Thursday, May 28, 2015 was a busy day at Detroit’s RobertO’s Beauty and Barber Shop on East 7 Mile Road. The shop was busy with customers, family, and friends. A typical day late in the week. Friday and Saturday are even more busy.
RobertO’s styleshair. Larry Webster (age 70) sculpting a customer, and partner Robert “Fast Fingers” Davis (age 73) have been the hair stylists to Motown artists and hundreds of customer for nearly 50 years. It not uncommon for George Clinton and Dennis Edwards to make appointments.
Very few men and women take the time to style their hair. The production hours it takes, and the maintenance required to maintain the molding of the hair requires commitment. Styles have changed and clientele is dying off.
“Original hair straighteners were developed in the South. A combination of potato juice and lye worked well. If you had scalp burns, it was a sign of effectiveness”, noted Roger Willingham.
It was day nine of a ten day shoot in the shop by Belgian documentary filmmaker Luc Vrydaghs, crew and I.
Willie Ford (age 65), the oldest member of The Dramatics had casually arrived and sat down in a barber chair awaiting the other musicians.
The remaining quartet members quickly arrived and began casually singing along with customers.
Larry (pictured with his brother Ronald) is also the manager of The Dramatics a 1970’s era Detroit quartet. Million sellers include “Me and Mrs. Jones”, and “Watcha See, Is Watcha Get”. The Dramatics are getting ready for a summer tour, with a rehearsal at RobertO’s at 7pm.
The quartet lined up, the choreographer stepped into the line, and the group ran through three numbers for the documentary with pre-recorded music. I had to stay out the large barbershop work area. Too many mirrors for me to be seen in. And no flash. I was content to be in the customer waiting area looking in as the shop jumped. A once-in-a-lifetimes experience.
Detroit is the only North American location for Barbershop, a Timescapes Production from Belgium (www.timescapes.be). The shooting schedule calls for six 30:00 episodes in six Countries. The series will be aired initially on Belgium television and marketed worldwide.