Sunday, October 24, 2004

The barber of Garfield Place

Fausto Ferrari has been trimming hair for almost 50 years in downtown shop

By Chuck Martin
Enquirer staff writer

In addition to being a terrific and talkative barber, Italy native Fausto Ferrari plays a mean accordian.

"Senor, Senor!"

Slide into one of Fausto Ferrari's seafoam green chairs, and you are his. At least for 20 minutes.

"You want a little off the sides?" the short man in the white jacket asks. "I'll take just a little off the top 'cause you only have a little."

He laughs, twirls his scissors and begins snipping air in rhythm. Squeaky, raspy scissors, thirsty for oil. The scissors glide in to trim and thin, then out to snip air again, to the Fausto beat.

"My hands still work fine," he says. "Thank God."

He will tell you he is 69, but then confesses he might be a little older. His mostly brown hair is pulled straight back. A mustache above his lips is cut meticulously thin.

Fausto's favorite things
• Favorite instrument to play: clarinet
• Favorite opera: La Traviatta
• Favorite opera singer: Luciano Pavarotti
• Favorite pasta: Spaghetti
• Favorite American food: Filet mignon
• Favorite cook: wife, Lena ("She's a wonderful cook.")
• Favorite president: John F. Kennedy
• Favorite aftershave or cologne: Pinaud Citrus Musk
Chuck Martin
He learned the art of barbering as a young man in his home of Fuscaldo, a seaside town south of Naples. He moved to Cincinnati and began working at this downtown barbershop on Garfield Place July 7, 1957.

"In two years, we celebrate our 50th anniversary," he says. "No business that day. Just a celebration."

He bought the shop from his boss in 1967, and has operated it with his brother, Emilio, since.

"I was going to remodel it," he says, "but what could you do to it? There's no other place like it."

Archbishop a customer

Bottles filled with mysterious amber lotions sit on a shelf behind him. On the opposite wall, above a long mirror, are pictures of Fausto's favorites: George Washington, Cardinal Joseph Bernadin, Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk, and St. Paolo, the patron saint of Fuscaldo.

Fausto cut the late cardinal's hair for a decade, while he was archbishop in Cincinnati. Fausto has been Archbishop Pilarczyk's barber since 1961. They talk about trips to Rome, he says, and audiences with the pope.

"Sometimes the archbishop doesn't want to talk," Fausto says. "He looks so tired."

One of the important things a barber must know, he says, is when the customer does and doesn't want to talk. Most of Fausto's clientele talk - about the Reds, the war and the demise of downtown. They ask about Lena, Fausto's wife of 39 years, who also grew up in Fuscaldo.

"Her health is not so good," he says, shaking his head.

He will gladly talk about his music. Fausto plays the clarinet, accordion and organ.

"Music is my favorite sport!" he says, with practiced delivery and smile.

He unties and slips off the white apron, taking care not to spill any clippings on the customer. He snaps it briskly in the air and ties it back on. Next comes a warm blanket of lather on the neck and up around the ears.

"I'm one of the few who still uses a razor on the neck," he says. "A haircut looks much neater with a shaved neck."

The first few pricks of the straight razor against tender skin are unsettling, but you trust Fausto. He has shaved countless necks.

He wipes away the remaining lather, and gently pats on something from his collection of colorful bottles that smells sweet, yet manly. Then he squares sideburns and trims mustache and beard. He clips wild eyebrows and unsightly hair inside ears.

The scissors come out again for a few finishing snips. The maestro combs and coifs.

Relaxing finale

But he isn't done. Fausto pulls out a stainless vibrating hand-massager that looks like a small cocktail shaker. He rubs the teeth-rattling machine over scalp and tense shoulders.

If you can pry an eye open during this pleasure, you might catch Fausto staring out the window, perhaps thinking about playing the accordion, his backyard garden. Or Lena.

"All right, senor!"

The apron comes off and he whirls the chair around. He holds a hand mirror to show off the cleanly shaven neck, but tilts it so no bald spot is visible. Senor Ferrari always takes care of the customer.


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