Great Hair 2012: Barbershop Quartet

Even politicians and bureaucrats are serious about their hair: Nearly a dozen federal entities have on-site barbers. Here’s a look at four.

By: Kate Parham

Joe Quattrone. Photograph by Jeff Elkins.

House of Representatives

Barber: Joe Quattrone, formerly a farmer in Italy, heads the House’s privatized barbershop. His is one of the best jobs, he says, “because you come in contact every day with the people who control the world.”

Inside look: He has trimmed everyone from Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti of Italy—who insisted on having his picture taken with Quattrone—to Dick Cheney, Al Gore, and Gerald Ford. He cut Ford’s hair two days before he became President.

Top secret: “Ford didn’t come once without asking about my wife,” says Quattrone, who eventually brought his wife to meet the then-Vice President. “He shook her hand, and they talked. Things like that you don’t forget. Every day I get out of bed and kiss the ground that I live the American dream.”

David Besenyei. Photograph by Jeff Elkins.

Department of Energy

Barber: David Besenyei has been cutting hair in the Forrestal Building since the 1970s, after being honorably discharged from the Army. (He spent 18 months in Korea.)

Inside look: Although Besenyei considers “every person who enters the shop to be a very important person” and has snipped and shaved several Energy Secretaries, cutting the hair of singer James Brown when Besenyei worked at a barbershop at Reagan National Airport was a big moment.

Top secret: Besenyei says that nowadays most of his clients ask for short, razor-style cuts, a trend that seemed to pick up after September 11, 2001.

Daivon Davis. Photograph courtesy of the CIA.

Central Intelligence Agency

Barber: Daivon Davis is not only the first African-American to own the CIA’s barbershop but the first to cut hair in the shop, which opened in 1955. Now 24, he got the gig at age 18, then bought the shop in 2010.

Inside look: Davis’s chair has seen the likes of General Michael Hayden and former CIA director Leon Panetta. “You know they’re bigwigs when you see bodyguards standing outside the door,” Davis says. “A lot of them are adrenaline junkies, so we talk about cars and skydiving.”

Top secret: Davis knows something big is happening when regulars aren’t coming in: “Last year during the Egypt situation, when the president finally stepped down, about 30 minutes later I had a big flock of people come in.”

Lenny Gilleo. Photograph by Jeff Elkins.

Federal Reserve

Barber: Lenny Gilleo, self-proclaimed Hairman of the Board, has been cutting hair for half a century, including the past five Fed chairmen. His business cards say: “My monetary policy is greatly affected by your growth rate.”

Inside look: Gilleo, who may cut “the hair of the chairman one minute, the guy sweeping floors the next,” says he knows something’s up when people carry yellow notepads: “Just a guess, but that tells you they’re not doing anything on e-mail, so they don’t want anybody to know.”

Top secret: “I haven’t seen anyone who doesn’t come back looking better,” Gilleo says of chairmen who have retired and returned for a cut. “They look more relaxed.”

Other federal institutions with on-site barbers include the US Senate, the Pentagon, the Agriculture Department, the Interior Department, and the Federal Aviation Administration.

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