From Sicily to America
by Pasquale Spagnuolo, St. Martin’s Press, 102 pages .
Pasquale Spagnuolo, a native of Italy who spent fifty-five years grooming the likes of Johnny Carson, Winston Churchill, and James Thurber in his shop on West Forty-third Street in New York City, gives an endearing glimpse into the proud and meticulous world of the immigrant barber. When his wife, Connie, became ill, he writes, “to occupy my time and not feel sorry for myself, I wrote this book, after jotting down notes for more than twenty years.” In it, he tells all the most amusing tales of his career.
“Henrik Van Loon was a writer and historian who wrote from the late 1920s until his death in 1944. He was a big man, about six foot six and 300 pounds. He was addicted to a tickling sensation on his nose from my vibrator during a facial massage, which made him sneeze. … When he sneezed, it thundered the shop.” The author provides the steps for honing razors and for giving proper facials, reveals his advertising secrets (personalized letters inviting in new kids on the block), and finally, his Golden Rules for Serving the Public. Number thirteen: “If a client keeps his sideburns straight, always has a close shave, or keeps his mustache trimmed, compliment him, telling him that very few clients do that. Everyone likes to be praised. If he needs your suggestions, offer them. You will find that the client will have more confidence in you. …” One Barber’s Story cheerfully encapsulates the vanishing world of a loyal attendant and a great shave.