- Rudy's Barbershop in L.A.
- (Charlie Schroeder)
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More From Charlie Schroeder
As part of our Weekend Shift series about people who work weekends, we take a look at a maverick barber in Los Angeles named Michael Anthony who is so popular that people come to the shop on weekends just to hear him talk. And to maybe get a hair cut while they're there. Weekend America's Charlie Schroeder is one of them. He recently got his hair cut by Anthony at Rudy's Barbershop in the hip Silver Lake neighborhood in Los Angeles.
When I walk into Rudy's Barbershop in Silver Lake, I feel the same way I did when I was ten years old and walked into a punk rock record store: I'm just not cool enough. Rudy's is in a converted auto repair shop. The indie rock is blaring and the clientele have tattoos. But Michael Anthony makes me feel right at home.
It's not just me. Michael is one of the most popular barbers here. Last month he saw 485 clients and worked every day, including weekends. But the thing you have to understand about him is that there's really no reason for him to take a day off because he's loves to cut hair. And to talk.
"I was always told, you attract what you give," he tells me. "So if you give out something, that's what you'll get back in life. And what I give is…talk."
Michael's brand of talking isn't your typical barbershop chit-chat. It's full-fledged storytelling. There's humor, morals and nostalgia for a simpler time. It's not what you'd expect to hear from a gay man who cuts hair at a hipster L.A. barbershop.
"Well, I'll tell you one thing," he says. "Years ago… I lived in a country and it was called America. Wonderful place, wonderful. We were proud to be Americans. The only thing we looked forward to was the next flavor of Captain Crunch. And then all of a sudden it slowly diminished and became a corporate animal. And got bigger and bigger and bigger."
Michael's 45 and grew up on Long Island with working class parents who not only understood the value of a dollar, but how stories can be used to instruct. Now he's passing those stories on to me and my Gen X brethren at Rudy's. In fact, as he's trimming my sideburns, he tells me one of his all time favorites, a story about when he was four years old and fell in love with a sports car. A 1967 Mercury Cougar with taillights that looked like electric shavers. Michael loved that car so much, he asked his dad if the family could get one.
Even though his dad said yes, he didn't really mean it. After all, they were a family of five and the last thing they needed was an expensive sports car. So his mom concocted a plan. One night she took the family to the local Mercury dealer and asked Michael to sit in the back of the car to see if there was enough room for him and his two siblings. But of course there wasn't.
"My mother looks at me and she goes, 'What do you think?'" says Michael. "And I look at my father and I go 'no.'"
It was a lesson in practicality that Michael would never forget. Years later, he asked his mom if the decision on the Mercury Cougar was really his.
"What happens if I'd said 'yes'?" he asked her. "If you'd said 'yes,'" she responded, "we'd be driving a '67 Cougar with three kids in the backseat, one a little hefty.'"
This is only one of many stories Michael Anthony likes to tell. He tells stories about the days of percolated coffee and family get-togethers, stories about the two and a half years he traveled through America's heartland, stories about why he only takes the train in America's most car crazy city. They all illustrate his essential world view that what you do is more important than what you have. He thinks that's something his young customers need to hear.
"I'm not the smartest person in the world, but I know one fact," he says. "Over the years, the only thing that's helped humans were other humans."
In a town where so many people are concerned with appearances, Michael is refreshingly real. Which ironically, might just make him famous. He puts on a one-man show at Rudy's after hours. It's called "Third From the Window," after his chair's location in the shop. A TV producer is shopping Michael's stories around to some of the networks. Michael might start spreading his barbershop philosophy all across America.
"Your life is nothing if you don't feel it," he says. "It's not the stuff you get in life, it's the people you touch."
And if you go to Michael, you get all that and a haircut any hipster would be proud of.More stories from our The Weekend Shift series