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Backstage in South Florida: Hair Apparent

Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman shares stories of memorable rock 'n' roll encounters that took place in our local environs. This week: First impressions and mistaken identities.

It's funny, but for as long as I can remember, people have insisted that I resemble one rock star or another. I'm not always sure why, but I suspect it has something to do with my hairstyle, or perhaps lack thereof. It's basically the same semi-shag mop top I've had since age 15 -- when I tugged on the hairs on the back of my head in an effort to encourage them to reach the nape of my neckline. And as I've grown into an adult, I've prided myself on never really conforming to what generally constitutes an adult haircut.

On more than one occasion back in the day, my hair has gotten me in trouble. When I lived in St. Thomas Virgin Islands, sailors teased me by asking me to dance. When I attended my first year of college at SMU, rednecks drove through campus yelling "Hey, girlie!" at me. I even got denied service at a restaurant once due to the length of my locks. That was a while ago, though, when long hair was seen as an act of rebellion and hairstyles like mine didn't exactly meld into the mainstream. At the beginning of my professional career, a leading public relations pro told me that I'd never get a job in the PR biz as long as I refused to clip my mane.

As I've gotten older, my haircut has become less about controversy and more about comparison -- often to various musicians. The earliest comment I can remember is someone who cited the fact that I looked like Peter Tork, a member of the Monkees, which could also be due to my goofy personality. Back in the '70s, Tom Scholz, leader of the band Boston, became a common comparison, although he was tall, and I, at six-foot-two, sometimes tower over others. I used to enjoy getting Todd Rundgren comparisons, but nowadays, people often refer to me as "the fifth Beatle," which is kinda lazy.

Most of the similarities people tend to mention have to do with British rock stars. I don't mind being told I resemble Mick Jagger or Keith Richards, but I do have to hope they're referring to the way they looked back in the day and not to the craggy-looking gents they've become. I beg off any mention of Iggy Pop (hardly a compliment, with all due respect to Mr. Pop), although I gladly welcome any likeness to Jeff Beck. Likewise, vanity forces me to mention that when I was in Hawaii a couple of years ago, one bloke we met a bar swore I was Hugh Jackman, although he could have been a bit inebriated. Regardless, I think my wife was impressed.

I'll confess that one of the usual comments I hear is that I look like comedian David Brenner. Brenner's a funny guy, mind you, but his rubbery features also make him seem like sort of a goofball. Ironically, the resemblance was affirmed about 20 years ago in an elevator at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas. The late actor/comedian Frank Gorshin entered said elevator, and when he saw me, he gasped with recognition. At first, I believed it was because I had worked with him when he briefly appeared at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in a traveling production of the show On the Twentieth Century. As the publicity rep for the theater, I became briefly acquainted with both him and his costar, Imogene Coca. However, even as I was extending my hand in what I assumed would be a reintroduction, Gorshin blurted out, "David... David Brenner! What are you doing here?!" Brenner happened to have a television talk show at the time, so what came next was even more awkward.

"David, I need a gig," Gorshin uttered. "How about booking me on your program?"

Oh well. Fame, even when it's feigned, can be fleeting. Hair today, gone tomorrow...

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Lee Zimmerman

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