Corey goes old school


by Corey Levitan


      I haven't forgotten this adventure. I've been dreading it.

      Several weeks ago, Daily Breeze readers were asked to vote me a new hairstyle from 10 computer image samples done at the Maximus Salon in Hermosa Beach. I agreed to submit to the winning style and live with it.

      A conservative gray cut I called "newscaster" beat out dreadlocks, purple spikes and my personal favorite, the mullet (click here).

      "It looks real sharp on you," said Edith Bell, 72, of San Pedro. "When it blows with the wind in your head, it's gonna be just gorgeous."

      Others were more gray-bashing.

      "I want to see if your life would be different if you looked like a boring, middle-aged newscaster," said Irna McMillian, 57, of San Pedro.

      That was still nicer than my co-workers, one of whom voted for "complete decapitation."

      Ed Hart, who co-owns Maximus with his wife Michelle, seems reticent as his purple-gloved fingers yank chunks of my hair through evenly spaced holes in what resembles a plastic baby bonnet.

      "We usually take gray hair out," he says, "not the other way around."

      Apparently, hairstylists have a Hippocratic oath, too. But mine is not the strangest request Hart's ever fulfilled. Once, he dyed a soccer player's hair black-and-white like a soccer ball (perfect if you've ever wanted your screaming head sent for a goal by mistake).

      Staring back at me from the mirror is Jim Carrey's Fire Marshall Bill character. I keep an eye out for crop dusters circling my hair.

      Hart relates that he "may not be able" to get my natural color back. Well, if Soccer Ball Head didn't care, neither do I.

      For 20 minutes, my hair soaks in enough bleach to sanitize the Neverland Ranch after a slumber party. I am then unwrapped to face my own future.

      I can sense fate being tempted by the result. I've gone this far in life without showing natural aging signs, but karma may now gray my real hair. I saw that "Twilight Zone" where the pig-mask people developed real pig faces underneath.

      "You look good," Michelle Hart says, "prematurely gray."

      I don't know, but it seems to me that any word preceded by "premature" isn't something that will impress the ladies.

      Further undermining my confidence is my childhood friend Roy, to whom I e-mail a photo.

      "Dude, you're Mr. Thorpe!" he replies, referring to our junior-high-school bio teacher.

      I head to the Hermosa Beach Pier, hangout of the beautiful and barely legal, to see how life differs with my instantaneous advance in years.

      Outside Sharkeez, I approach two young ladies who treat me like the invisible Jimmy Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life." I detect an unconscious, old-man shuffle in my walk.

      Perhaps it was my pickup line: "Hey toots, you wanna go back to my pad and listen to Tony Bennett records?"

      The bouncer at Sharkeez, who usually asks for my ID, looks away. I've always looked 10 years younger than my age. You may consider me lucky, but I consider it compensatory. High school, when I looked 7, was not my time.

      Tonight, it's not a wonderful life, either. Inside the bar, the phrase "my boyfriend" comes up a lot in the few conversations I'm able to spark. One blonde isn't even moved by my boast of all the Viagra we could possibly require.

      No gray sex tonight.

      My outfit can't be helping. I sport a bowtie and reading glasses. One Patrick Molloy's patron emits a distinct Pee Wee Herman laugh as he and his pals brush past.

      I had intended to regale girls with tales of newscasting, the profession dictated by my new hair. And I probably could have gotten away with it. Hermosa Beach pubcrawlers watch ball games and music videos, not news -- unless it's read by an MTV anchor.

      But my raps don't even proceed far enough for this lie.

      Before she walks away, I ask 21-year-old Westwood resident Janine Smith if she likes older men.

      "Not 50," she says.

      Then again, I didn't exactly entice girls before going voluntarily gray, either. This scientific experiment is biased.

      The next day, I drive to UCLA, blasting a Frankie Valli tape while going 20 miles under the speed limit with my left blinker on for no reason -- after taking my nap, of course.

      "I would like to rush your fraternity," I tell Josh Baker, 19, who answers the door at the Phi Kappa Sigma house.

      "You can TRY," Baker says, eyeballing me like Hugh Hefner would a 300-lb. woman asking to be his next centerfold. Baker invites me in. As we walk past half-guzzled beer bottles and half-graffitied walls, I feel like Will Ferrell in "Old School."

      I've enrolled at college again, I lie, after taking "a couple of years" off.

      "We're gonna do some rushing, but I'm not sure how formal it's gonna be," Baker responds, breaking off eye contact as though something more important beckons.

      When I reveal what I'm really doing, the Marin County resident reveals what he was really thinking. Eye contact resumes and he smiles.

       "There's no way you would have made it," Baker says. "We had an old guy last semester, and some of the girls are creeped out by old guys."

       I was afraid to ask how old that other guy was. He was probably 26.

       Instead of focusing on what gray hair prevents me from doing, maybe I should search for the doors it opens up.

      "I'd like to be a newscaster, please," I tell Chavon at KTTV Studios in Santa Monica. She's the security guard at the parking gate for L.A.'s Fox-11; there's no front door I could find.

      In newscasting, credibility is inversely proportional to hair pigment. Gray means you've seen enough fires and murders and cats up trees to make sense of any news. You're not merely a guy who reads cards (except, that's exactly what you are).

      "You're a newscaster?" Chavon asks. "Where's your ID?"

      I explain that I'm not one yet but that I SHOULD be.

      "Look at my newscaster hair," I point out. She is unimpressed.

      "Sorry, you need an appointment with someone," Chavon says. "And it's Saturday, so no one's here."

      "How could no one be here?" I retort. "The TV station broadcasts on Saturdays, does it not?"

      I scrunch my face into the Tom Brokaw squint of sincere disbelief. I have uncovered a cover-up, and Chavon knows it.

      She caves in.

      "Look, I can't hire you as a newscaster, but I can give you an application if you want," she says.

      It's a generic employment form, nothing newscaster-specific. But it's a start.

      "Just bring it back here," Chavon says.

      I didn't realize how easy it would be. I'll bet no non-gray hopeful walking up to Chavon gets an application.

      When I'm too gray for adventure columns, I'm coming back.


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