Skip Johnson is mad. In the last year or so, a 28-year-old picture of Johnson's fuzzy head has shown up in big-time national magazines with the caption: "Haircut: Friday 3 p.m." Back when the picture was made, Johnson was Grace Slick's significant other and a rock-and-roll management type. So, don't you know, he had big hair -- about the size and shape of Epstein's hair on Welcome Back, Kotter, along with the handlebar mustache from Spinal Tap's bass player.
The picture is part of an ad for FusionOne, a company that sells "synchronization services." The pitch is that a big-haired FusionOne customer wouldn't forget a haircut appointment because his cell phone, Palm Pilot, and pager would keep bugging him until he went.
Of course, Johnson is suing everybody connected to the ad -- FusionOne, the Black Rocket ad agency, and the Corbis Corporation, which put a couple dozen photos of Johnson on its Web site. This isn't exactly shocking. I've done some calculations and I'm pretty sure that within 10 years, every American will be assigned a Social Security number and a lawsuit while still in the womb.
There's double irony here: First, Johnson's lawsuit has gotten him in the news, so the picture of his '70s head is showing up all over the place. Second, Johnson and the defendants are getting a load of free publicity. Most likely, they'll all get richer from the controversy.
When I heard about all this, I thought to myself, Why did these Black Rocket ad people go to all the trouble of digging out a 28-year-old photo? They could've put a photographer on any street corner in Nashville and gotten a bunch of pictures of '70s hair belonging to people who would've been glad to sign a release.
It's just a fact of life with a lot of musicians: The day the band breaks up, the hair freezes. There are at least 100 men in Nashville who look just like ZZ Top. There are just as many Peter Framptons, excluding Frampton himself, of course, who has handled baldness with dignity. And, shoot, you can't drive across town without seeing a guy that you're pretty sure was in Lynyrd Skynyrd.
It's hard to give up the band hair. It's almost as hard as selling the amp. You never know when somebody's going to need you to fire up the mighty Twin Reverb and do that special wah-wah thing that only you can do.
I say this with all empathy. My own hair still parts down the middle, all by itself. I could fix it if I wanted to spend an hour with gel and spray, but it's just not worth it. At this very moment, I'm just two feet away from a fully functional 1978 Music Man 210-HD amp. I'm ready to gig.
Anyhow, back to Skip Johnson. He has evolved. After working with the Who, Neil Young, Elton John, and Prince, Johnson managed a world tour of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. In 1998, he was the project director for a dinosaur exhibit at the Philadelphia Civic Center.
Today, at age 48, Johnson wears a tie to work, and he has an all-new hairdo. It's a piled-up, curled-up, all-gray man-perm.
It looks like meringue.
Understand, I've got plenty of sympathy for men with middle-age hair trouble. Lately, I've started wondering if I'll outlive my hair. If I do, I will shave my head and keep it shaved. Or, heck, I might even go to one of those hair-replacement places and let 'em transplant some of my ass hair up to my head. But I have left orders with good friends -- if they see me with a combover or a man-perm, they must shoot me with a dart full of Thorazine and shave my head before I wake up. If I reoffend, they must reshoot and reshave me until I come to my senses.
Maybe it's just me, but I think trying to fix up a man's balding head with a big bunch of grandma-on-her-way-to-church curls is just wrong. It's unnatural and hard to look at, like when our rabbit tries to sex up the neighbor cat. Just last night, on TV, I saw a man with a perm that clearly started behind his ears but was stretched up and tacked down to his forehead. If a gust of wind had come up, the business end of the perm would've popped up like a commode-seat lid, broken off and gone flying.
You men, stop trying to put hair someplace it's not. And quit with the mostly-air perm jobs. Remember my guideline: If your hairs are further apart than guitar strings, it's time to shave your head. And here's another one, at no extra charge: No hair on a man's head should go in a circle. Circular hair is Shirley Temple hair. I'm amazed that I have to explain this.