Mr. Nick & Louie the Mole
Women were crazy about him. As Mr. Nick designed their coiffure, the women swooned when he flirted, kissed their hands, and promised many an older woman, “Ahh, If I were only 30 years younger……”. Flamboyant movements with the hairbrush were synchronized to whatever Italian love song he would randomly sing to his lady clients.
At one time Mr Nick had been “quite the guy,” people said. The years hadn’t been extremely kind to Mr. Nick as was witnessed by watching him color his sideburns with black shoe polish in one of his many mirrors. Seems the sideburns were the first to give up the ghost to gray before the sprawling mane on his head.
Mr. Nick’s sidekick was Louie the Mole. He looked exactly like it sounds; short, thin, bald headed, cab door ears, long pointy nose and beady little eyes. He wore brown pants, with a short brown jacket always zippered, whatever the season was. Louie was Mr. Nick’s gopher and all around Man Friday. Louie the Mole appeared each and every time, like magic whenever Mr. Nick needed anything done. It was almost as if Louie read Mr. Nick’s thoughts.
Louie would appear at the White Tower getting coffee and hamburgers for the both of them. Louie kept a vigilant eye on the order to make sure it was cooked precisely per Mr. Nick’s dietary requirements. The amount of the order was carefully calculated by Louie so as not to cheat Mr. Nick of one penny. People felt sorry for Louie the Mole. My mother would grumble,“poor bastard,” after Louie left. Louie’s only lot in life seemed to be serving Mr. Nick.
On his days off Mr. Nick and Louie would ride around in Mr. Nick’s shiny red Cadillac convertible. You could barely see Louie over the dashboard. Mr. Nick’s hairdo was like a brick in the wind, giving way to nothing.
On summer nights they would cruise the streets of downtown New Haven. Many said that Mr. Nick was trying to find Louie the Mole a girl. If anyone could help Louie, it would be Mr. Nick. He was every woman’s idol.
I came to be involved with this twosome thanks to my mother. As a much younger child on Henry Street I was sent to the local barber for haircuts for many years. Johnny the Barber was his name. If you just said, “Johnny,” no one know who you were talking about. You had to say his full name, “Johnny the Barber.”
Nice enough guy, Johnny the Barber only charged 25 cents for the haircut and it loooked it. I looked like someone had cut my hair with a # 10 rice bowl. “Nice shiny hair kid,” Johnny the Barber would say,"nice shiny hair." I’m sure he said that because of the 5 cent tip.
For some unknown reason my mother decided that maybe it was time for me to have my hair done at a beauty parlor. No, she didn’t spend the money. She bartered with Mr. Nick. I was given a haircut every few weeks for the price of a “coffee to go” every day.
It almost worked. I have a photo of that haircut. I’ve only shown it to 2 people, Richard and Jill. Richard shares an honesty with me bordering on brutality. Jill oen of my best friends, is probably the loveliest person I know. She's a gem.
Richard’s comment of my “hairdo” was, “Shit, your mother really hated you.” Jill’s comments a bit more thoughtful, “Gee, you had really nice wallpaper on Henry Street.”
I often wonder if having a best friend today who is a famous haridresser is a throwback to my childhood and as karma goes, something to "right a wrong".
Richard and Mr. Nick are light years apart, still there have been a few times, when that theory was tested, like the night we were too lazy to go to Richard’s shop to color my hair and Richard and Gilles decided we could do it at their house. They had some “stuff” they could use for the color. Two hours later after we realized that I still had the color on my head and we just forgot to take it off, my hair turned purple, the color of Barney.
There was also the time Richard was giving a class on “special” hair, or hair that was difficult to manage and was “pokey”. I was the model.
You’ll be happy to know that Louie the Mole did find his one true love. On a late summer afternoon as I slipped into the back of the Paramount Movie theatre from my step father’s parking lot on Crown Street, I saw a familiar figure in the back row locked in a loving embrace with his lover, or should I say two familiar figures…..
Louie the Mole had finally struck pay dirt.