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Columnist
Hair makes a statement, but Blago's mop might be lying
By Burt Constable | Daily Herald Columnist

Gov. Rod Blagojevich, with is hair just how he likes it.

 

Associated Press file

Here is how Gov. Rod Blagojevich might look if he took one hairstylist's advice and wore his hair more like actor Matt Damon.

 

Daily Herald photo illustration by Tim Broderick

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Published: 1/29/2009 12:01 AM

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A coy Rod Blagojevich is all shucks and grins about doing his Richard Nixon "I am not a crook" impression on TV when "The View" co-host Joy Behar playfully reaches out and tousles the guv's hair.

Uh-oh. I expect Blago's smile to vanish, his hair to start swirling and Behar's face to melt as if she were a Nazi in that first Indiana Jones movie.

But Behar is still there. She doesn't even appear to have a hangover from satisfying that thirst to run her fingers through a little hair of the Rod.

With all the seriousness of Blagojevich's impeachment hearing and criminal charges, his hair still draws attention. Nobody said boo about George Ryan's 'do while he was going to prison, but "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" runs nightly stories about Blagojevich under its "Scumdog Million-Hairs" logo.

"They're not looking at him, they're looking at his hair," says hairstylist Scott Montgomery of Chicago. "He appears to be like human folk, and yet -"

In the struggle to describe Blago's hair, Montgomery goes from "a sofa" to the topping sported by Bob's "Big Boy" eatery icon before concluding, "If Fisher Price made hair, it would be that."

That hair changes the way we look at a leader. If Gandhi had Blagojevich's hair, would he have been taken so seriously?

Things might be different today if the governor had taken Montgomery's advice back when Blagojevich was a state rep and his political career was about to take off.

"Dude, you should just let your gray come in, and people would dig it if you went really short," Montgomery, 42, remembers telling the man who would become governor. "His hair has probably been like that since he was in high school. I don't know when he went to high school, but I'm thinking the girls had roach clip earrings."

A musician, photographer, artist and an inventor of products such as the "coñata" - an ice cream cone in the shape of a pig that breaks open like a piñata to reveal the flavor - Montgomery says he changes his hair's length and color to help market himself. But he envisioned a political haircut for Blagojevich that would have sent an honest message to voters.

"He needs something that says, 'I'm just working too hard for you, so I'm too busy to color my hair,'" Montgomery says. "I wanted him to do that right off the bat. I wanted to build a relationship."

Blagojevich made two visits to the studio where Montgomery worked at the time and never came back.

Instead of short and gray, Blagojevich's hair is more Dorian Gray - never seeming to change in color or even in length.

"It must be exhausting being him," Montgomery says.

If it is, Blagojevich never let on to veteran stylist Vera DeGiorgio of the Southport Hair Studio on Belmont in the city.

"He was wonderful, very personable. I felt he was genuine," remembers DeGiorgio.

One of her regular customers, a top political aide, called her the day before Blagojevich's first State of the State address in 2003. The governor needed a haircut, and his regular barber wasn't available.

"I opened up for him on a Sunday," DeGiorgio remembers.

"I could tell right off the bat that he was going to a barber," she says. "A stylist gives you a cut that lasts. - He's got a look that says 'I didn't have a haircut.' I didn't make any suggestion to change his hair at all."

Blagojevich, who arrived in his sweatsuit after a jog, talked about baseball, the Cubs and that summer's upcoming All-Star Game at U.S. Cellular Field. DeGiorgio's usual fee was $25 and she did open the shop just for him, but she told him not to pay.

"I think we should put the price of a haircut to the re-election campaign," DeGiorgio remembers saying. "He said, 'Oh, no, that's not done.' He put $100 on my desk and walked out."

Later, Blagojevich sent DeGiorgio and her husband skybox tickets to the All-Star Game.

"I feel bad," DeGiorgio says of the governor's current woes. "He was very respectful of me and my time."

As for his hair, she won't voice an opinion on his style or whether he adds color, only that she understands why it hangs in his eyes.

"It would take an awful lot of gel to keep it from going forward. It just grows that way," DeGiorgio says. "It's like a Kennedy's."

While Montgomery notes that Kennedys, especially Maria Shriver, have naturally full, thick hair, he says Blagojevich is "obsessive" about his artificial look.

Even his conversation back in the '90s was fake, Montgomery says.

"He asked, 'What do gay people want?'" recalls Montgomery. "I said, 'Well, I want what everyone else wants.' And he said, 'Yeah, me, too!' It was creepy."

Montgomery, who has been working at a different studio for the past 13 years, says Blagojevich is a special case.

"This is the first time I've ever said anything about anyone's hair because that's how much he (ticks) me off," Montgomery says.

Blagojevich promises to show up today at his impeachment hearing in Springfield. We don't know what he'll say, or if he'll still have a job by the end of it. But we are confident that his hair won't be affected. That verdict is in.