Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hair Brain

I may not be Paris Hilton or J-Lo, but I have a team. Okay, so maybe I don't have a stylist to chase after stray hairs or monitor my wardrobe choices, but I do have people. From the crazy endocrinologist to the clerk who checks out my groceries, they all provide a support system for my so-called life and keep me amused in the process.

Today I'd like to shine the spotlight on one of the most important members of my team- my hairdresser. Call me superficial, but we all know the power of a great hairstyle. Donald Trump's infamous pile of dragged wisps come to mind; they haven't affected his financial status, but they have attracted their share of attention. And I've always questioned Martha Stewart's coiffure, although she has been looking better since she did her stint in the pen.

We've all been the victim of a bad haircut at some point in our lives. Nearly fifteen years ago, I moved from New York City to Dutchess County, New York. For several months, I continued to drive two hours to have my hair done by an upper-East side hairdresser I had come to trust. I then sported 23 inch long tresses punctuated by startlingly straight bangs. The overall effect of the cut combined with a too-dark shade of brown was that of a grade school Elvira. Very scary, boys and girls.

There's little room for error when it comes to straight bangs. One misstep can lead to serious questions about your IQ. My hairdresser made one such mistake in the form of a "notch" in the center of my forehead. When I questioned it, he smoothed it down and made some sort of glib comment about it growing back. I drove upstate with my notch, questioning my commitment to this man. The next day I went to work at a local restaurant and provided my co-workers with no shortage of entertainment. By night's end, I had been dubbed "Nell", the wild child portrayed by Jodie Foster in the film of the same name. Unbelievably, I even had a customer ask me what I called my hairdo. It never fails, when something is bothering me, someone is bound to pick up on it. I'm not terribly religious, but it is at these moments that I believe in a higher power. Or some giant freckle-faced bully at the controls of the pinball machine of life. Whatever the case, I am one easy joke butt.

A wisecracking waitress who was having her share of fun at my expense, was momentarily kind enough to suggest that I see her hairdresser. I took her advice, and started a relationship with my hairdresser that has lasted 14 years. I'd change gynecologists before I let someone else touch my hair. Now there's an endorsement for the window of a beauty shop.

Lori Ann Gannon Fracasse is the owner of the Gallery Salon in Poughkeepsie. She is incredibly driven, smart and funny. Just the kind of lunatic you want on your team. When I first encountered Lori, she was working at a well-known day spa. She has since opened her own beautiful salon and staffed it with a wonderful collection of stylists and assistants able to handle any type of hair you can throw at them. The Gallery is polished yet not pretentious. The cast of characters is warm and welcoming and there is always a healthy amount of laughter in the air. Most important are the great haircuts that keep walking out the door.

The mother of two terrific young girls, Lori runs her business and home with a fun-loving yet disciplined attitude. She is not afraid to take the bull by the horns (or the hair). She is devoted to her customers and they to her. On my most recent visit, I spoke with a client who told me how her husband suggested a trip to the salon while she was recovering from surgery and the loss of her father. Her eyes teared as she told me how Lori took such incredible care of her and how much better she felt after being pampered. Such is the power of a great haircut. I guess it's not such a superficial thing after all.

Photo: Lori Gannon Fracasse with client Linda Schmidt

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