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Charmed Life

Mane Man

Christopher Myers

By Brennen Jensen | Posted 4/4/2001

Theatrical director Terry Long needed to turn six men into carefully coiffured beauty queens. He also needed these six men to sport pink hair for a time; a seventh man's tresses had to be lavender. What he needed was wigs--lots of wacky, well-crafted wigs.

Terry Long, you see, is directing a production of Pageant, a riotous send-up of the beauty-pageant world wherein men play female contestants, at Columbia's Rep Stage. Where to get all the sensational synthetic hair such a show demands? Simple--the basement of Baltimore's venerable Belvedere hotel. Specifically, Matthew and Ingrid Hair Designs, where Greg Malone cuts and curls locks. While this 36-year-old stylist works mainly with real hair, he has also become Mobtown's main source for wild wigs.

"Whenever Terry needs wigs, he usually gives me call," Malone says. "I've been doing his shows for awhile--this time I just exaggerated things."

It's safe to say Malone knows a lot about exaggeration. While many Hair Designs customers are blue-haired seniors, he also outfits drag queens and Halloween revelers in blue-haired wigs --not to mention red-, green-, and yellow-haired ones. His client list is quite diverse. He did the hair, wigs, and makeup for a soon-to-be-published photographic graphic novel, I, Paparazzi, which concerns a space-alien photographer who morphs into a sort-of lizard-man. ("It's all very dark and seedy," Malone says.) In a more conventional vein, Malone did the hair and makeup for the 2000 film The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me.

"Yesterday I had Mother Nature in my chair," Malone says matter-of-factly. Mother Nature, it turns out, is a character in a children's educational show being developed for public television. So, what's Ma Nature sporting these days?

"It's this big gold wig--sort of like the Medusa without the snakes," he says. "It's a crazy, fuzzy thing, and I put baby's breath in it. It looks like she just ran through a hedge. It's absolutely insane."

Malone received his formal training at London's Vidal Sassoon Hairdressing Academy, but much of his over-the-top wig and makeup know-how he learned on his own. His playful plunge into the drag world actually has its roots in tragedy--dating back about a decade, when one of his friends was dying from AIDS.

"He got so skinny he didn't look good as a man," Malone says. "So we decided to put a bunch of foam rubber padding on him to make him look like a woman. He had killer cheekbones. Through him I learned the basics of drag and I just sort of ran with it."

Currently, Malone does hair and makeup for Miss Hippo, the reigning drag queen (or "female illusionist") at Mount Vernon's popular Hippo dance club. Plenty of other projects come his way as well. A reveler bound for the American Visionary Art Museum's recent Mardi Gras party asked Malone to make him look like "a Star Trek Borg crossed with a drag queen." The head-wear he did up for another drag diva incorporated a set of Hot Wheels cars, handlebars, and oil cans.

Of course, it takes much more than a fake mane to make a man look like a woman. (Duct tape is involved, but the less said about that the better.)

"An old saying has it that 'Cover Girl does not cover boy,'" Malone says--most men's stubbly faces must be profusely plastered with industrial-strength makeup to look ladylike. So how do you get all that goop off when the party is over? Malone reveals a trick-of-the-trade solution.

"Pam cooking spray is really the best stuff for taking off heavy-duty makeup. You just spray yourself down with Pam, and the makeup just sort of melts off." ("Oh my, that's pretty gross," an eavesdropping elderly salon customer remarks, albeit with a smile.)

The only wig Malone is working on at present is a bedraggled-looking thing that's retina-burning red. He's slowly combing out its tangled strands, mulling how to make it look even more dramatic.

"I may sew some black hair in the front so it will have a black bob around the face," he says. "This is just a wig for someone to go out and play in."

While Malone's hair-raising fashion sense certainly sits well in Baltimore, the big-hair capital of the world, he is actually a Westerner, born in San Jose, Calif. His parents once ran a ranch in Monterey.

"I've gone from cattle ranching to drag queens," Malone says. "Go figure."

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Wild Bunch (8/9/2006)
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