, CANT FIND ANYTHING HEAR IN SYDNEY AUSTRALIA, IF YOU KNOW HOW I CAN BUY ONE PLEASE LET ME KNOW KIND REGARDS STEVE CRUICKSHANK/SYDNEY AUSTRALIA

  13. I guess I’m lucky that I had long straight hair. All my mom did was take a pair of scissors every now and then and cut off the ends. you GUYS had it rough with those short layered hair cuts! I say lets go back to cave man days and forgo cutting hair all together!

  14. Ha! Love the expression of the K-TEL saleswoman.

  15. Nice piece,Jamie. Warm and funny.

    Did you get a chance to read the Jean Shepherd books?

  16. Hi, ET! Great to hear from you. No, I’ve not yet read them. Thanks for the tip/reminder!

  17. Hi my grandma had one of these and i have got it at home hear with all new blades and every thing not game enough to use it on my kids though

  18. one of my all time favorites!!!

  19. I well remember the times on which this memoir is based. I’m sure Mum meant well; so, probably, did Grandma. But I can vouch for the latter’s ferocious approach – in her capacity as MY mum – to the business of haircutting. And she was a pussycat compared to my Pop, my Dad’s dad, at the home-hairdressing game.In my sensitive MID TEENS (!) he gave me a basin-cut without benefit of basin: a ridge of “pussy’s paws” all round my head above ear-level, like a parody of Henry V, just before I was sallying forth to cut a dash with my mates at the local cinema. And you talk about pain!

    • Ha Ha! That does sound painful, Dad. I cannot remember getting a haircut from Grandma, although I know I had them, as Mum told me of some early tug-o-war-o-wills between her and Grandma, with my hair as the rope! Jo however has vivid memories of a mauling at Grandma’s hands at the age of 14 that sounds much like your tale with your Pop. We’ll have to get you to give Manon a trim and keep this lovely family tradition of grandparental hair savaging alive.

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