I don’t know how I found the ad. It was 1997 — computers were strictly for emails and term papers, and my tiny college town didn’t have an alt weekly. The ad said something like, “Seeking women willing to get their heads shaved on camera. Pays $50.” That piqued my interest. I’d been rocking a shaved head on and off since the early 90s and I could use the money. Of course I was dubious that this was real, but I called anyway — they had me at “pays.”
Fifty bucks was a nice chunk of change for a kid fresh off the commencement stage at a liberal arts college in New York’s Hudson Valley. I was in the midst of selling everything I had — futon, dresser, amber glass ashtray — so I could run away to San Francisco with my boyfriend and my college roommate (and her two cats) to “start our lives.” Never mind that I’d never actually been there. It just seemed like a good idea.
Back then I was up for anything. Some fun — hiking and skinny dipping in the mountains surrounding my college town; and some stupid — hitchhiking drunk with my friend Chris at four in the morning. So, money to get my chin-length hair cut? Easy sell.
My roommate, a petite redhead with long hair, and I set up an appointment and hustled up my boyfriend to play bodyguard in case things got funky. We drove to what we assumed would be a hair salon or beauty school but turned out to be just someone’s house. When I try to picture it in my mind, I see a blue Cape Cod with a picket fence and a flagstone path leading to the front door. What I definitely remember is an overweight, 50-something white couple who seemed very excited to meet us. Kind of oddly excited.
They ushered us through an unremarkable, dark living room. “We’re going to the basement,” they said. The creep factor was quickly ticking upward. They looked pretty normal, and they were giving us cash to cut our hair, but at that moment I began to consider the possibility that we could end up a Dateline story about a couple of college kids who were raped and dismembered because all they wanted to do was make a few bucks. I was leery, but we kept walking down those steps, like the part in a horror movie when everybody is screaming at the screen “Don’t go down there!”
I sighed in relief when we walked into a bright white room, flooded by bright white lights. A bottle-blonde dressed in black and lots of silver jewelry was standing behind a barber’s chair in the middle of the room, and there was a video camera from RadioShack on a tripod by the wall. Seventies-style porn music was being piped in from somewhere. Again, a little odd.
My roommate and I each took a turn under Blondie’s hair clippers. Mr. and Mrs. Cut-for-Cash stood behind the camera taping us getting fresh buzz cuts and offered us each an extra 50 bucks to go completely bald. We declined. (I mean, let’s not get crazy.) We collected our money and headed back to town for some beers.
Fast-forward a few weeks. The monthly Playboy arrived for the previous tenant who never changed his address. We sat around our 80s “wood” coffee table with some friends to flip through the pages and make fun of it, as was our custom. Then we saw it in the back pages of the magazine: An invitation for readers to send away for videos of women getting their heads shaved.
We sat there slack jawed and queasy with two main questions: Were we the girls in the videos, and who the fuck would get off on that?
Evidently, it’s a legit kink — it’s called trichophilia. People with this fetish get turned on by hair, particularly head hair. Seeing it, touching it, watching someone cut it short or shave it all off. Some get even randier when the cut leads to a completely bald head. (Now the extra $50 makes sense.)
Did we really just make a fetish video now advertised in the back pages of a soft-core porn mag? Mercifully, we were fully clothed and there was no inappropriate touching of things.
That already weird scene just got way weirder. Still, we weren’t running to return our $50 in exchange for the master copy. We convinced ourselves that no one we knew or would come to know would see our (bizarrely) sexy star turn. Honestly, posing naked for our friend Tommy B.’s final art project was far riskier. And we did that for free. Now that VCRs are as ubiquitous as cassette-tape players, I’m fairly confident that tape will remain safely in the hair-porn archives.
No one who knows me now would even dream that I’d answer that kind of ad again. Everyone knows you have to really think through what you put on film these days. We’ve all been thanking god for years that there was no social media when we were in college — our debauches have been safely tucked away in moldy basements for years, if not entirely lost somewhere on the road to middle age. And my friends know how sure I am that online dating has the best odds of me being the victim of a serial killer. I’m going into a stranger’s house for exactly nothing. Besides, I’d happily pay someone $50 to give me a decent haircut. As a matter of fact, I think I need to book an appointment.