I’d gathered up my courage for the big Hollywood party and nixed my trademark hat. I looked good, with a brand-new jacket, great jeans and boots, and a leaner, more ripped physique. Since I’m not in L.A. often, and hardly get invited to celebrity parties, I decided to make a fresh start of it and embrace my almost-baldness like a fashion statement.
When I entered with my sister, herself dressed in Diane von Furstenberg, the gorgeous hostess pulled me aside, gave me a kiss, and said how lovely it was to see me again. I’d never met her before. Next was her big-shot producer husband, who, when I shook his hand and said my name, replied, “We’ve met.” Except from TV appearances, he was a complete stranger to me.
“They’re thinking he’s our brother Jon!” announced my sister, to the room. “They’re both BALD!” All I could do was count the minutes before I could excuse myself to cry in the bathroom or find the Hollywood sign and jump off.
My brother, whom they both had, indeed, met, is bald, but it wasn’t our noses that my sister signaled out, or our jawlines, or our full lips. It was that we were deprived of hair! Cursed. Scarlet B’s in a character trait that, apparently, does make us all look alike. And it will always be P.C. to lump us together like freaks in life’s cosmetic funhouse. Implants, toupees, weaves, Rogaine, Propecia—the dream-makers and doctors have been so good to us in their attempt to defuse our blight.
I realized I was losing my hair in college, at the age of 19, when I’d find strings of it on my bedroom pillow. At first I assumed it was some kind of cancer. Because, what else? I’d already had my little-kid assurances from Mom that I wouldn’t lose my hair.
“Mommy, will I be bald like Dad when I grow up.”
“Oh no, honey. Everyone on my side of the family has a full head of hair. It comes from the mother’s side.”
Just a year previously I’d been onstage as Conrad Birdie, with a full, natural pompadour and curly hair so thick people thought it was a wig—now there’s a bit of irony. By the time I’d hit thirty the bald jokes, but not the hair, were in full swing, and George Clooney’s Caesar cut could only hide my deformity for so long.
Luckily, hats, unlike E.R. stars’ fashion looks, are here to stay. Baseball caps and fedoras and military hats become my friend. The more I lost the more I bought, along with the Rogaine and later Propecia that never worked. “You waited too long,” my follically challenged college bestie once said. His receding hairline had been scientifically stopped and he’d look at me like the guy on the shipwreck who misses the last lifeboat. Sad.
Some guys—smart guys—embrace their bald heads, and I admire their pluck. And some guys think my baldness is sexy as all get-out. (I once dated a man who said it was like I had an extra penis. I know… eww.) Then there’s Jason Statham and Vin Diesel and those surveys that inform us that bald guys exude more sex and confidence than other men. I am confidant enough to say “Take that, hair heads!”
But, like any other body part, it’s about what makes us feel attractive, and, even after all these years, I think my hair loss drags me down a notch. I have a big frame, and when I dress up without a hat I stare in the mirror at a box with an egg on top. Part of my insecurity is no doubt a reflection of my own tastes; I’ve always been attracted to men with thick hair. Sean Penn and Jake Gyllenhall’s hairlines alone make me want to marry them. An actor at a very young age, I learned that thick hair gave my imperfect face more dimension. Now my hairline labels me “thug.” When they reboot Kojak maybe I’ll have a chance.
If you have male pattern baldness, you’re probably aware that hair loss is the media’s cliché of every bad blind date and good-looking stud gone sour. TV shows and movies always bemoan those guys who ended up fat and bald, as if they’re both qualities we could have fixed if we’d taken better care of ourselves.
There are alternatives, but even with all the money in the Scientology world John Travolta can’t find a decent piece, so why should I think I could? Plus, I’m so OCD-centered I’d most certainly walk around adjusting the thing to make sure it wasn’t off-center. And terrified of headwinds. People talk smack about transplants the same way they talk smack about guys on steroids. Except they want to f*** the guys on steroids.
The one thing I’d like about going back in time would be wearing a toupee without the scrutiny you get in today’s Mean Girls world. I’m the guy who points at leading-men movie stars on TMC and yells “See. He’s wearing a wig and it never hurt him!” That era ended with Burt Reynolds’ career.
So here I am in front of you, naked from the eyes up, and admitting I’m still struggling with hair loss issues. If you thought I was going to give you a tidy, 22-minute sitcom ending where I learned that hair loss gave me blessings I never thought possible—Namaste!—you’re going to be disappointed. There are far worse things for me to worry about than my hair, or lack thereof, but I’m allowed the frustration. We all are. If you’re one of those guys who’ve embraced male pattern baldness, then I congratulate your, er, growth.
I would have said “My hats off to you,” but for now I’m keeping that for myself.