If I had any reservations about donning a fierce mink coat, war paint and a mile-high mullet-hawk for Hair Wars 4, I did my damnedest not to let it show while I snarled, bristled with attitude and danced up a storm (twice!) on the Moon go-go platforms. Xania had checked out for the night. Ladies and gentlemen, meet … Xanadu!
It all started when a black car rolled up to Globe Salon inside Downtown’s chic SoHo Lofts. “This is a declaration [of] war” the invitation in the briefcase stated. If Globe’s salon director Staci Linklater accepted, she and her team would go—ahem—“head-to-head” in friendly follicular combat with five other salons for bragging rights in the fourth installment of Hair Wars. “Each model must be styled in ’80s fashion,” the declaration continued. “Salons will be judged on hair, make-up, fashion and attitude.”
Meanwhile, somewhere across town, I was receiving the invitation myself – an e-flier featuring a totally ’80s Flash Dance-era video vixen. She looked familiar. She looked like me in humidity. Without skipping a beat, or really taking a moment to consider the consequences, I replied to the N9NE Group promoters, offering up my own noggin for the challenge. From there, it didn’t take but a day or two for me to be matched up with Staci, my long-time hair guru and friend and the only woman on earth I will allow near my curls with a sharp pair of scissors.
But who knew how much else went into these things?! Somewhere between the choreography, the costume and the cornrows, I started to panic.
Having been informed by Globe’s GM, James Reza (also Staci’s husband), that I would have to “break it down” for up to a minute, showing off the efforts of Globe Salons über-talented hair and makeup team, I enlisted the help of CatHouse production manager/choreographer Dorimar “Dori” Bonilla. In under an hour, Dori whipped my rhythm-less nation into order with some seriously ’80s moves. We strung them together into a little routine and viola! I felt armed and ready. Sort of.
Earlier in the week, Globe’s master hair designer Samantha O’Brien and I had struggled to find a costume that screamed (or rather shouted) “Glam!” A cross between David Bowie and Adam Ant dressed by Vivienne Westwood—that’s what Staci was going for when she picked out the leather and mink coat. We already had the skin-tight fire-engine red vinyl pants. The cowboy boots were a shocking surprise as was the fact that I’d be wearing nothing but a gold bra beneath the coat. But I took the little bag-o-glam home and eyed it suspiciously for the next 24 hours. “What have I gotten myself into?” I asked my cat, who freaked and hid for hours after I modeled the coat for her. I guess Manx’ don’t like minks.
Sunday evening at 6 p.m. sharp I rolled up to Globe Salon. Straight away I was into the chair, then the Globe team descended upon me – game plan at the ready and my head literally in their hands.
“I like there being themes,” said stylist Samantha, who was now pulling the side of my head into cringe-inducing cornrows. My eyes brimming with tears—how do people get this done to their whole head?!—I did what I do best and started interviewing to distract myself from the pain. “It gives a vibe to the whole thing and a fluidity to it.” Sam has participated in a Hair Wars before with another company, the theme that time being candy. “I think our industry changes so much, that this is a way of keeping us current and interested and focused. It’s inspirational. You go out there and see what you like and get inspired to put your own spin on it."
Right then she was putting her own spin on an aristocratic mullet-meets-fauxhawk with, of course, cornrowed sides and two rat tails hanging down on my right side. “Bitchin’!” was about the only era-appropriate thing I could think to say.
"As much as people think being a hair dresser is glamorous and fun,” said Globe stylist Megan Wathen, carefully attending to the height and girth of my new hair-hat, “it’s really hard work. And we never get to do stuff like this on a daily basis. It’s an outlet to be creative and see what other salons do and be competitive, a way to put out our vision for what we see for hair and fashion. People think we get to do out there stuff all the time, but we don't."
Makeup artist Mahalia Scaglione had dibs on me next. She transformed my skin into an ethereal white, painted a red band across my eyes, threw in some pink cheekbones for that Bowie scowl and completed the look with red lips and sparkly lower lashes that prevented me from seeing the floor.
In the next chair over, Staci was getting her own ‘do touched up. Is this competition important, I asked her, hoping the answer would not be “if we lose, you’re not my client anymore!”
"It’s only important in the sense that we’re constantly, consistently being a part of the community, important in an image sense." Staci and James and the Globe Salon team participate in name and function in countless events, benefits and especially anything that boosts the image of Downtown Las Vegas. She pats her Pat Benetar-esque coif: "I love the ’80s. I rocked the ’80s. To go back freaks me out a little! There was the cool things about the ’80s and the un-cool things about the ’80s."
“Oh my god, Xania your eyes!” Staci shook her head and I chose to believe that was a good thing. “They’re glowing ice-blue with that red!”
Ok, they’re green, but thank you all the same. Mahalia’s work was clearly a success.
My two-pack, as opposed to six-pack, was a whole other story. I poked at my taught-ish tummy and noted the conspicuous lack of four more abs. “At least I don’t have a muffin top,” I mumbled, adjusting the vinyl. There was nothing left to do. Time to go, Xanadu!
I carefully lowered myself into my car and tried not to dissolve into a fit of giggles when I pulled up to the Palms valet. “Oh my god, I love your outfit,” countless people pulled at my elbow to say on their way into the club.
Few people outside the contest were in costume, so it was relatively easy to see the factions. “Ok, I just saw one of the other contestants,” Sam reported, returning from the Moon door. The girl was dressed relatively simply, in leggings and lace and neon, a la early Madonna. Her hair was crimped and poofy and with multicolored neon strands of what I pray was fake hair. The kicker was the Rubik’s cube super-glued to a headband, which protruded from her left temple like someone had impaled it there in anger. We all turned up our noses at the idea. "I hate props in the hair," said Staci. I suddenly felt extremely proud of myself, of Staci and of the Globe team. No gimmicks, no props, just pure talent, pure ’80s fashion, hair and makeup.
It’s not often that I get to be among the first in a club but there we were. Each VIP table dominating the dance floor was presided over by a different salon. DJ Scotty Boy began to spin healthy dose of ’80s with some Top 40 thrown in for good measure, and I sipped on a barely alcoholic drink and silently prayed to the producer of every Brat Pack film to imbue me with moves that I do not have. When the time came, we six competitors mounted our respective stages simultaneously. Staci caught my eye: “You got this, Xanadu?” Oh yeah, I said, sneering by best sneer, already slipping into character.
I’d love to tell you the thought process that went into that performance, but my mind is a complete blank. I know I was saving Dori’s routine for our second go at it, so I improvised. I worked the coat. And worked it. Aaaand worked it some more. It felt like an eternity! Despite the fact that this would be a panel-judged competition, I needed allies in the crowd to scream for me. So I met eyes with the lesbians, let me gaze fall on groups of single guys and even ogled the security guard.
Next round, I waited another eternity while the other salons presented their creations. First up, a Prince-inspired, purple body-painted girl with tight ringlets from Synergy Hair Salon. Then Madonna No. 1 from Radichi Salon. Then a very attractive punk girl from Too Hotties, who doffed her wig to reveal that she’d shaved her head for the St. Baldrick’s charity head-shaving event. Then an enviably on-point Dynasty blow-out from Infinity Creations. Finally, Madonna No. 2 (the one with the Rubik’s cube headband) from the eight-hundred pound gorilla in the room, Roni Josef Salon. With six locations in the valet, all they needed was half of their staff to show up for a convincing cheering section.
Oh, and then there was me.
The lights over my head were not functioning properly, so I was instructed to move over to Madonna 2’s stripper pole. Shit! My routine did not involve a stripper pole! With James and Staci standing right behind me discussing the hair and overall concept, I had no choice but to wing it. When it was over, I had a full hour to mull over my performance, what little of it I could recall.
“You’ve got this,” the security guard I had ogled assured me, placing a meaty hand on my mink epaulette. As it turns out, I didn’t have it, per se. Not the win anyway. That went to two Madonna hair-twins, first place and second. I’m 100 percent convinced that had there been a third place, Globe would have taken it. So I can live with that.
The second the awards were given out, people began to split. I thought for a moment that even Staci and James had ditched me, the big-haired loser. In vinyl pants. Who smelled like The Attic. But no, they remained for a good round of hugs and praise. I thanked Staci and James for the opportunity to represent them. My apologies for not winning were summarily pooh-poohed.
Then Staci said she was “very proud” of me. Come to think of it, I was rather proud of myself. I guess I can finally check performing in public off my to-do list. And while I hadn’t intended to go-go dance, I think I can safely check that one off, too. After they had left, with much of the salon team with them, I stood next to the table and thought, “What would Bowie do?”
Ah, that’s right: “Let’s dance!”