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Losing My Hair: The House of Estrada

September 2, 2013

First Posted 12/07/11


There comes a time when many men confront their worst fear: not that they’re mortal and not likely to achieve the life goals they’ve set, but the realization that their hair is making a pilgrimage to the shower drain. I was shocked when I noticed my comb was harboring more strands than usual, and horrified when I pulled a goopy wad from the shower drain.


My hair began falling out in 1974, the year I married Mrs. Chatterbox. I didn’t want to draw attention to my problem. If my future involved a nasty comb over and hats to cover my balding head from the sun, I figured it best to hide this bitter reality from my bride as long as possible. I chose to confide in Randi, a gay coworker at the paint/hardware store where I worked. I’d overheard Randi giving advice to a customer distraught over hair loss.


I cornered Randi in the lunchroom at the back of the store. He was eating a cucumber sandwich with the crusts neatly trimmed off. He looked surprised when I sat down and said, “You have a great head of hair. I was hoping to talk to you about…the fact is…I think I’m losing my hair. A few weeks ago I overheard you recommending a salon to a customer complaining about hair loss and I was hoping you’d tell me where you sent him.”  


Randi examined my hair and said, “You don’t look like you’re losing your hair. Are you finding clumps of it in your comb?”


I nodded.


“And the shower drain?”


My horrified expression answered for me.


He finished another bite of sandwich and delicately wiped the corners of his mouth with a paper napkin. “You need to see Oscar.”




“Yes, Oscar Estrada. He owns the House of Estrada in North Hollywood. The man is a genius with hair. Did you see the movie Shampoo with Warren Beatty?”


I admitted that I had.


“Well, Oscar learned how to cut hair from someone who knows the guy who trained the stylist to do Warren’s hair for the movie.” 


“Do you think this Oscar can stop my hair from falling out?”


“He’s a follicle wizard. Besides, he was once practically bald from over-treatments and now he’s got the most gorgeous hair around.” He opened his wallet and gave me a purple card engraved with: The House of Estrada. “Give him a call. Tell him Randi sent you so I can get a discount on my next visit.” He returned to his cucumber sandwich.


North Hollywood wasn’t the sort of place I frequented but with my hair at stake I wasn’t about to chicken out. I’d never been to a hair salon, having followed my dad’s example of only frequenting barbers with traditional red and white barber’s poles near the entrance. Once inside The House of Estrada I was engulfed in purple, a color I associated with Roman emperors and the girls’ aisle at Toys’ R Us. A fellow glided up and guided me to a waiting area. I checked out the two magazines he handed me while I waited for Oscar. One magazine pictured gay men doing what gay men do, and even though they were doing disgusting things to each other they both had great hair, especially on their heads. The other magazine was a Playboy. I hid behind it.


I was halfway through a comprehensive article on best cheerleader “beavers” when Oscar showed up. He had silver hair down to his shoulders and a goatee to match. He was dressed all in black. If he’d had a cape he would have been a dead ringer for The Count of Monte Cristo. I followed him to a private room and was ordered to sit in the only chair while Oscar stood and fondled my hair in a way that made me, I’m ashamed to admit, tingle.


When he’d finished examining me he said, “I must say, you’re doing a very poor job of maintaining this beautiful head of hair.”


I ignored the scolding. “Do you think you can stop my hair from falling out?”


He sifted strands of my hair through his long pale fingers. “Yes, I can stop the hair loss and repair the damage you’ve done, provided you follow my instructions to the letter. You must do exactly what I tell you. This won’t be cheap, but before long people will stop you in the grocery store just to touch your hair.”




“Yes, really. We’re all animals and our bodies were once covered in fur; the hair on our heads is mostly what remains of our fur.  Listen well—treat your hair like fur!  Repeat that out loud.”


“I will treat my hair like fur.” I ignored the discomfort I felt talking about the fur on my body.


“I will cut your hair today, but it will only be a trim. Ultimately, it will take three cuts to achieve perfection.”


“How expensive will this be?”


“Perfection is not cheap. Of course, you could just go to Floyd the local barber and end up as bald as the other grease monkeys at the next truck and tractor pull. It’s really up to you.” 


I resolved to do whatever he ordered. Short of becoming his cabana boy, I’d do anything to keep from going bald. He sold me three products and carefully explained what they were for: first, a cleanser to remove dirt and oil; second, a conditioner to make my hair manageable; third, a strengthener to regenerate my hair and make it shiny. I was encouraged to perform a regimen every morning requiring me to be in the shower nearly as long as Rip Van Winkle was in the forest, but if all went according to plan I’d be spared the dreaded comb over.


Mrs. Chatterbox couldn’t understand why I’d spent nearly a hundred and fifty dollars on hair supplies and why I was camping out in the shower for so long. She did see a difference in my hair. Before long she couldn’t keep from caressing it. I noticed that the hairball in the shower drain was diminishing, and by the time I received my third cut at The House of Estrada my comb was nearly free of hair.


My goal was achieved one day when a lady in the grocery store reached out to touch my hair. She was a nun, but it still counted.




Happy Labor Day Everyone.







wow! a real live hair guru with advice that worked! can hardly believe it! :)
By: TexWisGirl on September 2, 2013
OK, I was expecting a repeat of a Dick Vandyke classic, or that the hair in the comb and the clumps in the drain were really from your new wife. I should have seen Oscar...oh well the bald with a rat tail look helps me blend in with liberal undercover right winger.
By: Cranky on September 2, 2013
I'm so glad that (most) women don't go bald!!
By: fishducky on September 2, 2013
He spared your fur, priceless!
By: Daniel LaFrance on September 2, 2013
Well, the end result was good, at any rate! Somehow, I think my husband would have seen the purple and run out screaming, and deciding the tonsured look was more his style... Cat
By: Cat on September 2, 2013
I'm sure you're gorgeous, with or without fur. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on September 2, 2013
Stephen: You reminded me of a true story. During the filming of "The Magnificent Seven", Steve McQueen knocked on Robert Vaughn's trailer and said, "Did you see the horse they gave him (Yul). He's got a bigger horse than I do. Everybody will see that bald bas&*$# on the screen and not me". Women,as we know, loved Brynner, and Telly Savales! :)
By: Michael Manning on September 2, 2013
Perfection isn't cheap. I love that line, and I can just picture the "Count" saying it! I really enjoyed your story, am glad your hair situation got resolved, and wish you a happy Labor Day, too. :-)
By: Lexa Cain on September 2, 2013
The line about " making a pilgrimage to the shower drain..." made me laugh out loud. Women have the same fear about certain body parts getting closer to the shower drain as opposed to the shower head...
By: Pixel Peeper on September 2, 2013
I hope the hair has gone from strength to strength since 1974. If so then $150 was a bargain !
By: Jenny on September 2, 2013
s usual with many of your stories I don't see the end . This ending really woke me up. I was worried about the poor guys hair and forgot all about how it might end.
By: Red on September 2, 2013
Hm, i just wish i could send my dad to him!
By: mimi on September 2, 2013
My pate is more like the the lucky object the football team rubs for good luck as they exit the dressing room for the field. I think I'm way too for gone for even Oscar to salvage. Glad you found him when you did.
By: Scott Park on September 2, 2013
Connections make the world go round. It's who you know.
By: Val on September 2, 2013
Oh, vanity. I'm just letting my hair go and slowly it is going.
By: Catalyst/Bruce on September 2, 2013
Since my grandpas were both bald I've long known I was going to lose my hair, thus I haven't really tried anything to save it.
By: PT Dilloway on September 2, 2013
I was fascinated by your hair raising tale, Stephen! It's a great post, thank you. I really enjoyed it.
By: Sharon Bradshaw on September 3, 2013
What a great story. Oscar sounds like he was an absolute freak who wasn't above scaring the hell out of you in order to sell some products but ...I guess if they worked it was worth putting up with him.
By: Cheryl P. on September 3, 2013
Call me primitive, but I'm still struggling to get beyond "best cheerleader beavers!"
By: Bryan Jones on September 3, 2013
So, whatever happened to Oscar? Did he get famous? Did he get rich? Are you still using the product? Inquiring minds want to know. Great post.
By: Venita Louise on September 3, 2013
Did Oscar open a franchise? Must have been a good product though. Great post. Loved the description of the Salon...
By: Tom Cochrun on September 3, 2013
So what were these products? do you still have your hair? :)
By: Rita McGregor on September 4, 2013
so- I want to know- do you still have the same regimen for your hair? He probably saved you becoming bald.
By: Kathe W. on September 4, 2013
I wish my hairdresser gave me magazines like that to read.
By: LL Cool Joe on September 5, 2013
You know what? You are a really fantastic writer. It's not that I haven't thought it before, but I'm usually just enmeshed in the story and don't express it. But you tell a superb tale, Mister Chatterbox :)
By: Kianwi on September 5, 2013
If I lived near you I'd be asking for his address. It is getting to near the polish stage instead of a trip to the hairdresser for me!
By: John on September 6, 2013

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