(Saturday, June 12th, 2010)

Lisa Pirillo

-- Download Lisa Pirillo as PDF --

“You should come into the salon one day and just listen to my clients talk,” Lisa says to me. “You wouldn’t believe the stories you’d hear.” She’s cutting my hair.

“I bet,” I reply.

“No really. We could just sit you in the corner with your recorder, and you’d be able to write a book about it no doubt.”

I laugh.

“I’m serious,” she snaps. In the mirror, I can see her pointing the scissors at me.

“True. I bet someone’s done it before. I can just imagine all the dirty secrets that come out during a hair cut.”

“For real. I think we should set up a web cam over there.” She points to the corner of the salon, above the hair dryers, with her finger, not the scissors.  “That way people could watch from home and be entertained for hours.”

I smile and say, “You may be on to something.” But what I think is this: Hairdressers are the most powerful people in the world.

Hairdressers hold our secrets. They get us to do things we’re not sure of, like cut all of our hair off or dye it red. They give us relationship advice, and also tell us what to do next time we bump into our exes. Like we are children, they ask us to put on a cape, spin us around in a chair, pump us full of air, drop us to the floor again, and all while doing things to us we’ve been told is bad, like whizzing sharp objects close to our eyes and ears.  They control our mirror time. They tell us when we’re using the wrong shampoo. They allow small hairs to spill into our eyes, and then blast us with a big brush full of powder and say, “Better?” More than anyone else in our lives, even our mothers, hairdressers cross into our personal space and we allow it. Actually, we willingly pay for the invasion and we do it for one reason alone: we want to look and feel beautiful.

So I wanted to know what runs through the mind of someone on the other side of the chair. I asked Lisa for this interview.

Jana: I want to know what kind of dirty secrets were exposed in the salon today?
Oh my god! A good one was shouted out on the floor today, but I don’t know if I’m at liberty to talk about it. [Laughs] Let’s skip this question and come back to it later.

What do you think clients expect from you when they sit in your chair?
Magic. Miracles. Reinvention. I don’t think they know what to expect! What they’re not expecting is me to sit down and find out who they are, and create a look based on that. You can’t create a look for somebody if you don’t know who they are. I like to give myself fifteen to twenty minutes to figure that out.

How much money is too much when it comes to hair?
Hair is an outfit that you wear on your head everyday. You can’t take it off.  So think of your favorite pair of jeans. Do you wear those everyday? [Laughs] You would if people didn’t say anything. So why should your hair be regarded any differently? I don’t think you can put a price tag on a great haircut. I always tell people “Never get your hair or your cosmetic procedures on sale!”  You get what you pay for.

What goes into the process of choosing stylists to work in your salon?
In my salon we’re a family. We’re artistic people who work together as a team. Creative people can get very temperamental. You’re familiar with hairdressers … our kind can bite.  For me, it’s about putting together a balance of people that become a family, and not having anyone that has a diva mentality.

It’s chemistry. When I bring in a new Lamb, I basically bring them in on a trial basis to see how they “fit.” If the chemistry is right, then there’s solace in the room. Having that harmony is the most important thing. It helps keep the creative process in balance.

What drew you to having a Thornton Park location?
I’ve been here for thirteen years. As a matter of fact, I got here before the sidewalks did. There wasn’t much of anything on Washington Street at the time except Dexter’s and a really cool shoe store. My first apartment was on Harwood Drive. I had no furniture. I was eighteen years old, and didn’t care. It was more, “What am I going to wear to go out,” my mattress on the floor, my cassette player, my cat, Chester, and Visage.

Once I moved to James Street, I’d walk by this place on the way to the Sev [7-Eleven]. It didn’t have the ivy yet, and it was mustard colored. I had never noticed it before and I don’t know why, but it stopped me in my tracks.  I fell in love. It wasn’t available at the time. Still, I walked by it all the time.  I think it was fate, because one day a hairdresser I knew called my roommate to gossip. When she told me that someone was opening a salon downtown, and it just so happened to be in that spot. I flipped out!

I had known the guy that was opening up the place from competitions. I was working in Altamonte back then, and one second away from moving to New York.  There was nothing open downtown … nothing for me, anyways. I had to get out of suburbia—I was dying. Sorry Altamonte Springs. No offense. Loved ya, needed ya at the time. But I really wanted to get into the Thornton Park neighborhood.  I like being down here. It doesn’t make me feel like I’m in Orlando. It’s historic and quaint. People come in here and they go, “Oh, this reminds me of __________.” That’s what I like about it.

So anyway, I pushed my way in. I knew I was going to lose all my clients, and I didn’t care.  I took a big gamble. He hired me, and I don’t know that he had a choice. I knew from that moment that I’d have this place one day. Ten years later, it became true.

What has changed the most in Thornton Park in the past decade?
Holy crap.  It’s amazing. I look around me and I don’t even recognize this neighborhood anymore. It’s changed so much. The change has been mostly good with a few exceptions. For the better, lots of new local businesses have opened up and the city is now coining it the “Thornton Park Shopping District.” I love seeing people and dogs outside, and people gathering for Magic games. It’s way more pedestrian-friendly, and alive!

For the worse, I’ve seen some historic buildings and homes get destroyed in this process. Basically, the city overextended themselves in building down here. High-rise condos—not a fan. Blocking the view of the city—not a big fan of that either. Other than those two things, I think Thornton Park has really grown to be a place that the locals can come and hang out.

Have you always lived in Florida?
Pretty much. My family moved down here in’72 from New York. My dad moved us out of the cold and down here to open up an ice cream and sub shop called Sweet Treat, and we’ve been here ever since.

Where did the name Lambs Eat Ivy come from?
My dad. It’s a song. He used to sing it to me years and years ago when I was little. It goes, “mairzy doats and dozey doats and little lamzy divy.”  I never knew that it was a real song though. My dad was quite the character. He was always singing, and laughing and playing, a real entertainer. He was so funny. I had always thought he had made the song up, just being silly.  Then about five years ago, a friend of mine was filling in at the desk of the salon I worked at and he started singing it! I stopped dead in my tracks, turned around and said, “What are you singing?” He sang me the lyrics and I realized for the first time it was a real song. Don’t laugh. It’s true.

“Lambs Eat Ivy” is my ode to the building. There’s really no ivy on it. It’s creeping fig, but “Lambs Eat Creeping Fig” doesn’t really sound catchy now does it? [Laughs] I really like the name because it makes people scratch their heads when they walk by.  It confuses them. That’s my favorite part. I didn’t want the name to have anything to do with hair. I wanted it to be very playful and nostalgic, like we are.

What celebrity is rockin’ good hair at the moment?
Michelle Williams. Love the crop … ohhh my god, so sexy! I like it when a woman is confident enough to wear a crop and own it. That to me is so much more beautiful than trying to blend in, or become one of the Housewives of Whatever-County-You-Live in at the moment. [Laughs]

Also, I’ll say Rihanna. She’s really rockin’ that ’80’s cut. I love that we’re bringing that back. This is the first time in my career that I’m actually getting to repeat something I’ve done before. I didn’t get to do ‘70’s but I get to relive ’80’s fashion. How fun is that?

What’s going on with men’s hair these days? Some dudes seem to be working harder than the women to have good hair.
That’s a good point, and I’m glad you brought that up.  Men aren’t afraid to spend money on their hair and they also appreciate details. We have a very large male clientele. They’re getting their eyebrows done. They’re getting all “man”icured. It’s great.

I wouldn’t say the men are working harder than we women though. A few do like to bust out the flat iron every now and again, but I think it’s nice to see men having more fun with their hair.

I heard on the Today show the other day that magazines are now putting women with short hair on the cover for the first time. Do you think there’s some kind of taboo placed on women with short hair?
No. Not anymore. There were some pioneers who got it out there, like Twiggy and Mia Farrow. Then came Sharon Stone, Winona Ryder, and Halle Berry. It’s been going on for a long time, so for them to say it’s “the first time” wouldn’t be true. And those are some pretty sexy women, wouldn’t ya say?

I think what happened is we got stuck. I saw it and was bored to tears. Long hair is a safe, pretty place for women. But I think the launch of reality TV has veered women into a new mainstream look. Think about it. People want to look like what they see on Housewives, the Kardashians, The Bachelor. That’s what women are told is pretty. It’s a shame really. At the end of the day, a woman should choose a look that makes her feel amazing. That’s really what it’s all about.

Is there a most requested look at the moment?
Bobs are back. They’ve been back for a while. Jenny McCarthy started it.  People tend to give credit to Posh Spice, Victoria Beckham, but it was actually Jenny McCarthy that brought the bob back in.  We’re adding more texture to it, but women are rocking stronger looks now, which I like.

Do you want to talk about what’s going on in the Gulf of Mexico right now?
Let’s do it! I’ve been known to climb up on a soapbox every once in a while.  My clients know that about me.

Tell me about how hairdressers are contributing to the clean up.
Matteroftrust.org is an organization that’s rallied hair salons—actually anyone can do it whether you have a business or are an individual—to send hair clippings to make booms. The booms are the big things in the ocean that look like giant sausage links. They’re nylons stuffed with hair clippings, with netting around it.  Human hair absorbs oil better than anything. It’s our best natural resource. Cool right?

We’ve been doing our part. At the end of the week, we send our clippings to matteroftrust.org. They have warehouses that have been donated to them all along the Gulf coast. So the people are all banning together, but I feel like we’re stuck waiting on BP.  The Gulf of Mexico doesn’t belong to BP and it doesn’t belong to the United States. It belongs to the planet and the creatures that live in it. I was on Facebook the other day—I’m friends with matteroftrust.org there—and they posted something to BP about having someone call them. No one from BP has reached out to them yet. They are waiting with booms galore. It’s so frustrating and sad.

I know. It’s blowing my mind that we can’t stop this oil leak.
How do you stop the planet from gushing? We pulled the cork on it. So what the power of that means is unknown. How do we stop that? It would have been nice to have a preventative catastrophic protocol. I find it ironic that the one guy that survived the explosion—and those poor guys that died on the rig, by the way, no one is paying them any attention, which is sad—but the one guy that lived is the one that blew the lid on the seal being broken. It’s Karma.

Humans did this. Now, I’m a Pisces so bare with me, but we deserve what we have coming to us. My heart breaks for the creatures that live in that ocean.  That’s their home. Sharks don’t swim into you’re living room and bite you while you’re watching TV, you know? We go into their house everyday, whether we swim or boat. We throw garbage and oil in there. It’s unfortunate. What’s going to happen? We’ll see. The good thing is that nature is containing it, and that’s an odd miracle.

I still say a giant hairball should do it. It stops up my showers. I say throw it in there. If we’re willing to throw golf balls in there, it can’t be too far off.

Tell me about Shampooch, an event that is coming up at the end of June.
Shampooch is a dog washing fundraiser that we host every year here at the Lambs Eat Ivy salon. We are very affectionate towards our four-legged friends, and any animal really. As a group, the hair salon went up to the SPCA to volunteer. I had just reopened the salon and didn’t have the time that the SPCA required—they ask a certain amount of your time, and rightly so. So I figured, what’s the use of having a business if I can’t give back something to the community? I tend to get over-caffeinated and a little crazy when I’m working. And one day, I came up with the idea of a dog wash. I thought, if people can have car washes, why not a dog wash? And it just spiraled from there.

In a short period of time, we put together our first dog wash and raised $1200. We were so proud. We were out of our minds, actually.  With its success, we continued to host one every year and each time have doubled what we made the previous year. Last year we raised over $6,000 for Pet Recue By Judy. This year we hope double or triple that for Harbor House.

Why is the Harbor House important to you?
We choose a different local shelter to raise funds for each year. The Harbor House is trying to build a kennel for pets of abused women. Do you remember Shannon Burke? The deejay that shot his dog and “accidently” hit his wife by ricochet … ahem, likely story. Anyways, it will prevent situations like that. Almost fifty percent of women in abused relationships will not leave if they have a pet and nowhere to go with their animal. Imagine being abused by the person you’re in love with. It’s very confusing and painful. Then to have to make the decision to leave without the one thing that has been in your life unconditionally, your pet! I would never be able to do that.

A lot of people in Orlando don’t know that the Harbor House is trying to build a kennel, so we’re trying to spread the word for them through this event. So bring your dog! We’ll do the rest. There will be dog washing, and professional portraits going on inside the salon. It’ll be fun. This neighborhood is packed with people with dogs.  This year we’re doing a whole giant set-up on Washington Street basically a giant puppy party. All the businesses are getting together and becoming a part of Shampooch. It’s so great to see.

Okay. One last question, and I have to ask: balding men, what should they do?
I’m so glad you asked! There are two things I want to talk to you about, balding men and graying men.  Men, if you’re going gray do not color your hair. Gray is sexy, is it not? Men need to know that. It’s a benefit they get that women don’t. We get spinster they get sexy. Good for you men. Own it!  It makes you look more expensive.

Now for balding men, they should cut it short and own it! Don’t even worry about it. Just don’t leave five strands up on your head. Um … we can see that. [Laughs] Seriously, it’s not about the hair it’s about the man.

And what about that dirty secret you were gonna tell me earlier?
Tricky, Jana … very tricky! [Laughs] We don’t kiss and tell at Lambs Eat Ivy.

*Interview Date: June 3, 2010

To go on and get your hair did at Lambs Eat Ivy, call 497-245-7006.

Leave a Reply