It is early, and I am scanning the online newspapers where I found this nugget, and need to share. Finally we meet the man behind the hair (as opposed to under the hair) of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. A great Sunday newspaper read!
Once every three weeks, former Gov. Rod Blagojevichrides a tiny elevator to the sixth floor of an unremarkable building on one of the city’s most chic blocks. There he sits in the same fake leather chair, one of four chairs at Mr. Barber on Oak, as a Soviet immigrant named Peter Vodovoz spends 20 minutes tending to what is one of the most famous haircuts in the world.
“He has always been a super guy to me,” says Vodovoz. “Yes, he has a lot of hair, but cutting it is easy.”
He has been cutting that hair for more than a decade, beginning when Blagojevich was a populist Democratic congressman with ambitions for national office and a hairdo that was of modest interest.
“It was a curiosity, the fact that he had an aide carrying the ‘football,’ a briefcase containing his hairbrush, just as the president has an aide toting the nuclear code,” says Rick Pearson, the Tribune’s chief political writer who has closely observed Blagojevich for two decades. “I always thought of his hair as an odd affectation rather than some sort of phenomenon.”
The hair became the object of loud and widespread ridicule in the wake of Blagojevich’s Dec. 9 arrest, Jan. 29 impeachment and April 2 indictment on 16 counts of racketeering, fraud and extortion.The View.” David Letterman let loose with “I hope that thing on his head doesn’t bite me.” Conan O’Brien added, “According to a new survey that just came out, the most admired profession is doctor. Doctor is the most admired profession. Yeah. The least admired profession? Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s barber.”Drew Peterson talked to me at a local restaurant. What was the conversation? Well, he asked me to pass the ketchup.
The hair humor started to take on a derogatory and nasty tone as the story gained national attention, fed in large part by Blagojevich’s seemingly insatiable desire to appear on every television program short of “Cops.”
The hair was famously mussed by co-host Joy Behar on “
Vodovoz has not closely followed the jabs. But he has heard and read enough.
“Some of that has been disturbing to me, and not any of it has been funny,” Vodovoz says. “This is a man who was elected by so many people [1.8 million in 2002, 1.6 million in 2006] that he deserves better until his situation is finished in the courts.”
As energetically as Blagojevich has courted media attention, Vodovoz has avoided it.
“There are many, many people who call and come in here looking for information about Rod,” he says. “What does he talk about? Does he have secret meetings here? I have been offered money to talk to these people. I have been offered money for pieces of Rod’s hair. I turn all of this down because I have respect for my customers.”
There is, of course, no such thing as barber-client privilege. For Vodovoz, it’s a matter of trust.
“My customers have a right to know I don’t talk about them behind their backs,” he says.
He has many famous, wealthy and influential customers. He does not envy them.
“I am the one who is living the American dream,” he says. “I work hard, ever since I come here, and I have my business and my family and my house in the suburbs where there are trees and peace. I know many of the troubles that some of my customers have, but that is nobody else’s business. What we talk about, we talk about here and no place else.”
That’s an admirable trait in an age in which people are willing, even eager, to share the particulars of their encounters with celebrities or newsmakers, no matter how trivial, tangential or insipid. Yes, I’ll never forget the time
Another reason for Vodovoz’s public silence: He feels no need to defend his handiwork.
“For me, it is a simple thing. A man walks in and asks to have his hair cut a certain way. Who am I to tell him different?” he says. “You do not walk into a bar and order a beer and have the bartender say, ‘No, no, you should have a Scotch.’ You tell me what kind of haircut you want, you get that kind of haircut.”
Vodovoz — who has a relatively simple hairstyle — is a personable and forthright person.
“I know the trouble that [Blagojevich] is going through, but we do not talk about it,” he says. “We talk about all sorts of other things. We talk about sports and the weather and our families.”