Dorothy Lamour Glams Up the Village
Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.
November 10, 1960, Vol. VI, No. 3
Lamour in the Village
By Mary Perot Nichols
There was a pedestrian traffic jam at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 9th Street late last Wednesday afternoon. "There she is - big as life - looking p-r-e-t-t-y good!" exclaimed one male onlooker. A big beatnik wearing an amulet around his neck pressed his nose to the glass and looked into the crowded shop. "Bob Hope and Bing Crosby - I seen her with all of them." Turning to a nose-pressing neighbor, he asked: "Did you see 'The Road to Bali'?"
Inside, a gala group was celebrating the opening of Dorothy Lamour's first beauty salon, and the hostess was Dorothy Lamour herself.
This reporter had been granted an exclusive interview with Miss Lamour the previous day at her uptown office. "I bet you're going to ask me why I started the first of my beauty-salon chain in the Village," she had remarked at the opening of the interview. No, I told her, that was not going to be my first question. "My editor sent me up to ask you this - 'What would you do if you looked like me'?"
Her jaw dropped a bit - she obviously did not know she was going to be asked anything so controversial. Nonetheless, she struggled womanfully to meet the challenge. First she put on her glasses and took a long look at me. I sat there, pencil poised, waiting for an answer in my best uptown - Women's - City - Club-dowdy dress. Finally, she said, "You tell your editor I think that's terrible, dear...Why you're lovely," she said, "you don't have to do anything." Miss Lamour removed her glasses, which had a tiny jewel in each corner.
Then, as if she realized that the moment of truth had come, she put her glasses on again and took another look. I put on my serviceable horn rims in self defense and stared back at her. At last, she said reflectively: "Have you ever tried braids?"
From then on we got along famously. We discussed contact lenses and suggested them for each other, and I even asked her if her braid was her own hair. "Yes it is," she said, "but I had it cut off and made into a hair piece." She pointed out that her new salons would be selling wigs and hair pieces from $150.
Finally we came back to why she was launching her business career in Greenwich Village. "I kind of think the Village is lucky for me. I used to work at No. 1 Fifth Avenue entertaining. Bob Hope often came and threw pennies at me." It was in the late 30's, she said, before either of them had "made it." "I used to ask Bob where he got the pennies."
In spite of the wig tariff, Miss Lamour pointed out that the prices in her new salon would be moderate, only $4 for a shampoo and set, I learned later.
"I won't let them get too high on prices because I want to get the general public," she said.
We went on to discuss her career in the movies which, she said, was not over. "I haven't made a picture in three years," remarked Miss Lamour, still a striking-looking woman, "because I haven't found a script I like. I don't like all this morbid, dope fiend, street-walker kind of thing." Her taste gravitated toward "a good Hitchcock, a good drama or comedy," she said.
Amid the cocktails and caviar at the salon opening the following day, I reflected on the French Provincial decor in powder blue, white, and gold, the rows of translucent space-helmet hair dryers over the sumptuous white leather seats, and mused: "No morbid thoughts here." Certainly, no street walkers will come out of this place. Courtesans, perhaps. But isn't that what every woman goes to a beauty parlor for?"
[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]