WHY, YOU MIGHT ASK, WOULD A PERSON whose name is Kinky want to fly to a spa in Houston for the express purpose of getting his hair straightened? And why, you might also ask, would a person whose last name is Friedman want to have his moss straightened by a Palestinian? These are some of life’s more difficult questions, so don’t be surprised if the answers turn out to be a bit, well, kinky.
“Farouk Shami is the greatest hairstylist in the world,” said my friend John McCall, giving me a little pep talk as we boarded his private jet. “He’s taller, of course, when he’s standing on his wallet.” John has a pretty thick wallet too. Formerly the Shampoo King from Dripping Springs (The Last Roundup: “Cliff Hanger,” August 2002), he’s now known in hair circles, along with Farouk, as “the father of the Chi iron,” a hair-straightening device that is racking up sales almost as big as the hula hoop did in its day.
On the short flight to Houston, John talked shop. Shampoo, he said, is “all about making people feel better about themselves, thereby making them happier, more satisfied human beings.” I’d heard his Shampoo 301 lecture before, but I had to admit that I’d never been able to do anything with my hair. That’s why I started growing dreadlocks more than a year ago and only recently cut them off. Shortly thereafter, I allowed my friend Ed Wolff to sell my dreads on eBay. Ed informed me that the first one went for $75 to some guy in Dallas. Ed has nine left, and he’s holding them until my career takes off or I fall through the trapdoor. I’m trying to be as helpful as I can.
Before the dreads, I got my hair cornrowed, which made me look like a rather anemic, extremely short NBA player. Before that, whenever I removed my cowboy hat, my hair remained in sort of a gelatin mold that I often referred to as my “Lyle Lovett starter kit.” So you can see why I might’ve wanted to get my hair straightened.
A long, white stretch limo, driven by a cheerful Palestinian named Majed, picked us up at Hobby airport and whisked us off to John and Farouk’s BioSilk Spa, in the Galleria. The BioSilk Spa, I was informed, had been widely recognized as one of the most magnificent spas in the world. This didn’t mean a hell of a lot to a poor cowboy like myself. I’d been in outhouses, whorehouses, and White Houses, but I was proud to say I’d never darkened the door of a spa.
“Your feet are in beautiful condition,” said Demeca as she gave me a pedicure.
“So are your hands,” said Nina as she simultaneously gave me a manicure.
“That’s because he’s never worked a day in his life,” said John.
The girls had practically dragged me into the sumptuous spa for these treatments, but I had to admit they felt pretty good. Next Lasonda gave me a killer-bee massage and Tina gave me a facial. What would John Wayne do? I wondered.
“Is all this necessary?” I asked John irritably. “I came here to get my hair straightened with your damn Chi iron.”
“You see?” he said to the girls. “He’s more relaxed already.”
“Where the hell’s Farouk?” I shouted. “Throwing a rock at a tank?”
“No, my dear friend,” said a suave voice behind me. I turned and saw Farouk wearing a sharply tailored suit, a pair of red boots, and a charming smile. He was walking toward me brandishing a large gleaming implement that vaguely resembled an abortionist’s forceps.
“I’m not pro-choice or pro-life,” I said. “I’m pro football.”
Moments later I was sitting in a thronelike chair, with Farouk ironing my hair and white wisps of steam actually rising from the top of my head. The ceramic lining on the Chi iron, he explained, was creating negative ions and causing the cuticles of my hairs to lie down and shine. “Whatever your dreams,” he said, “they shall be fulfilled.”
It wasn’t long before we both discovered a basic law of science: Kinky hair covers bald spots; straight hair does not. The scope of the problem soon became obvious, causing Farouk to have to resort to plan B, a fairly massive comb-over that made me look like Hitler as a used-car salesman.
Farouk tried to put the best spin on things. “It looks different, doesn’t it?” he said enthusiastically. “I have such a wonderful job! I wake up excited every morning because all I do is make women look beautiful and they pay me for it.” I did not respond immediately. I was too stunned by my image in the mirror. The top of my head looked very much like a beach toy.
Later that evening, in a fashionable suburban neighborhood, John and I and nineteen members of Farouk’s extended family attended a sixty-first birthday bash for Farouk at the Kobe Steakhouse. Majed, the driver, told me he was under the impression that the Kobe Steakhouse was owned by Kobe Bryant. Many of the other patrons in the restaurant, possibly observing the St. Louis Arch on top of my head, were under the impression that I was Prince Charles, down here for a fox-hunting trip.
The festivities were also to celebrate the inauguration of a new business enterprise. With Farouk Systems, the BioSilk Spa, a popular hair conditioner called Silk Therapy, the Chi turbo hair dryer, and the Chi iron under their belts, Farouk and John were both already as rich as Croesus. But Farouk and I had cooked up yet another venture. It would be known as Farouk and Friedman’s Olive Oil, and it would be imported from Farouk’s family’s orchards south of Jerusalem. The orchards had been tended and harvested by Farouk’s ancestors since before the time of Jesus.
“This could be big!” John said. “Everything Farouk touches turns to gold. That is, everything except Kinky’s hair.”
“L’Chaim!” said Farouk, lifting his glass.
“To Farouk and Friedman’s!” I said. “We might just be the last true hope for peace in the Middle East.”