ANTHONY: So you ready to start asking questions?
Q: Yeah, ready to go.
ANTHONY: Let’s take this thing from the top. I remember you wanted to ask about…
Q: Your neighborhood. Where did you grow up?
ANTHONY: The neighborhood. All right, I’m from Fort Greene, Brooklyn, which is um, a pretty rough neighborhood. I mean it’s one of the biggest projects in America, actually. It’s weird—it’s an education though, you know, growing up that way on the streets. It’s diverse. You know I grew up with whites, blacks, latins. Learned how to listen and understand different languages. Different foods, different cultures. So it was a beautiful experience, you know what I’m sayin, later on in life to be able to deal with different people. And it helped me be tough enough to deal with the New York streets. So that’s basically, you know, my neighborhood. I mean, I love my neighborhood; you know, love for the ’hood.
Q: You still live out there?
ANTHONY: No. I ain’t lived there in a long time. I still live in Brooklyn, but I haven’t lived out there in a long time.
Q: So how did you come to be a barber?
ANTHONY: Well, actually, um…prison helped me become a barber. All right, I did some time in prison, almost twelve years in prison. And I went through hard times sometimes, when I didn’t have people sendin me anything, I had to hustle for my own, so I learned how to cut hair. I went from a comb and a razor, to cutting hair, um, actually with shavers. Entire haircuts, hair as long as yours, with shavers. And it’s hard, but, you gotta know to hustle. A lot of guys in jail, when they need their hair cut, can’t always get to the barbershop. Different little rules and regulations that sometimes block you from getting near it. You gotta go through a lot of different channels. So if you, if we in the same area, you say, “Hey, I need a haircut, man,” “Come on, yeah, I cut you real quick.” Give you a pack of cigarettes, couple packs of cookies or whatever you could afford, you know, from a visit. So prison helped me, guided me, guided me into my craft, and then the love of cutting hair—once I realized—hair is sexy, you know what I’m saying? Hair has an appeal to it that, um, ‘cause you know everybody has hair, little bit or a lot, whether it’s long, short, you know what I’m saying, all seven continents people get their hair cut. The aborigines get their hair cut; people in the Congo get their hair cut; the Netherlands. Hair has universal appeal, too, um—I’ve cut people’s hair who couldn’t speak English, just told me what they wanted, pointing at their hair, told me what they wanted. It’s good communication. You become a therapist, as a barber. It’s like the history of the red, white, and blue…the barbershop, the history that a lot of people don’t know—the barber at one time was considered the doctor, like the, almost the midwife. The doctor was everything in the community, I mean, if you broke your leg, you’d go to the barber and he’d set it. If your wife was having a baby, you took her to the barber. If you needed to borrow money you went to the barber. You know, the barbershop was where everything arrived from. That’s the red and white pole representing…the blood and things of that nature—the barber was holding down all things. Now, we’re kind of therapists. Because when you have a problem, when you come to your barber and you got something on your mind…for the most part you’re relaxed. The barber is, you know, the machine, the humming in the ear and it’s rockin you to sleep and your barber’s doing everything possible to keep you comfortable. Because he’s workin for that tip. Not only the tip—more than the tip he’s workin for you to come back, see you again. That’s what he’s workin for, he’s workin for you to call him and say, “Look, I need a haircut, I’ll be here such and such a time,” you know what I mean? And you get more satisfaction out of that because this is a job, but you can’t do this job for the money. If you in this business for the money, you in the wrong business. You gotta be in it to learn the trade and love the trade. And that’s basically what I’m in it for.
Q: Taking care of people.
ANTHONY: Taking care of people. That’s why I’m at Diamond Cuts, the best barbershop in New York City. Diamond Cuts—the best barbershop in New York City. That’s what’s up. I mean this place, you could just look at the history of this place. The guys who run this place, they came from where I came from. You know, they did prison time, or they hustle on the streets and they learned and got stronger, and got better and that motivates me, the guys around me—this guy Mark, this is the guy that was in the newspaper, I dunno if you’ve seen that article about the license…issue. You know, these guys—I know these guys, I been around these guys. You know we got Russian barbers, we got barbers—this is the most diverse group of people anywhere around. We got Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Haitians, St. Thomians. You know we got all we got Guyanians, Africans. And it’s beautiful in here; this is universal. If you can’t do it in a barbershop, you can’t do it nowhere. Right, you know?
Q: Do guys come here to hang out and not even get their hair cut?
ANTHONY: We don’t allow that. Because this is a place of business. You come in here, you gonna get your hair cut. Or you gonna get your hair braided, you gonna get a facial. There’s no hanging out in here. My boss won’t tolerate us hangin out. My boss won’t let us sit around, so you know you’re not gonna have no stragglers comin in sittin around. You know, but um, you don’t do that in a barbershop. That’s why it’s not good to have a lot of games [indicates arcade game.] You have a few, because you get kids and all that, but you don’t want a lot of things that’s going to attract people who aren’t getting a haircut. And the thing about the barbershop is you want to constantly keep people moving. Musical chairs. In the chair, out the chair, in the chair, out the chair. There’s people that’s waiting, you want them in the chair so somebody else can be waiting.
Q: So their hair can start growing again.
ANTHONY: Yeah, that’s right, the sooner you get out, the sooner your hair starts growing, sooner you’ll come back. [Laughter] That’s a good one! Yeah that’s what’s up.
Q: So when did you start working here?
ANTHONY: Well, actually, I started working here a month ago.
Q: Just a month?
ANTHONY: Just a month. I’m the newest barber here. And already I’m doing the interview. That’s because I’m an above-average barber. There are some things I’m still practicing, better at some things, worse at others. Um, I’m kinda the diplomat.
Q: The diplomat?
ANTHONY: Yeah I got a lotta diplomacy with me, keep a lot of squabbles down. I deal with a lot of people— ‘cause I’m the newest I don’t know about all the underneath stuff that goes on so I don’t judge nobody. So you might come to me and say, “Oh, my cameraman is actin funny,” but your cameraman come to me and say, “Aw, he’s actin funny.” I’ll be the middle man, “Take it easy, y’all.” You know I’m kind of the diplomat around here but you know it’s a beautiful place to be right here. We’re here from eight thirty in the morning, till sometime eleven o’clock at night, with each other. Sometimes we eat together, get together constantly, it’s almost like we’re a family. You know we go through our squabbles: cry, fight, bitch about it, but in the end we come together, ‘cause we’ve got competitors across the street, down the block, around the corner. And then we be competitive against each other. There’s fourteen barbers in here. If you don’t get up and grind, you don’t eat.