Day 100, No. 100. Shakespeare

The Chandos portraitHAIRCUT 100: Day 100, No. 100. At last, I reach the end of my spiritual journey. I hope you note that even in these times of political upheaval, global uncertainty and sheer existential terror – not to mention bereavement, self-employment, three other blogs, a book contract and a five-year-old – I have never missed a day! I started this blog on August 11 this year. At an average of 500 words per post, that’s approximately 50,000 words written in three months. Wow. Go me. I wish the latest novel was coming together so quickly.

To recap, this has been a celebration of awesome baldness in all its forms, in honour of those of us who, for whatever reason, are a bit thin on top. For my dear friend Colin, who passed away on Day 68, it was chemotherapy what done it; for me, bloody alopecia areata universalis. Sometimes it’s part of the aging process, sometimes it’s just bad luck. I appreciate it can be a style thing or a statement, but, by and large, most of us don’t choose to go skinhead. I was a long-hair. This was never my natural look, so I needed something to guide me through the transition; compiling a cavalcade of Kojaked cultural icons was deeply therapeutic. To paraphrase the Bard, ‘Oh bald new world, that has such people in’t!’ If you are going through hair loss, or, especially, if you have a kid dealing with it, I would urge you to do the same. It really does help raise self-esteem again, and it’s actually rather fun.

Looking back at my list, it certainly betrays my age as much as my interests. I’m acutely aware of many more contemporary examples, particularly in sport and music, I might have used, but then I’ve gotta be me – make your own darn list! I am old and geeky, I did warn you, hence all those references to classic horror and sci-fi. But one way or the other, I did the ton and as a rocker of the old school that is always what it’s about…

Anyway (drum roll), here is the final entry in the original ‘Haircut 100.’ Now, this ain’t The Prisoner, so it isn’t going to turn out to be me. As well as being geeky, I am also a literary man, so, in the 400th year since his death, it is in every way appropriate to conclude this project with William Shakespeare (1564–1616): Bard of Avon, poet, playwright, and actor, and very probably the greatest writer in the English language. The son of a provincial glovemaker and a farmer’s daughter, Shakespeare wrote 38 plays, 154 sonnets and two epic poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language, and have been performed, studied and re-interpreted consistently across the world and across the centuries, being staged more than the work of any other playwright in history. As Ben Johnson wrote in the prefatory poem to the First Folio edition of his collected plays (1623), Shakespeare was ‘not of an age, but for all time.’

Shakespeare’s early works were comedies and histories, and having mastered these genres he turned his attention to tragedy, producing such incredible plays as Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth. Well, you know who he was… Debate continues over the authorship of Shakespeare’s work, but these are essentially popular and academic conspiracy theories with very little supporting evidence. It is as if we cannot somehow accept this level of genius in a single human being who produced all these wonderful words with, as I believe Peter Ackroyd once pointed out, nothing more than a sharpened feather. If you think about it, no-one questions the ownership of the work of prolific talents like Mozart, Dickens, Picasso or David Bowie. Occasionally, once or twice in a generation, some people are simply that brilliant.

Shakespeare was recently celebrated on the BBC by the redoubtable Philomena Cunk, who noted that school must’ve been very different for him, on account of not having to study Shakespeare. ‘If Shakespeare had written Taken,’ she argued, ‘it’d be four hours long and be mainly Liam Neeson fretting and pacing and talking to bones. That’s the basic difference between Hamlet and Taken: Liam Neeson makes up his mind.’ He did, however, she concedes, give the world Romeo and Juliet, ‘easily the finest romance of the pre-Dirty Dancing era.’

So there you have it. They say Shakespeare pretty much had a word for everything, and that includes hair loss, which is covered in The Comedy of Errors (written between 1592 and 1594), Act II, Scene 2. Enjoy:

ANTIPHOLUS: Why is Time such a niggard of hair, being, as it is, so plentiful an excrement?

DROMIO: Because it is a blessing that time bestows on beasts; and what he has scanted men in hair, he hath given them in wit.

ANTIPHOLUS: Why, but there’s many a man hath more hair than wit.

DROMIO: Not a man of those but he hath the wit to lose his hair.

Thank you for reading!

Steve

(Exits, pursued by a bear)

Day 88, No. 88. Picasso

Pablo PicassoHAIRCUT 100: Day 88, No. 88. Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973): alongside Henri Matisse and Marcel Duchamp, probably the most significant, innovative, revolutionary and influential artist of the twentieth century, his work defining Modernism in painting and the plastic arts. Picasso was born in Spain – the son of an art teacher – but spent most of his life in France. As a child, he showed exceptional talent, which blossomed in Paris at the start of the new century, amidst a Bohemian atmosphere charged with the stirrings of avant-garde rebellion. The influence of Munch, Lautrec, Renoir, Gauguin, and van Gogh can be felt in his early work, dancing across the canvas and leaving behind them a passion for blue. This became the dominant colour for Picasso’s depiction of the Mysteries of Paris: the beggar, the whore, the sick and the starving.

Picasso’s stunning painting ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ (‘The Young Ladies of Avignon,’ 1907), portrays five naked prostitutes with mask-like faces in a confrontational stance, the artist abandoning perspective in favor of a flat, two-dimensional plane that radically breaks with traditional European representation. This was a revolutionary and controversial work that already anticipated the cubism of ‘Girl with a Mandolin. (1910). Like Giotto, Michelangelo, and Bernini; Wordsworth and Coleridge; Elvis, The Beatles and The Sex Pistols, Picasso’s work stands at the beginning of a new epoch. He was as prolific as he was protean, working in different mediums and radically different styles, ranging from classical realism to cubism, primitivism, neo-classicism, surrealism and monumental archetypes. It has been estimated that Picasso produced around 50,000 pieces in his life, achieving universal recognition and a vast fortune. This year, Picasso’s painting ‘Femme Assise’ (1909) sold for £43.2 million at Sotheby’s. ‘Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.’

Day 75, No. 75. Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis portraitHAIRCUT 100: Day 75, No. 75. Bruce Willis (born 1955), Jersey Boy, the son of a soldier and his German sweetheart; former security guard, private investigator and bartender – also does a bit of acting. Willis has described himself as coming from ‘a long line of blue collar people’ – when the family returned to the States, Willis’ father worked as a welder and mechanic while his mother was a bank teller. Willis started acting in high school, finding that stage work helped him to master a stutter. He went on to study drama at Montclair State University, gaining a part in the School production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but left in his junior year to try his luck off Broadway. When this didn’t work out, he went to Hollywood, eventually gaining a bit part in Miami Vice and a key role in the pilot episode of the 1985 CBS revival of The Twilight Zone, ‘Shatterday,’ a doppelgänger story by Harlan Ellison in which a man meets his own soul. In the same year, Willis auditioned for the part of David Addison Jr. in ABC’s Moonlighting and you know the rest… Willis has appeared in over sixty films to date, and is one of those towering figures in Hollywood, a genuine icon, a star in the true sense of the word. He has referred to his baldness as a way of remaining grounded, once remarking that ‘Hair loss is God’s way of telling me I’m human,’ while dermatologists will cite his example to men like me as a reason to never wear a wig. You know what you’re going to get in a Willis movie – charm, style, action, humour – while he has proven he has a deeper dramatic range in films like The Sixth Sense, Tears in the Sun, and Moonrise Kingdom. Among all those iconic roles, my personal favourite is John Hartigan in the original Sin City, a craggy, aging and honest cop in a rotten world who will never compromise, and to whom Willis brings a tragic, Shakespearian intensity: ‘An old man dies, a young woman lives. Fair trade.’

Day 36, No. 36. Michael Chiklis

Michael Chiklis ActorHAIRCUT 100: Day 36, No. 36. Michael Chiklis: Actor, director, producer and Thing. One of those great character actors, who seems made for hard-boiled, morally ambivalent cop roles, Greek-American Chiklis has that whole Telly Savalas thing working for him, with a craggy ‘Don’t even think about it’ look crossed with a smile that could melt steel and charm the arse of the devil himself. Chiklis came to prominence (for all the wrong reasons) playing John Belushi in the critically slated and criminally underrated Wired in 1989. He built up a solid film and TV portfolio over the next decade, most notably playing Curly Howard in the ABC Three Stooges biopic in 2000. His breakout role, however, came in The Shield (2002 – 2008), alongside The Sopranos and The Wire a show that many critics believe heralded a golden age in sophisticated American crime drama. As Detective Vic Mackey, Chiklis’ powerhouse performance defined ‘ends-justifying-the-means’ inner city policing, a characterisation deepened by corruption and based on the true story of the LAPD ‘Crash’ anti-gang squad, several members of which were implicated in Shakespearean intrigues of drug theft, bank robbery and murder. ‘I’ve been allowed to explore – OK, wallow in – grey areas,’ said Chiklis, ‘and as an actor that’s an extraordinary experience … If you asked the LAPD formally even now, they would still have to denounce the show to some degree. But if you ask the rank and file they love it – they’ll tell you it brings to life the ambiguity of the job.’ Chiklis is presently to be seen in American Horror Story and Gotham; but to a generation of geeky kids he will always be Ben Grimm, the ‘Thing,’ the edgy, funny working class one in The Fantastic Four, and he is known for never turning down an autograph request from a kid, because, he says: ‘How do you say “no” to an 8-year-old?’