Karl plops into a black leather barber’s chair at Blades in West Hollywood sporting a complimentary smock and overgrown, unkempt head of hair.
Karl: So what inspires these paintings? Where does the industrialism come from?
Patty: Everywhere. Look out the window. I also do felt pen drawings. I draw Booze Hound, he’s an alcoholic dog.
*Patty hands over a stack of intricately drawn street scenes featuring a well-dressed, intoxicated dog-man struggling through life.*
Patty: I’ve had six or seven shows.
Karl: These are amazing.
Patty: He’s always dressed up. He’s based off of one of my old alcoholic assistants who doesn’t work here anymore.
Karl: Was that due to the alcoholism? *leafs through drawings*
Patty: He was a sad alcoholic but he was a snappy dresser. One day I said to him, “Dude, draw a picture of yourself. You’re such a fucking booze hound, draw yourself as a dog.” He drew something but I revamped it. You’ll also notice I draw a lot of fat people because that’s what you see when you’re driving your car. You see fat people. And everyone is on their cell phone. Nobody cares.
Karl: What does your ex-assistant think of them?
Patty: He likes them. That’s actually what he looks like now. *points to character in one of the pieces* He’s all bloated and alcoholic. See, he’s wearing flip-flops. He used to come in here in nice shoes and all dressed up. Now he’s bloated.
Karl: They’re very local feeling. I love these.
Patty: I’m working on one for the marriage equality that just happened. That was such an important event.
Karl: Were you down the street?
Patty: Yes. I made a cardboard sign that said, “Go get married, bitches!” I felt like paparazzi, everyone was taking my picture.
*brings over a stack of water-colors* I do water-colors too. I paint fat zombies.
Karl: Oh my God. *staring a purple, bloated toddler oozing blood and puss, with open sores all over body.*
Patty: These are fat zombies that are children because I feel that’s our future. Everyone will be fat, and they’re zombies because they just don’t care about anything but their fucking phones. I have a really beautiful one at home. It’s two of them crawling on the floor. One of them has a dead squirrel.
We should get started, but I don’t want to get hair on the water colors. Let’s talk about your hair.
Karl: Well, I’ve been shaving my head one length on all sides for about ten years. So being in a salon is somewhat of a new experience for me.
Patty: It’s so long, you should let it grow out.
Karl: I’ve been letting it grow, so you have something to work with. I want to try something new so I’m all yours.
Patty: *turns on hair clippers* Where’s your list of questions? *starts shaving the back of Karl’s head*
Karl: What is your occupation?
Patty: I’m a beauty operator. I create beauty.
Karl: Relationship status?
Patty: Single! I just broke up with this guy, Steve. I met him when I was drunk in a bar. We had been going out for two months and I decided I wanted to go out to a bar, have a nice cocktail, and see a band called Imperial Teen. They’re very gay. I drove because he drove a motorcycle. His 19-year-old nephew was in the car. The nephew was telling me he can’t afford to get his eyes examined, he has a part-time job, he doesn’t have a car, and his girlfriend’s pregnant. So of course I said, “Are you going to have an abortion?” And he said, “No, we’re keeping it.” I thought, “What?!” So that grossed me out. Then we’re driving and I saw that Steve had black on his fingernails. He said he was thinking of painting his fingernails black. I said, “That’s a great idea, why don’t you paint your toenails too.” (He had toenail fungus on his toe nails.) He replied, “Yeah, and why don’t I have someone stick shit up my ass too! I’m not gay! I don’t want anything up my ass!” I said, “What? Who said you’re gay, dude, what the fuck?” Then he wouldn’t stop. He went on about God and Adam and Eve and…
Karl: Wow, you triggered something, huh?
Patty: *leads Karl over to sink to shampoo hair* I should have dropped him off at home but I wanted that cocktail. So we both started screaming at each other. I told him, “You’re close with your family. The only close family I have is my lesbian cousin that just had twins with her lesbian wife. So you would be nice to their faces while thinking they’re an abomination.” We finally made it to the nightclub and one of the guys in the band, Will Schwartz, got up on stage with one of the other bands and started taking his shirt off. Steve yelled, *in angry voice* “Is he going to take his shirt off?!” “Who cares if he does?” I said. So he pretended to not like the band. And then this kid got on stage and thanked Imperial Teen for helping him come out of the closet. Steve scoffed and left.
Karl: He stormed out?
Patty: Yeah. I said, “Leave, go ahead. I’m the one who’s driving. Fuck you.” It’s a shame. He’s a contractor. He was going to put new windows in my house, was going to get my ’63 Ford Falcon started… I was even thinking about a new picket fence.
Karl: What a guy to date! Think of the things he could do for you!
Patty: Exactly! So I decided to give him a chance to say, “I’m sorry… I don’t know what got into me.” Plus, I was really hungry, so I took him to Astro Coffee Shop and again, he started with the, “I’m not gay!” Then they brought him a grilled cheese instead of the tuna melt that he wanted. He screamed at the server, “Don’t you speak English, this is America!” I had already decided it was over but that was the last thing.
Karl: I’m sorry, that sucks. Was he cute at least?
Patty: He was. He was very manly… and he could fix things for me! But now he can’t. He called a week later trying to convince me that he loves gay people even though he still thinks it’s a choice.
Karl: Well, he must really like you. At least he’s making an effort.
Patty: I’m too good for him.
Karl: Yes, I think you’re right. So what brought you here, to this area?
Patty: I got a job at the Fox Hills Mall but answered an ad in the paper for Blades. Then the big queen here, Hairold, hired me on the spot. It felt more like my people. I can’t relate to families and housewives and things like that. The salon used to be at the front of the building and we had people coming in and out of here. When I first bought the salon, a lot of people left. I was told I didn’t deserve to own a gay salon. I just never realized it was gay! These scissors are gay?!
Karl: Where did you grow up?
Karl: A local girl.
Patty: How about you?
Patty: Oh yeah. Do you see those Amish people?
Karl: There are a lot of Amish people, yes… *pauses*
Karl: I am not Amish, no. *laughs*
Patty: You’re not a breaking Amish person?
Karl: I don’t know anyone Amish.
Patty: I bet you have some stories about them.
Karl: I remember them getting busted for drugs when I was a kid – using their buggies to transport coke and heroine and whatnot.
Patty: I know a little heroine addict, a tweaker kid that I befriended. He came in here all high one day. I thought he was enchanting, but now he’s miserable with scabs all over his face. I pointed the scabs out to him and he said he was hiking and fell down a hill. He was a licensed hair dresser too. He was so nice when he wasn’t all high, so I let him work here a couple of times. But he came in high so I had to let him go. He worked for Frontier’s too and they let him go. Nothing was ever his fault, it was always somebody else’s fault.
Karl: A victim.
Patty: Yes, a victim. I once had a client who used to come in here – he drove a Jaguar, he wore an emerald on his car keys on a chain. He only wore Versace clothes and would always boast about how rich he is. He had a wealthy boyfriend who took care of him and just gave him a credit card. When the boyfriend died, his cards were all cut off and the guy ended up coming into the salon crying with snot running down his face. He had lost some $15,000 bracelet because he was drunk. He had been picked up by the police and had peed his pants. He was living in Silverlake cleaning a gay couple’s house and working at Little Caesars Pizza one day a week. There are a lot of victims in West Hollywood.
Karl: So what do you like to do when you’re not cutting hair?
Patty: I like to go see bands. I paint, read books, go to the movies, hang out. I like to go to my zumba class in Highland Park behind Mexican market. It’s weird – you walk through the market and there’s a zumba class, everyone speaks Spanish, and it’s $3 to dance around like a retard for an hour. I also do yoga three times a week with Robert, who also works here. He owns a yoga studio down the hall.
Karl: What sort of hours do you have to devote here? Is it overwhelming?
Patty: No. I work five days a week. I come in at a certain time and I leave at a certain time.
Karl: What sort of changes have you seen in the area since you’ve started working here?
Patty: There are tons of bars. Looking out the windows here, I see the regulars that live here, but I see more and more tourists.
Karl: What would you like to see more of?
Patty: Happy, married, homosexual people walking on the streets. I like to see more gay people than heterosexual people. I say that as a heterosexual, but I want to see more dudes than chicks – less of these chicks that like to go to gay bars. It seems like there’s always little icky girls and straight actor types and shit. I don’t like that.
Karl: More lesbians?
Patty: Yeah, why not? That’s a good idea. I want to see more families, not that I care about families, but more gay families. I just want it to be more gay – less of that icky, Sunset rocker scene.
*Patty pulls off smock, hands Karl a mirror, and turns chair to the side*
Patty: Isn’t that pretty?
Karl: Yes. You do great work.
Patty: I’d like to see less of the tweakers, although they do add color to the mix. I feel bad for all the homeless people but maybe just less of the freaks out there.
Karl: Can you describe West Hollywood in twenty years?
Patty: I probably won’t be here. It will probably be a really bad parking situation. It’s already bad. I think that’s the biggest problem in West Hollywood right now. This is a different world at night too. You see it. It’s packed at night, all tourists. Everyone comes from everywhere else and they all congregate right here. This is unfortunately becoming a tourist destination. How do you feel about living in a tourist destination?
Karl: I don’t get to see it as much as I used to when I was younger. But it’s disheartening to think of it that way.
Patty: Sunset is a destination too. It’s very swarthy up there at night.
Karl: Are you happy here?
Patty: Yeah. These are my peeps.
Karl: But you don’t see yourself here twenty years from now?
Patty: They just sold the building and we’re not sure what’s going to happen. They’re talking about taking away our bathrooms and making one big one in the hall. And you saw the construction coming in. They did some repairs on the roof, and when it rained really hard a few weeks ago all that water came down.
Karl: I don’t know, I kind of liked it. It felt really urban when I walked in.
Patty: I do too. It’s sort of Halloweenish. The city is also asking us to pay for more street closures. You know, like they do on Sunset. They want to do more of that here. Don’t we have enough of that? Gay Pride, Halloween… they want me to pay a percentage each year for street closures that cause me to lose business on those days. Nobody wants to come here when it’s like that. You can’t even get into the neighborhood on Halloween.
Karl: Is it more difficult to own a business in West Hollywood as opposed to in LA or Beverly Hills?
Patty: I don’t own a business in LA so I have no idea what that’s like. I just want to do my thing and stay under the radar. I don’t want to be part of an association that closes down streets and things that don’t benefit me.
Karl: Well, coming from a first impression, you seem like a good sample of the original character of this city, at least from what I recall of things when I moved here. You’re not really entrenched in this touristy restaurant/bar/fashion movement that we see everywhere.
Patty: Yeah, I’m not like that at all. We just have our clientele who are nice, happy people.
Karl: Yes, your Yelp reviews are through the roof. Everybody loves you here.
Well, I’m going to turn off the recorder unless you have anything else to add.
Patty: No. I need some water… but first… let’s put some stuff in your hair! Let’s make it shiny!