Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I had the pleasure of showing a friend around Dublin recently and bringing him to the Waldorf for the works. Paddy, in true journalist style recounts the tale: 

A Grand time in Dublin City... Thumbs up

I HAD a wonderful time staying with Brian and his family and getting the VIP treatment of being met at the airport. How often does a towering BIG FELLA in a hat throw out his shovel like hand like an Irish No.7 and welcome you to his city like a long-lost-brother? From there on in I felt like a king and my feet hardly touched the ground on this 'flying visit' to Dublin.

We had a lovely walk down Fleet Street where we made a mental note to visit and old Dublin public bar later on the day, by the name of 'The Palace Bar' with photos of old members such as the writer Samuel Beckett.

Through the windswept Georgian alleyways we wandered and onto the hallowed ground of Trinity College, Dublin (TCD), where Brian guided me in to visit the old library and see the famous 'Book of Kells.'

As you'll see from Brian's earlier photo opportunities, we ventured into an old Gentleman's clothes shop which stocked a healthy range of hats.

Then, the bearded man was led comfortably to slaughter as we paced our way towards Westmoreland Street to the exhaulted Gentlemen's 'hairdressing & shaving saloon' that is 'The Waldorf.' Celebrating 80-years of battling 'tardiness' in men and transforming them into dapper blades fit to stride with confidence up the street with their perfectly groomed head held high, I felt it was a true honour to offer my throat into the capable hands of the proprieter, Liam.

When it came to feeling the cold German steel glide ably against my cheek, I was very much a virgin in the hands of a master barber. Jokes about an award winning pie-shop nearby, did little to settle my intrepidation of what was coming next.


A paper towel was wrapped around my throat and then an apron draped and secured across my front, as I eased myself into the vintage leather chair.

The beard which had been allowed to grow for several weeks (for this very moment, like a young lamb), was initially taken off with some shears (just to reduce the mess of hairs). Then a hot towel was reverently brought from the chrome altar heating the towels in timeless fashion on the far wall.

The hot towel was wrapped around my face, encasing it in a shroud of white, frightingly similar to a pre-cooked pastry casing a meat pie! But NO!! I wasn't going to let my imagination get the better of this once-in-a-lifetime experience!

With just my nose left bare like a pink perescope drinking in the scents of the saloon, I found the hot towel extremely relaxing, absorbing all the nervous energy I had allowed to build up. Then on taking it off, Liam applied a brush (like a sable brush) to my face, and swiftly with a few flicks of the hand lathered me up.

The first touch of steel came from a very sharp blade that glided effortlessly across my skin, nimbly weaving in and out of corners and hugging across ridges like a bird rides the mountain thermals, as Liam's other hand unconsciously kept the skin drum-taught against the razor edge. I could hear the scraping sound of hairs being harvested that reminded me of butter being spread across dried toast.


The second blade unsheathed, was from my old town of Belfast in the North (a long departed barber shop in Ann Street), a softer blade than the first that had been a gift from a barber, now long gone. But like many of Liam's vintage instruments, he honours their former custodian's by giving continued life to the very tools that they used to make a living in their lifetimes. So I dare say that although Liam was the man at my throat that day, he had many Guardian Angels of former barbers watching over him (and the wonderful photo gallery on the wall shows just some of the former barbers of the Waldorf through the 30's, 40's and 50's).

At times I had to pinch myself, as I sat in the shadow of greats like Frank Sinatra and George Formby who were patrons of this grand place as they passed through the Fair City.

Following the shave, Liam draped my face in a cold towel to close the pores and then finally ran his hand over where a beard once was to finally take away any stray hairs.

The most soothing balm was then massaged into my face, but no-one was overly ready to give me the ingredients! other than a whispered, "It's a special Waldorf...yackety-yack!"

Ooooopppps!!!! Wrong guy!!! this is the right guy vvvvv

To give you an idea of just HOW SPECIAL I was made to feel in this little oasis of dignity that hasn't changed much since the first Great Depression of 29, I arrived at 4.30pm and it was after 7pm when we left!! You don't go to the Waldorf for a haircut and a shave, you go for a way of life. This truely is a magical experience with old-time skills being used daily (such as singeing; razor hair cut; moustache tongs; head massage..etc) that in most 'hair shops' of today have been lost to the history books.

This is Brian folks...(MISTER 'H' to YOU...!)

And boy-oh-boy did I get the Rockefellar/Vanderbilt treatment or what!. He wielded those scissors and blade like a Prussian duelling champion! Working off the inspiration of a vintage 1930's etching hanging on the wall. I even got my hair cut using German steel razored across English bakelite (mmmm, maybe the comb wasn't bakelite..sounds 'good' though!).

It was at this most vulnerable points (for me anyway) that Brian suggests..."Paddy, fancy going to a swing-dance lesson?" Well c'mon fella!! what meat-head is going to argue with a man swinging a cut-throat like he was out cutting the lawn?! duh!! "Sure Brian - I thought you'd never ask!" And anyway, I was going to be the sharpest blade at this little ol' party with cheeks like a Michael Angelo! (best pizza on the Boulevard!).

Then Brian starts sniffing the Brylcreem and that whippet of a man is off, kneading my melon like it's a pound of dough! My gawd, I'd swear he's half Turkish the way he threw that head around the room like a Yankee's pitcher and if truth be told, that skull of mine felt pretty 'hard boiled' by the end of it, in a noirish sense of the word! I was ready to take on the world!!

Some of the special Prohibition WALDORF juice sprinkled from the Godlike hands of Father Brian like my first baptism, and I suppose in a sense it was...a REBIRTH if you will...
And boy...did I feel grand...!!

Gents, the Waldorf isn't just a barbers,'s a time machine honed from the finest German steel and steered by the finest Irish craftsmen...

Thanks to Liam, Brian and the crew of this fine ship, THE WALDORF.


FacundoGallegos said...

I just went out and got that barber's haircut, you know half-shaven with the waves

Dewitt Albright said...

Great! It's a difficult one to get right but it can look great.

It's really neat the way the hair is quite long on top and ultra short at the edges.

FacundoGallegos said...

Yes, my hair is naturally wavy so I'm using a bit of Layrite's pomade and a bit of a product called Johnny B, but I'm not exactly sure if those are the best for this style. What kind of product do you recommend?

Dewitt Albright said...

Well I haven't had the pleasure of trying Layrite yet, but I know of it of course, because of its associated with Hawleywoods.

I personally would favor Sweet Georgia Brown for the style you have descibed above (wavy with a fade.)

Here is a video of me getting that pomade brushed in with paddle brushes:

FacundoGallegos said...

I just looked up Sweet Georgia Brown and the container looks amazing..I'll order some when I get the chance.
Layrite's pomade is awesome. It's orange..and has a very unique smell. It doesn't really smell like something you'd put in your hair. It smells like maybe candy or a cleaning's amazing though.