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For a while, I only trusted gay men with my hair. As a child, my mother cut my hair: every two months or so, I sat on a chair set upon spread-out newspaper on the basement storeroom, and my mother worked my head with a trimmer set that nicked my ears and spewed out hot ozone. In middle-school, she started taking me to haircut franchises: Great Clips, the Hair Cuttery—but after one too many fucked-up cuts, we settled on a Vietnamese woman who had shop in the Far East Shopping Plaza. While I got my hair cut, she shopped for groceries.

Patrick, though, was my first stylist. He worked first out of Cherry Creek, but when he opened his own salon in Englewood, I followed. We hung out for  coffee and occasionally hit the bars together. He introduced me to having my hair slightly askew and tousled, as if I’d just woken up. (How can anyone tell the difference? asks Matthew.)

When I returned to Denver after grad school, Patrick had closed his salon and had moved to San Diego. I tried other gay men, but results were spotty, depending mostly on the mood of the stylist that day. But Matthew introduced me to Meechie, who worked at the Supercuts not far from our apartment, and from that day on, only sassy black women have cut my hair.

I have great respect for hair stylists. When I told Tomacina, my current stylist, that I’d like a Mohawk for the summer, she didn’t bat an eye, but worked the clippers until all the white hairs at my temples were on the floor. “Not too bad,” she said.

In The Rock, the gay barber (“stylist,” he insists) is played for laughs. He’s a hideous stereotype: prancing, mincing, and prone to the vapors. His complaint that he’s not allowed to use scissors is played off as evidence of frivolity. What’s a pair of thinning shears when compared to the fate of San Francisco, a city under threat of being poison gassed? He’s on-hand to give Sean Connery, a wrongfully-imprisoned British intelligence officer, a haircut. They sit, guarded by FBI officers, on a high hotel balcony, with the San Francisco hills roll behind them.

Michael Bay admits that Connery essentially reprise his most famous role: “a rusty James Bond,” he describes the character. A friend recently explained why she doesn’t like James Bond movies. “Whenever I see Bond driving through a crowded marketplace, overturning the stalls and sending everything flying, I don’t care that Bond is trying to save the world,” she said. “All I can think about are all the poor merchants who’ve just had their lives upended.”

“I guess I’m not the right audience,” she concluded.

Connery uses the haircut as a pretext to escape, of course, flinging his captor off the balcony. The stylist flees into the elevator, where he cowers from Mason. But he knows that his work is no less important than Mason’s work to save the world. “All I care about is,” he says, “Are you happy with your haircut?”


Armageddon:  the bête noire of the Criterion Collection.  When I explain what the Criterion Collection is to friends who aren’t familiar with it, I rattle off the usual suspects:  Kurosawa, Truffaut, Fassbinder, Hitchcock.  But each and every time, I leave out Michael Bay.  His name slips my mind.

The rabid fans of the Criterion Collection have conflicting feelings regarding Armageddon:  more than a few think that having Michael Bay in the Collection legitimizes his brand of filmmaking:  big, noisy, and hyper-masculine to a fault.  Others see Bay’s presence as “guilty pleasure,” the cash cow that funds overlooked gems.  But why can’t it be both?

As to where I fall on the Armageddon divide, that question has already been answered.  In the summer of 1998, when it came out, I had already chosen the other “killer asteroid” movie, Deep Impact, over it. My small, reptilian brain casing only has enough room for one apocalypse at a time, and Hollywood has a penchant letting similar films compete with each other — witness 1997’s battle royale between Volcano and Dante’s Peak.  This cutthroat release schedule is the entertainment-biz equivalent of Godzilla vs. King Kong.  Except that no one wins.

Why I saw Deep Impact instead of Armageddon, I’m not sure.  It might be that Deep Impact came out first.  Or it could be my innate distrust of Bruce Willis.  Or, it could simply be that I snuck into the film after watching something slightly more reputable.  While I was living in Washington, D.C., I did this often:  paying to see one movie and spending the entire afternoon wandering from one theater to another, taking in whatever spectacle happened to blossom after the trailers.

I try to be immune to Hollywood blockbusters, but part of their charm is their inherent ridiculousness.  Michael Bay recognizes it — on his commentary track, he explains the reason his asteroid-exploration vehicles have machine guns was because of the Mattel tie-in:  trucks with guns sell better.  Ben Affleck, on the same track, compares the über-patriotic scenes of Americana to a commercial for Miller Genuine Draft.  So even if I groan during the ‘heartland of America’ sequences, I also duly note an increased heart rate as the Russian space station is about to explode, threatening to take the poor cosmonaut with it.  (Ben Affleck, I don’t care so much.)

With Deep Impact, all I remember is end of the world:  Téa Leoni embracing her father as the mile-high tidal wave comes to consume them.  1998 was my last summer in D.C.  Soon, I’d return to my parents’ house in Denver, that momentary post-collegiate freedom swallowed by economic necessity (also:  an extravagant trip to Vietnam).  At the time, I didn’t feel like embracing my parents in the face of the cataclysmic destruction of my God-given American lifestyle, but if I could kill a few hours wallowing in some harmless, ear-shattering blockbusters, why not?  No one watches these movies pretending they approach anything to real life.  Real life waits outside the theater, waiting to clobber you over the head, like the piece of asteroid the crew don’t manage to destroy.