It was about 11:30 in the morning, and I had an interview scheduled with Ben Mollin at noon in Griffith. For those of you not familiar with Northern Indiana back roads, the quaint enclave is located about forty five minutes outside of Chicago. It’s the type of place where suburban sprawl wrestles with good old boy values creating an atmosphere of hunting shops and Starbuck’s coffee.
I decided to leave early, armed with a tape recorder and directions that put his salon “just off Main Street” (Fuckin’ Map Quest). I arrived about ten minutes early, ready to fight off a barrage of truant teenagers and errand-obsessed housewives to find a parking spot. Luckily, I found ten open spots and nervously set out to figure out exactly which shop was his. After accidentally entering the Town Hall and finding one store “closed until 4 on Tuesdays”, I decided to stop in a local music store to ask for directions.
The man at the counter ushered me through two rooms and pointed out a small wooden door. I’m not really sure what the gates of Hell look like; however, they definitely involve a dimly lit hallway and a shady, wooden door. I hesitantly let myself in and was relieved to see a beautifully-kept shop but with an edge, possibly the only environment in the world where both middle-aged mom and hell-raising son could feel perfectly at home. If Henry Rollins moved to a small town and started cutting hair, I would imagine his shop would look a lot like this.
In place of standard salon mood music, a diverse music library allowed the hairdresser to play anything and everything from The Temptations to Fugazi. The back wall was bookended by two framed records: Motley Crue and Ozzy Osborne. They almost seemed to hover over the room, reminding perspective customers that years without a haircut isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
I was quickly aroused from my music geek ogling by a friendly, outstretched hand. It was Ben Mollin. We quickly exchanged pleasantries, and he introduced me to his hair colorist, Ann. I was immediately struck by her appearance. She reminded me of the cool chick who everyone had a crush on in high school that suddenly got real hot overnight. I took a seat near Nikki Sixx and waited for Ben to finish bantering with an acquaintance.
I watched his demeanor closely and was pleasantly surprised at how similar it was to his portrayal on ‘Shear Genius.’ A wry smile rarely left his face, perfectly personifying the comfortable, relaxed man I was about to interview. Within a few seconds he had finished his chat and escorted me back out the wooden door and into a small waiting room I hadn’t even noticed upon my entrance.
I was immediately surprised by the tone our conversation took. There was no awkward pre-interview posturing. It almost felt like two old friends just bullshitting about life. I laughed as he recounted tales of previous interviews always involving questions about “fashion trends”, and I smiled as we discussed local businesses, mainly the collapse of neighborhood record shops. It was almost five minutes into our discussion when I remembered that I was here to work and you know, ask him questions about the show.
Eventually, I put on a fake professional interview face and began quizzing him about how he ended up as a hairstylist (or “hair bitch” or “mane tamer”, as he joking calls himself). I frantically scribbled notes (and hoped to God that my tape recorder was working) as he unfolded the story of his hair cutting life.
Ben Mollin’s first experience with hair came at the age of fifteen, as he sat idly watching his buddy, Mike, give himself a haircut. He soon began French braiding his girlfriend’s hair and experimenting by giving his friends buzz cuts and Bones Brigade homage skater dos. After high school, he enrolled in beauty school (graduating in ’93) and got his first job at the low-end chain Super Cuts.
The future ‘Shear Genius’ contestant’s next five years were a barrage of maxed out credit cards, thriving salons, and failing record stores. He once grossed over 125,000 dollars, gained 35 pounds, and blew it all trying to live a Motley Crue-like lifestyle of trips to Amsterdam and expensive beer. What twenty two year old wouldn’t?
Mollin continued to open new businesses until his late twenties when he briefly considered filing bankruptcy and moving to Las Vegas. At the last minute, he decided to stay in good old Indiana and send in a tape to Bravo producers. Casting executives saw something in the tattooed nice guy, and before he knew it, he was on a plane to California.
After about forty five minutes of ‘Shear Genius’ chit-chat and music arguments, I turned the recorder off and we made our way back into the salon. I took a seat in the chair, and he asked me what type of haircut I wanted. I told him that he had free reign as long as he didn’t touch my sideburns. After half an hour of cutting, shearing, and bleaching, I looked in the mirror to find a blonde Mohawk. I couldn’t have been more impressed.
I can only look back on my experience interviewing Ben with a smile. He’s one of those guys that bowls you over with his genuine attitude. His candor and subtle humor were refreshing, and it was awesome to meet someone humbled by the perks that fame has brought.
Defying the odds and beating much more experienced hairdressers, Ben stands ready to compete in tonight’s ‘Shear Genius’ finale against Daisy and Anthony. We here at TV Blend strongly suggest that you tune in and root for Mr. Mollin. Come’on…what the hell else were you going to do tonight?
To see a transcript of segments of the interview click over to TV Blend. To see before and after pictures of my haircut, just scroll down.