09 January 2014

The Hairdresser as Straight Man

The Happy Hairdresser
Nicholas Loupos
Richmond Hill, ON: Pocket Books, 1973

The first thing the author wants you to know is that he's no queer. Sure, there are plenty of "bloody faggots" polluting the industry, but he's not one of the "fairy nice boys". A red-blooded son of Sparta, for Nicholas Loupos it's all about "pussie". He wants you to know that, too.

Messy, unfocused and weak, The Happy Hairdresser is nevertheless remarkable in that its author not only chose to publish under his own name, but displayed the book in his London, Ontario beauty salon. No entrepreneur myself, both decisions raise all sorts of questions, most concerning the wisdom in boasting about bedding customers and their daughters – one of whom is sixteen. Frankly, I cannot fathom how this wouldn't be bad for business:
In this permissive promiscuous society, while the mother is chasing her lover and the father is chasing his secretary, naturally their able-bodied daughter is trying to get in her kicks as well. And since she holds true to that old adage "Like mother, like daughter," the best place to get the ball rolling is at the beauty salon.
     A copy of the Sensual Woman [sic] in one hand, and a fresh joint of marijuana in the other, she parks herself in your chair, jiggles her unfettered boobs, and eyes you shamelessly while you try to avoid chopping of an innocent ear. No wonder the majority of hairdressers suffer from such occupational ailments as ulcers, bad nerves, strained eye muscles, and swallowed glands.
     Since more often than not these hot-ass Lolitas are high on booze, sex, or drugs – occasionally all three –and because they are easier to make than females in any other age group, and for more obvious reasons, they are the hairdressers' pets.

Times change and so do people – hell, Burton Cummings did in just one season. Still, I was surprised that Pocket, a division of Simon & Schuster, soon to be acquired by Gulf+Western, would've published so crummy and hate-filled a book. At first I blamed editor Jock Carroll – photographer, really – the man responsible for much of the crap sold at United Cigar Stores during the Trudeau years. Then I learned that Pocket's New York parent published its own edition the very same month. I've not seen it myself, but understand that all mention of things Canadian were removed, even from the cover.

Critic William French expresses his appreciation in the 5 February 1974 Globe & Mail:
If they want to claim it, they're welcome to it, and let's just hope that American readers don't find out where it came from. It's a badly written piece go junk, and to identify it as Canadian would deal our cultural heritage a severe blow.
Seems pretty harsh, though French does allow that The Happy Hairdresseer might, just might, have some sort of sociological value.

What did this reader learn? I learned that the vast majority of women's hairdressers are straight, and that most women own two or three wigs.

Or have times changed?

The Globe & Mail, 1 December 1973
Trivia: William French was right in that Americans assumed Nicholas Loupos to be one of theirs. The Publisher's Weekly review of The Happy Hairdresser begins:
A vulgar, empty-headed account of how this Greek-American hairspray hero plays super stud with the customers. Liberally larded with anti-homosexual sneers, and not worth a pink plastic curler.
More trivia: In Loupos' Forward, which follows the Author's Note and precedes his Note to Hairdressers, the reader is informed that names have been changed "to protect the guilty, as well as myself, from beatings, lawsuits, angry ex-clients, angry husbands, as well as from the wrath of such well-known and powerful organizations, brotherhoods, and sisterhoods as:
  • C.O.W. (Canadian Organization for Women)
  • R.C.M.P.
  • THE DAUGHTERS OF SAPPHO ("Les-Be-Friends")
  • F.B.I.
  • F.L.Q.
  • B.B.B.
  • L.W.O. (Loose Women's Organization)
  • N.A.O.W. (North American Organization for Women)
Object: A 176-page mass market paperback, typical of its day. Includes an ad for Irving Wallace's Seven Minutes."Impossible to put down", says John Leonard of the New York Times.

Access: According to French, the first printings amounted to 60,000 in Canada and 275,000 in the United States. I see no sign that The Happy Hairdresser went back to press in either country. Of these 335.000 copies, only twelve are listed for sale online, leading me to believe that a good many have been tossed and very few booksellers feel it's worth listing. Prices range from US$0.68 to US12.99.

Earlier today I bought a copy in London for 39¢. I offer it free to anyone who wants it. I'll even pay the postage!

The book is not listed on WoldCat. Incredible, but true.

The London Public Library has two copies. "CLOSED STACKS".

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  1. Fitting that Wallace's novel about an obscenity trial and the "dirty book" that is also the title is advertised in the back.

    1. I had no idea, John. A Russ Meyer film, Maurice Girodias sued (yet again)… how did I miss this?

    2. Never read the book but I did see the movie a long time ago. It was on TV and definitely heavily edited. A very young Tom Selleck in his feature movie debut plays the publisher of the book.

  2. Do you think the title might have had something to do with another book "written" by a former Dutch secretary?

    1. I'd bet on it, Tim.

      From the book: Advice to the Woman Who Is Having Trouble Becoming Pregnant: Try a Greek. Xavier Hollander (the Happy Hooker) can't be wrong."

  3. It does seem likely to me that they were attempting to cash in on the success of "The Happy Hooker", which was ghosted by Robin Moore, as I understand it. Do you have any suspicion that anyone ghosted this in a hurry as an "as told to"? Pocket in Canada had quite a haphazard list in those days; this might have been simply an extremely inexpensive manuscript that made its costs back after only a small run. To me, this book is in the final stages of Canadian publishing's brief flirtation with exploitation paperbacks that started in 1949 with Harlequin and the Newsstand Library-style "sex book". I found an indifferent copy on Abebooks for $29.90, but I think $12 for a near fine copy, the second most expensive listing, is about right. If I were you, I'd hold on to it -- if you paid 39 cents, you've got a huge percentage of return on investment!

    1. Noah, that same William French column reports Jock Carroll as saying that The Happy Hairdresser was unsolicited. David Slabotsky seems to have dug up more in an article - "Publishers Parade Prejudice" - for the March/April issue of Body Politic. Sadly, I have no access (one of the downsides in moving to a small town).

      I agree that Pocket's was pretty much the last Canadian attempt at cashing in on the exploitation paperback market. I've yet to find anything really worth reading. That said, I do recommend The Last Canadian to those with a taste for the truly wretched.

      An old friend has asked for my 39¢ copy of The Happy Hairdresser. It'll be good to see it go. One in the house is more than enough.

  4. Ah, "The Last Canadian"!! A classic piece de merde and, if anything, "wretched" is too kind a word. Possibly the worst Canadian novel EVER. I know, because my father pressed a copy on me and told me it was great!

    Pocket Canada in those days was republishing Erle Stanley Gardner writing as A.A. Fair, keeping the "Cool and Lam" series in print long after Dell had allowed them to go off their list, and those are worth reading -- although the cover artist appears to have thought that the books were set in the 1920s of Bonnie and Clyde . But I agree, by and large their output in those days was unworthy of an hour of anyone's time.

    I also have no access to TBP of that vintage but, given the source, I suspect I'd agree without even reading the article. TBP had plenty of sitting-duck targets for cries of homophobia; if they thought this was worth an article, I expect it was.

    1. Well, I've described The Last Canadian as "the stupidest Canadian novel", and I stand by my words. I've long held the theory that Pocket was drawn to authors who would provide their own covers (see: Leo Orenstein's The Queers of New York). On that note - and considering that title - I imagine The Body Politic was overwhelmed in those days. Still, I'm betting that Nicholas Loupos' book stood out.