Entertainment icons the likes of Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra have shared stories with him, but Joe Micale — owner of Beverly Hills Hair Design in South Fort Myers — will tell you that he treats every customer like a star.
His list of personalities and professional clients reads like a "who's Who" list of A-list celebrities spanning several generations: Clint Eastwood, Milton Berle, Judy Garland, Jim Carrey, Mickey Rooney, Barbra Streisand, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon among them.
And "Little Joe," as he has been known by his customers, famous and not-so-famous alike, for the past six decades, has his own stories to share in a collection of columns that were published in both the Sanibel-Captiva Islander and the Fort Myers News-Press.
That collection, entitled "Confessions Of A Hollywood Hairstylist," brings to light the inside story of the Hollywood you remember so well... and the Hollywood you never knew!
"I started cutting hair almost as a joke at Ohio University," said Micale, who still enjoys working three days each week at his salon. "Some of my classmates needed to get haircuts, and my friend told them, 'Hey, Joe knows how to cut hair. He can do it.' But I really didn't have any idea about how to cut hair."
As the story goes, the barber in town used to charge $1.75 per haircut, and Joe's college pal, spotting an opportunity to make some money, suggested that Joe do the same job for only $1 per cut. Micale called his father, a retired barber and aspiring actor, to send him some of his old hair-cutting equipment.
Joe's father, Paul Micale, best known for his role of Father Carmine in three of the "Rocky" series of blockbuster films, shipped his son some scissors, a straight-edge razor and an electric clipper. And the rest, as they say, is history.
"I did get busted for cutting hair without a barber's license," Joe added with a laugh. "I think some of the barbers in town got word about some kid in college cutting hair for a buck a pop!"
Micale, who eventually earned his degree in hairstyling, began working for Cosmo Sardo's Hairstyling Salon, around the corner from Schwab’s Pharmacy, famous for decades as Hollywood’s most popular hangout for up-and-coming actors and actresses.
On his first day at work, Joe's first client was Sidney Skolsky, a well known columnist for Photoplay Magazine, then the best-selling entertainment magazine. The publication featured Sidney’s column, “From A Stool In Schwab’s.” After his appointment, Skolsky invited Micale to America’s most famous drugstore. There he introduced Little Joe to several "Cowboys," the affectionate nickname given to actors who frequented Schwab’s.
The following morning, one of those cowboys walked into the salon and asked the receptionist for a haircut. “Sidney tells me that Little Joe is the best in the world,” a then-unknown Clint Eastwood said in a booming voice.
To this day, Eastwood remains one of Little Joe’s favorites.
Early on in his career, Micale gave another up-and-coming talent his first "Hollywood" hair-makeover. Having done trims and hairstyle for several cast members on the '60s television series "The Untouchables," Little Joe was asked by a producer to give Rip Torn — then a New York actor who had never appeared on TV before — a "special" cut. Torn was to appear in a two-part episode in which his hair was to appear mussed and unkempt in the first portion of the show, then perfectly styled in the second.
"I told the producer, 'Sure. No problem. I'll give him a convertible cut,'" Micale recalled. "I had never done anything like that before... but he didn't know that."
Little Joe remembers completing the hairstyle job on Torn, who seemed quite delighted with the results. "He told everybody in the business that I gave him that cut," added Micale.
Most of the columns that appear in "Confessions Of A Hollywood Hairstylist" focus on celebrities like dear friend Telly "Kojak" Savalas; Top 40 Countdown King Casey Kasem; longtime comedy team Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara; as well as Tony Curtis, Larry Storch and a not-so-reclusive Howard Hughes.
"Being a hair stylist is a dream job for me," he adds with his signature wide grin. "It's such a wonderful experience. When you cut somebody's hair, it's a very intimate encounter."
In 1999, Little Joe and wife, Ginny, moved from Beverly Hills and re-established their California-chic hair salon — Beverly Hills Hair Design — on Sanibel, which Micale calls "the Beverly Hills of Southwest Florida." He eventually moved the business across the causeway.
"In California, 75 to 80 percent of my clients were men, but here in Florida, the majority are women," said Micale. "I've never said, 'Aww shucks, I have to go to work today.' I might not be working on Hollywood stars any longer, but I love my clients. About 90 percent of my clients still come to me from Sanibel. They're good, good people."
This Saturday, April 2, Micale will be signing copies of "Confessions Of A Hollywood Hairstylist" at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore, located at 13751 S. Tamiami Trail in Fort Myers beginning at 1 p.m. Fans and followers may also obtain an autographed book, or get a haircut by Little Joe, at his salon, located at 16681 McGregor Blvd. (Kingston Square) in South Fort Myers. Make an appointment by calling 395-3116.
Little Joe Micale, author of 'Confessions Of A Hollywood Hairstylist,' is surrounded by autographed photos of his favorite celebrities and star clients at his South Fort Myers hair salon.
Fact BoxTo Go
Joe Micale appearance and book-signing
Saturday, April 2
Barnes & Noble Bookstore
13751 S. Tamiami Trail