DRACULA AND FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER SHARED THE SAME BARBER

THE HUMAN RACE

 BARBER AL’S TEACHERS WERE HOLLYWOOD LEGENDS

     Beginning in the 1930s, Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi

and Boris Karloff, a British character actor, terrified

moviegoers throughout the world portraying Count Dracula

and Frankenstein’s Monster. About 60 years ago, they

were followed to my late friend Alfredo (Al) Hernandez’

barbershop in Hollywood by James Dean, Errol Flynn,

novelist Louis L’Amour, Steve McQueen, John Carradine and  

Peter Lorre to get their hair snipped. “In the spring of

1953 Lugosi came in smoking a green cigar,” recalled Al.

 “He just sat down at my chair and told me to leave a little

bit full at the temples. Then he leans over and spits green

tobacco juice on the floor. l was speechless. He looked

up at me with those X-ray eyes and hissed, ‘What did you

expect me to do, swallow it?’ I didn’t like him spitting

on the floor, but he was my first movie star customer and

I didn’t want to lose him.” In 1956 Lugosi died. Al was

at the Utter McKinley mortuary where the body of the

Hollywood Count, dressed in his vampire costume, was on

display in an open casket. The room was packed with

mourners when his friend Boris Karloff walked up to the

casket, leaned over the cadaver and in that melodramatic

voice announced, “Come now, Bela, get up. You know

you’re not dead!” For a moment, the mourners watched in

silence. When Count Dracula didn’t stir, the crowd broke

into hysterical laughter. “When I went into this

business,” said Al, “I couldn’t speak proper English,

even Spanish. Mr. Karloff had a great grasp of the

English language. As I cut his hair, I’d listen to the

way he pronounced words and would repeat them over and

over again. I learned a lot from him.” He was the only

customer Al addressed as mister. “He was a real

gentleman. Soft-spoken. Always wore a coat and tie and

had wavy hair.”   Working with actors, Al’s policy was:

“Never talk about show business — unless they bring up

the subject.” James Dean, he remembered, “was very

withdrawn, almost shy. He’d curl up in the chair and say

very little. Not long before he crashed and died in that

silver Porsche, I remember him talking about how great it

was speeding around in that car. He had a good head of

hair. I used to leave about three or four inches and

comb it up from the forehead into a kind of pompadour.

In ’55, he died in that car with my haircut.”

Steve McQueen, said Al, “Was pretty outgoing. What

surprised me was he stuttered. He had his favorite car, too —

a   Lotus sports car; had it painted a special shade of

green. He smoked in the barber chair. Smoking did him

in. You go through life, you learn things. Actors come

in here to get away from all that BS. To  relax. I never

asked one of them for an autograph.”

            — Boots LeBaron —  

 

(Boots’ book, “THE HUMAN RACE,” is now available on

 Kindle and  may be purchased on  Amazon  paperback.   It contains

humorous  and inspirational views of life, death, Showbiz, the  

workplace, love, courage and everything in between)

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