the schmooze

Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

*The Yiddish word for “hair” is “hor.”
“Lang hor” means “long hair”
A “sheytl” (or “shaytl” or “sheitel”) is the wig traditionally worn by Orthodox Ashenazic Jewish women after they are married.  According to Leo Rosten, “In the shtetl, the sheytl was a mark of prosperity, as it was only the relatively well-to-do women who could afford the purchase of or manufacture of a wig.
 A “shaytl makher” is a wig stylist
A “shlecht hor day” is a bad hair day.  Your hair misbehaves and becomes lumpy, frumpy, flippy, flat or frizzy.
“Chrome dome” was commonly used to describe a head bare of hair A “Jew-fro” is a curly mop of hair with lots of volume, sported by many a Jewish brother.  Thanks to those high profile Jews, the Jew-fro has become the mark of the “funny guy” who gets laughs making fun of himself and his Jewish heritage.  (Think:  Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill.)
Bernbach, Hodgman, & Stone, authors of “1,003 Great Things About Being Jewish” wrote:  “Lots of people wish they had naturally curly hair.” 

Hair is serious business!  Frank Sinatra spent $2,500 for a top-of-the-line hairpiece for his televised 80th birthday celebration.  Fran Drescher (“The Nanny”) gave this advice:
           “The bigger the hair, the smaller the hips look.”

Carl Reiner once said that, “the guys with hair are overdressed.”

Baldplayer, Joe Pepitone, the mischevious ex-Yankee, was known for introducing the hair dryer to the clubhouse.  Even more revealing, is the fact that he had a collection of hairpieces.  Joe wore one during the game and another for his varied social life.  (Source:  “The Joy of Baldness” by Richard Sandomir.)

Perhaps you’ve heard the joke about the Yeshivah bocher (student in a rabbinical academy), who has just gotten his driving permit. He asked his father, who is a rabbi, if he could discuss his use of the family “oyto” (car).

His father took him into his study and said, “I’ll make a deal with you. You bring your grades up, study your Talmud more, get your hair cut, and then we’ll talk again.”

After about a month, the boy comes back and again asked his father if they could discuss his use of the “oyto.”

“Zun,” I’ve been very proud of you.  You have brought your grades up, you’ve studied the Talmud diligently, but you didn’t get your hair cut.”

The “yung” man waited a moment  and then replied, “You know, Dad, I’ve been thinking about this.  You know Samson had “lang hor” (long hair), Moses had “lang hor”, Noah had “lang hor”, and even Jesus had “lang hor.”

The rabbi said, “Yoh” (Yes), and they WALKED EVERYWHERE THEY WENT.”

The subject of hair has been making the news lately.

Frimet Goldberger wrote a piece for the Forward (11/15/13) titled, “Letting My Hair Down - A Formerly Hasidic Woman Marks Five Years Since She Last Shaved Her Head.”  She writes about having her head shaved the morning after her wedding, 3 months after her 18th birthday. She says that “According to theTalmud, a woman’s uncovered hair is equivalent to physical nudity.”  For Satmar women, like Goldberger, it is a grave sin not to shave. She now grows her hair long, and her 3-year-old son can no longer attend school in the little enclave of Kiryas Joel.  She says that she can no longer accept, let alone understand, the practice of forced hair shaving.  Nor can she accept the threats and intimidation within the community.

Let’s look at what’s been happening lately:

2013  Katie Couric says that ever  since she was a girl, she says she dreamed of becoming a hair-stylist.  She’s already “shain vi di zibben velten” (beautiful as the seven worlds).  Her fantasy will come true next week when she’ll give a haircut on-air.  The Roy Teeluck Salon, says that tough-talkng reality-star stylist Tabatha Coffrey and a crew from Katie’s show, commandeered the 57th Street salon for training, as Tabatha has Katie practice on a mannequin.

“Two and a Half Men” star, Jon Cryer, revealed that he has gone bald and that his hair on the show is “an elaborate illusion” involving paint. This is the work of several talented professionals making the most of like four hairs.  Cryer, 48, said, “It’s amazing, actually, what they can do. I’m not wearing a piece or anything like that but it’s a long, involved process that starts with stuff like shoe polish, basically, that they coat the top...They basically just paint--they get a roller type thing and just
whoosh along the top.”

Bosley, the kingpin peddler of hair restoration, should be embarrassed. Regulators accused it of sharing sensitive information about prices and products with a rival, Hair Club for Men.  The two companies, which offer pricy surgical hair transplants, allegedly compared notes for at least 4 years before agreeing to merge.

2012  After shedding his signature beard, (former) Chassidic reggae superstar, Matisyahu posted new photos of himself on Twitter with his facial hair back in the picture.

Disgraced former senator and presidential candidate, John Edwards, reviled for his costly coifs on the campaign trail, now places his strands in the hands of the pros at Supercuts.  At one time he paid $300 to $500 per cut to stylist Joseph Torrenueva; Supercuts charges $12.95.
Maureen Dowd said of John Edwards, “His hair still looks good, even though he now gets cuts for $12.95, not $400.”

2011  Mitt Romney’s stylist has tried to get him to muss his hair a bit, to no avail.  By far Romney’s most distinctive physical feature is his head of impeccably coiffed back hair.  It has become something of a cosmetological Rorschach test on the campaign trail. His cut is so recognizable that men in this well-heeled suburb of Boston ask for it by name, ”The Mitt.”

2009  According to Ross & Kathryn Petras (“B IS FOR BOTOX”), T is for thinning hair. 
Why are Tom, Ted, and Tim all wearing hats?
They didn’t wear hats in high school.  They didn’t wear hats in college.
They didn’t wear hats to their tenth high school reunion.
Could they be hiding something now?

2008  The Forward carried this headline:
The “Sarah Palin Wig,”, based on the hairstyle of the Last Frontier State Governor and GOP vice presidential candidate, is the latest head covering to go on sale at, a Brookyn wig shop and Web site for Orthodox Jewish women who maintain modesty by concealing their natural hair.  In less than 6 weeks, GeorgieWigs has sold about 50 of the
Palin-inspired hairdos.

2006  According to the authors of “1,003 Great Things About Being Jewish,” one of the Adventures in Judaism is “Getting a wig that’s not your natural color.”

2005  In Neal Shusterman’s book, “Red Rider’s Hood,” we read:
“Man, Grandma, what big hair you have.”
“The better to style with, my dear.”

2002  The New York Observer reports that Frederic Fekkai charges $290 for a haircut.

2008  Max Gross (“From Schlub to Stud - How to Embrace Your Inner Mensch and Conquer the Big City”) wrote about the matchmaker who let him see what some of his dates who rejected him had said:
“I apparently looked like a dork (hey, it’s not my fault if I need glasses);
my hair was too bushy (well, the Jewfro is not for everyone, sweetie);
and I was a little out of shape.”

2006  Cindy Adams (New York Post)  wrote, “Queen Elizabeth’s beautician is saying ‘You don’t look well.  I think you should retire that hairdo.’”

2001  Hillary Rodham Clinton told the Yale College graduating class, “Your hair will send significant messages to those around you:  What hopes and dreams you have for the world, but more, what hopes and dreams you have for your hair.  Pay attention to your hair, because everyone else will.”  (Mrs. Clinton’s hair has gone though more changes than a Paris fashion show.)

Hillary said, “If I want to knock a story off the front page, I just change my hairstyle.

Leo Rosten (“The New Joys of Yiddish”) wrote, “A photograph of each of my grandmothers shows them in sheytlin; and if there was any doubt in my mind about how unbecoming a wig can be on a lady, that doubt was dispelled by the pictures.

I should think the sheytl must have discouraged adultery in the shtetl.”

1995  New York Gov. George Pataki wants to trim taxes and government--but not his hair.  Medical sources reported that he has been using Rogaine to fight hair loss since 1991....And Dianne Feinstein has finally decided to lighten up--her hair color.

Mira Sorvino, the “MIghty Aphrodite” herself, had to go through seven days of processing to get her hair as “pillow slip white” as MM’s.

More than half the 500 women polled by the marketing newsletter EDK Forecast said their mood is affected when their hair doesn’t look right. 46% of the respondents said they spend 10 to 19 minutes a day doing their hair.

Jose Eber said, “almost every movie had wigs, hairpieces, but people didn’t
talks about it...Watch for an actress making a 360 degree turn with every hair in place.  Nobody in the whole world has hair that brilliant.”

1993  Ivan Boesky told State Supreme Court Justice, Phyllis Gangel-Jacob, that he needed $300 a month for haircuts.

Jerry Seinfeld (“SeinLanguage”) wrote, “When someone goes in for a hair transplant, they don’t say, ‘We’re going to perform a cueball-ectomy on you, Mr. Johnson.  We’re going to attempt to remove the skin-headia of your chrome-domus’...these are the technical terms, of course.”

The Barbers, Hairstyling for Men and Women, Inc., which operates franchised hairstyling salons, offered each of its shareholders, a FREE haircut as a dividend.

1993 - 1999 In the TV sitcom, “The Nanny,” Fran Drescher enters the Sheffield mansion a la Fran Fine, the earthy “blue collar” girl who mixes her “blue blood” counterparts, all done up in a short skirt, high heels, and a BIG HAIR (which has since become synonymous with the character.)

Drescher’s hairdresser was Enzo, a short man with an Italian accent. She told him, “I like big hair,” as if parking myself in Anthony’s beauty parlor on Avenue U in Brooklyn.”

He asked, “What do you mean by BIG HAIR?”
“Well, my hair is somewhat fine, although there’s a lot of it.”
He stares back at her as if she’s from another planet.
“so, if ya tease it, ya know, really pack it in.”

Then there was the mother, Sylvia, played by Renee Taylor.  Renee is all dolled up (“oysgeputst”) in a loud print, brightly colored float (muumuu, to anyone from Queens), and HUGE HAIR RESEMBLING A BLOND TIDAL WAVE.
(Source:  “Enter Whining” by Fran Drescher)
1991  Comedian Gary Shandling is known for asking “Is my hair all right?”
as part of his stand-up routine.

1981  Greatest bald, one-eyed, Moshe Dayan, dies.

1971  The first episode of “All in the Family” was produced by bald, Norman Lear, and costarred prematurely balding, Rob Reiner.

1967  For $500, Ralph Norton buys a phony hair-restoration formula from a sharp promoter in Central Park over Alice and Trixie’s objection.  They mix up their first batch and try it on Ralph’s boss.  Using the formula, he loses all his hair.

1960  Barry Dennen (“My Life with Barbra - A Love Story”) wrote that there were many preposterous stories about Barbra Streisand’s first appearance before the public in June 1960.

“She said her name was Strinberg.  She appeared in unwashed lank hair, half dyed navel orange and the other half colored brown...She wore a tiny rhinestone shoe in her hair...”

1956  Arthur Miller proves bald men are sexier by marrying Marilyn Monroe in London.

MARJORIE GOTTLIEB WOLFE agrees that "Behind every successful man
is a woman; behind every successful woman is her hairdresser."

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"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?
Yiddish Trivia," contact her at   Guaranteed delivery
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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

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