ONE BARBER'S STORY by Pasquale Spagnuolo

ONE BARBER'S STORY

From Sicily to America
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A lightweight, haphazardly written memoir by a man who practiced the tonsorial arts in Manhattan barbershops for 55 years. From the town of Licodea Eubea (he provides a detailed history of the town, back to the Romans), Spagnuolo's parents made the first of many trips to America in 1913, when he was two years old. He took his first job while still a teenager at a shop in Manhattan's Bowery, earning $6 a week. He switched shops dozens of times--in between return trips to his farm and family in Sicily- -from 1928 to 1935, when he fled impending war in Europe. The author opened his own shop on Fifth Avenue in 1938; he and his partner would move once before buying the Arcade Barber Shop for $6,000 in 1945. (He notes other trips to Sicily during these years, interspersed, for some reason, with lengthy recollections of his favorite beagles.) Located in a lobby of the building that also housed the New Yorker magazine, the Arcade is the scene of many of his anecdotes--which he serves up with plenty of relish. The shop was patronized by Brendan Gill, S.N. Behrman, Johnny Carson, Henrik van Loon, and, once, Winston Churchill. One of the ``secrets'' he shares is his use of letters of introduction to newcomers in local office and apartment buildings. He also shares his ``Golden Rules for Serving the Public'' and his 10-step scalp treatment, his facial massage and razor stropping techniques, and the proper method for administering a hot olive oil shampoo. Spagnuolo sold his interest in the Arcade in 1976, but later returned to it, cutting hair professionally until he was 71, retiring in 1982. An odd, uncomfortable mix of barbershop chitchat with social, family, and personal history.

Pub Date: April 27th, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-11872-4
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1995