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London Day 3 - Getting my ears flamed, Putting on the Ritz

Pierce - getting a close shave

It’s taken me a lot of years to figure this out, but I’m finally starting to understand why women REALLY enjoy getting their hair done.

It’s an experience. They are gone for hours. They talk. They gather intelligence on what’s going on in their communities. Heck, my wife’s old hairdresser kept a bottle or two of wine in her fridge. Let’s not even get into “only your hairdresser knows for sure,” thing. (I mean, was that ever REALLY about hair color?) You get the picture.

Guys, if you’re in London and have an hour to spare, book your yourself an appointment at a traditional Turkish barber. You will not regret it. Because it’s an experience.

In anticipation of Pierce’s wedding, Pierce, his cousin Dan (also a groomsman in the wedding) and I have appointments at Ted’s Grooming Room. It’s part of the Ted Baker Group, a British “lifestyle brand” primarily offering men’s and women’s clothing.

Ted recognized a gap in the British men’s hairstyling market and went after it hard. This isn’t your $10 strip mall haircut shop. These barbers allegedly try to recreate the experience one might have in Istanbul. (I’ve never had my hair cut in Turkey, so I can’t comment on authenticity.)

Ted's Grooming Room

All I know is that I’m sitting in a proper barbershop chair being asked if I want coffee, water or a beer. (Yes, us guys are on to the alcohol and hairdressing thing!) I opt for coffee. It’s Turkish alright – Arabica beans, served demitasse, black. Awesome.

The barber asks how I want my hair cut, and then he goes to work – washing my hair, cutting it at a furious pace with scissors, taking out a straight razor and trimming the back of my neck. He buzzes over my ears and in my nose. He snips my eyebrows. He washes my hair again.

The dude is thorough.

But the best was yet to come. He flames my ears. You read that right. He flames my ears.

He takes out what could only be described as a massive Q-Tip (or a small torch like Indiana Jones might use in a dark tunnel), dips it in flammable liquid. He lights it and then pops it quickly around – and in – my ears to remove those unsightly hairs.

Does it hurt? Well, you know you have a flame on your ear, that’s for sure. But it’s fine.

Dan having his ears flamed

Then comes the hot towel. And the arm and shoulder massage. And the face massage with astringent lemon cologne. A little pomade to finish things off, and we’re done.

Ladies and gentleman, that is an experience.

And I missed part of it. Pierce and Dan had the full straight razor shave as well. Next time!

With the morning done, we meet the rest of the family back at Pierce and Ghazal’s flat, eat a quick lunch and then head out to see the West End production of “Young Frankenstein” at the Garrick Theatre. Yes, it’s a musical theatre version of Mel Brooks’ 1974 film of the same name.

Walk this way...

It’s a helluva good time and reminds me of how much I miss West End shows. The story was true to the original movie. The musical numbers were lively, and the actors were sharp – cleverly ad libbing lines when a part of the set clearly malfunctions.

And yes, the audience does sing along with the monster, shouting out "Putting on the Ritz" during a dazzling number near the end of the show. Check it out soon - it closes Aug. 25!

Pierce unfortunately had to miss the show because he was working but meets up with us later at the Holborn Whippet pub – along with a half a dozen University of South Carolina friends who came over for the wedding along English and Irish cousins and friends from Atlanta. Yes, we basically take over the pub where we drink craft beer, munch on fresh pizza and talk for hours.

The flock of Gamecocks then walk down to the River Thames for a nightcap (in my case, a glass of water at that point). Glasses raised high, someone offers a Gamecock toast that echoes the last line of the alma mater: “Forever to thee.”

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