Most people have their favorites.
I have my favorite bartender. I have my favorite mechanic. I have my favorite cashier at Walgreens. Meet Johnny Sullivan, my favorite barber.
Johnny Sullivan has been cutting hair in Mobile, Alabama since 1972 and if you are currently male and visiting one of those sports-based haircut places, then you are visiting a mere facsimile, a cheap imitation of what Johnny Sullivan’s is all about. But Johnny Sullivan is more than a tonsorial artist, more than a barber; and Johnny Sullivan Haircuts is more than a barbershop.
As you step into the place, you realize that while New Media and Social Networking sites allow us to put our lives out there on the Internet; Johnny has put his life on the walls of his barbershop.
Johnny served two tours in Vietnam as an MP(Military Police), but his real love was photography. Johnny says, “I told them I wanted to be a photographer, they said they already had plenty of them, I was gonna be an MP”
But that didn’t stop Johnny from taking photographs and collecting photographs and posters that now adorned his shop walls. Scattered among the photos, are posters and memorabilia of Johnny’s passion for football and The New Orleans Saints.
Once inside, Johnny will greet you with a smile covered by his trademark handlebar moustache, reminiscent of his namesake, John L. Sullivan. and shake your hand. He’ll be sure to ask you about what ever it was, you last talked about. Johnny knows his client’s lives and interests. He’s more than your barber, he’s your friend. The next thing he’ll offer you, if you are a “regular”; is a beer.
A beer? That’s right. Johnny is more than your barber, he’s your bartender. For years, clients have dropped off six-packs and cases and Johnny buys stock, too for the “Who Dat” beer locker. It’s a special treat for his clients to enjoy while they wait. If it’s your first time, wait for an invitation; and remember it’s free beer–don’t ask what kind he has, when he offers.
While you wait, you can sit at the bar or relax in a chair and read a magazine. Sure, there are Sports Illustrated’s laying about, newspapers and hair style magazines mixed in with Allure magazine. But, you’ll also find Maxim, FHM, and if you are so inclined you can check out Miss March in Playboy magazine.
Nothing interesting to read? Then sit back and watch the latest football, basketball, or baseball game; or enjoy the race as the cars speed by on the television screen mounted over Johnny’s styling area.
But you’ll most likely find yourself watching Johnny cut the hair of the person occupying the chair, while listening to Johnny tell you his current joke. No, the joke will probably not be current, but you won’t be able to help yourself; you’ll laugh. You might share your latest joke or story with the rest of the clientele as well.
Once you are in Johnny’s chair, it’s pretty much business as usual. Johnny can wash your hair, cut your hair, and style your hair with the latest trends in fashion or “shape you up” with the same cut you’ve had for 30 years. The man is a barber, first and foremost. Last May, Johnny suffered a bout of pancreatitis and gall bladder surgery, 4 days later, he was back at work cutting hair.
“I used to cut a lot of women’s hair. In fact, a lot of the dancers in town used to come here to get their hair styled.”
“My customers range from minimum wage workers to millionaires. When you come here, you are among friends. It doesn’t matter who you are.”
After any haircut, a barber usually takes a soft brush and whisks away the small cut hairs from the back of your neck, so you leave the shop feeling comfortable. Johnny goes one step further. Once your style session is complete, Johnny takes a small electric hand massager to your neck and shoulders. Just one addition that leaves you not only comfortable but relaxed as you step out of the chair.
But you probably won’t leave right away; maybe you’ll stay for one more story, while Johnny takes a “smoke break” as the next client climbs in the chair. Oh yeah, did I mention? Smoking is permissible at Johnny Sullivan’s. Ash trays are plentiful, and yet the shop is never smokey. You gotta love it.
And while you are there, listen to some of Johnny’s advice, because Johnny likes to add to a quote of George Burns,
“I could be doing something else, it’s too bad, but the only people who know how to run the country are too damn busy driving cabs and cutting hair.”