The Barber of Deauville

Yeah, Bobby Goulet used to come in. Bobby Darin, too. So you wanna haircut, or what?

The counterculture wreaked havoc on the comb-and-scissors trade. Some men didn't come to the barbershop as often. Others stopped coming altogether. There was a hit musical about growing your hair out to hippie length, for chrissakes. So the Barber of Deauville made do, kept the over-30 set clean-cut while the younger generation tuned in, turned on, and dropped dandruff.

It didn't help business that Miami Beach as a whole went into decline. The sun-and-fun capital of the world was supplanted by other destinations: Atlantic City and Las Vegas, for instance, where hotels could deliver stars like the ones in the Barber's photos -- and bigger ones like Frank Sinatra -- as well as gambling.

And when Miami Beach did come back, it was South Beach, and not the northern reaches of Collins Avenue, that got most of the high-end tourist action and became the backdrop for the Miami Vice style: fast-paced editing, unstructured jackets, and casually coifed hair. Unkempt was cool. What chance did a barber stand when the best-dressed men in town went without socks and sported two-day-old beards?

Time passed. A lot of the old-time cutters and shavers who worked with the Barber made the move to the Great Chair in the Sky. "Norman was here 35 years," says the Barber, recalling a shopmate. "Then one day, he got up, didn't feel well, went to the hospital, and died." He smiles, not because he doesn't miss his old friend but because he knows that eventually everyone has to go, and, well, better to go quick, while you're still useful.

Not that he himself is going anywhere. At least not yet. Maybe business will pick up again someday, the Barber speculates. Doesn't the Deauville, renovated a few years ago, look nice? Certainly the shop is a neat affair, featuring the same space-age-style orange-and-white chairs it did in its heyday. And men do occasionally sit in them and bask in the glow of the past.

"You ever do Jackie Mason?" inquires one recent customer from beneath a hot towel. "Jackie Mason?" repeats the Barber of Deauville, dispensing the lather and searching his memory. "No. Alan King? Yes." Lots of people used to come in here.

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