History has shown that a political movement is merely an idea until it finds a badge, a recognizable symbol of solidarity in strife. Women’s Lib had burning braziers; Environmentalists have the color green; the French Revolution is known for its guillotine; and Socialism waves a red flag. The Writers Guild Strike, now in its third month, has its own emblème, too—the strike beard.
But unlike with most political movements, the act of relinquishing a strike beard has also taken on a kind of symbolism. Just ask Diane Wood, the 26-year-old daughter of Adrian Wood, who owns Paul Molé, an old-school Upper East Side barbershop that’s been shaving faces since 1913. After all, Ms. Wood shaved David Letterman’s beard yesterday, less than a week after the late-night talk show host returned to the air, having recently reached an agreement with the W.G.A.
“He’s a great guy and he looks great without the beard,” Ms. Wood told us yesterday evening, after she had returned to her father’s shop from Mr. Letterman’s studio. She said her father was contacted by the show because some of its employees are regulars of the throw-back establishment, whose dark-wood-paneled walls are covered with autographed headshots of famous New Yorkers from a certain, gentler generation. She would not, however, say if Mr. Letterman is one of those repeat patrons. “We would never reveal who our customers are,” she said. “That’s why they’re loyal to us.”
Ms. Wood said the whole process was pretty routine, never mind the live studio audience, bright lights and cameras.
“We walked out—me and another barber, Roberto—and I first took the beard down with an electric buzzer,” she said. “Because it was such a thick beard, you couldn’t just put an open razor to his face.” After putting some cream and oil on the funnyman’s still-fuzzy chops, Ms. Wood let Roberto go to work with the straight-edge razor.
So, how was Mr. Letterman’s beard compared with others she’s done away with?
“It wasn’t bad—you’d think it’d be a lot more coarse, but it wasn’t,” she said, before adding that the new look makes him look 20 years younger. Ms. Wood, who is not married, said she doesn’t find beards attractive in the least. “No, I wouldn’t date a guy with a beard—no way, clean shaven.”
We then asked Ms. Wood, a part-time barber at her father’s shop, what she thinks about other famous strike-beard bearers, like Conan O’Brien. “I don’t think they look good. It’s kind of silly,” she said. “I think it’s a great thing, but they all look better without their beards. It’s nice that they did it, but it’s time that they take it off."