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Daniel Day-Lewis spoke with poet, Eileen Myles in this 2002 interview. Photography by Terry Richardson.
 

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Kathleen Hanna discusses writing and making music in this interview from 2000 with Laurie Weeks.


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Alexander McQueen's 2003 interview with Bjork.
 
  JERRY HALL
STEPHANIE SEYMORE
MARC JACOBS
  ASIA ARGENTO
DENNIS HOPPER
ABEL FERRARA
BRIAN WILSON
WILL OLDHAM
DJ SPOOKY

Jimmy Paul,1997

WITH BRUCE HAINLEY
PHOTOGRAPHED BY LUCAS MICHAEL


I first met Jimmy Paul when he still worked at the Oribe salon in the back of the Parachute boutique on Columbus Avenue. Few hairdressers are in greater demand, especially for editorial work. So while he can only be found one day a week in the Garren salon at Henri Bendel, his work can be seen everywhere - Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, W, Arena, L'Uomo Vogue, Interview, i.e. in any fashion magazine that matters. He has had his fingers in the hair of every model worthy of the name, both men and women. The true sign of his talent might be that he is the hairdresser of choice for many models when they get their hair done for themselves. The last time I was at Garren the exquisite up-and-coming beauty, Jaimie Rishar was waiting to have her hair touched up for her birthday; a Prada frock had already been specially delivered for the occasion. Jimmy himself appears on the cover of Nan Goldin's book on drag, The Other Side, and in work by Jack Pierson. When Goldin did her beautiful shoot for Visionaire of Helmut Lang apparel, when Jack Pierson followed Naomi Campbell around for Harper's Bazaar, it was Jimmy who did hair. In his work he combines strict tonsorial skill with a keen artistic eye. He isn't afraid to take inspiration from wherever he needs it, but his greatest gifts may be humor and genuinely disarming sweetness. The true history of hairdressing has yet to be written, when it is the most winsome chapter will be devoted to Jimmy Paul.



BRUCE: What do you look for in a good haircut?
JIMMY: I like when it looks really easy. The person is comfortable. You almost think, "That person looks great!" and the fact that the hair looks good is an afterthought. I like when there's a funny charm to it: a trend or a response to a trend that comes out of specific neighborhood - a tail or some weird shelf. Haircuts that look like they've grown out are the best, and when I do a haircut I like to make it so it looks as if the person doesn't have to think about it. It suits the face and it's not really a haircut at all. I don't do that many haircuts - I mean I don't cut something in them that announces: HAIRCUT. I just try to follow the person's head.

BRUCE: I love the word hairdresser. I wonder if you could say a little about that word, how it resonates for you.
JIMMY: Beautician is a word that sounds very small town, very utilitarian. Fine. Hair Stylist always sounds like a small town person trying to be fancy. Hair Stylist, a hairdresser at the mall. Nothing wrong with that either. Hairdresser sounds humble - I don't even know why - but at the same time it shows I have respect for myself. Hairdresser has an old world connotation to it. I don't spend a lot of time dressing hair, which means flossing it, since the average person doesn't want their hair dressed. Hairdresser works for me. If anybody ever refers to me as a hair stylist, it's like, my name's Jimmy and if anybody calls me James it irks me.

BRUCE: How and when did you decide that this is what you wanted to do?
JIMMY: I have to go really early. My mother's a hairdresser. She was my first influence. My mother was also, in my opinion, a beauty and wore cosmetics. She's always created an illusion, always had amazing hairdos, always worn makeup, and always dressed up. I love my mother and I grew up thinking what she would do was magic. She had power - her beauty, creating her looks. The fantasy she would create was always an escape for me. I remember wanting to be a hairdresser - and I don't blame my mother for what I'm going to say next, because it's really just a product of society - but I wasn't encouraged to be a hairdresser. I grew up in Pittsburgh, and if you were a hairdresser in Pittsburgh, you didn't make a lot of money, you were often ostracized for being homosexual, and because most male hairdressers were homosexual and my mother always had high hopes for me, she thought I should be a doctor or a lawyer or something like that - which I never considered being.

BRUCE: So did things start to click in your teens?
JIMMY: I started to go into a pure fantasy world as a teenager. I knew I wanted to be in the fashion business or in show business, but I didn't know what exactly I wanted to do. I spent many years wanting to be a female model - complete fantasia but that's where my head was. I was going to move to New York to do whatever I had to do to be a female model but be a man. When I was growing up Way Bandy was famous for being a makeup artist. It was very exciting for me to see him on TV and in magazines. I could tell that he was an effeminate homosexual and I also saw someone famous for creating illusion, for putting his ideas of what's beautiful on women. It was exciting. I started to look at fashion magazines to the point of obsession. And there were hairdressers! I remember a picture in Vogue of John Sahag and a model together, by Dennis Piel I think. He had done her hair: and they both had similar haircuts! There was a hairdresser in Pittsburgh named Leslie Bryner. He died of AIDS and was a very flamboyant homosexual. This was when GQ was very exciting, very on edge - late '70s, Bruce Weber, Barry McKinley. I remember being really really blown away by an ad in GQ for Charivari with a guy who had an amazing new wave haircut. I went to the airport with my mother and saw this hairdresser, Leslie Bryner, in a full-length fox coat and mustard yellow leather pants and a Charivari bag. I thought: hairdresser equals fantasy.

BRUCE: Were you doing drag at this point or was that only when you came to New York?
JIMMY: No, no, no. This was pre-drag. I didn't start to do drag until I was about 20. Louis Angelo, who is my oldest friend and who works at Garren too, and I started to hang around together. Our fantasies were to be male models. We were really influenced by the Avedon photographs for Gianni Versace where there were groups of male models standing like this. [Jimmy does a severe pose.] The male models had scarves wrapped around their necks into a kind of cowl - very sexy. Louis and I would go around with our scarves like that and we would do this walk we made up: the Shoom. It had a lot of shoulder.

BRUCE: Andy Warhol was from Pittsburgh. Interview was a hot magazine then, I remember devouring every issue. Was Warhol an influence, someone people talked about in your scene?
JIMMY: Around age 15 I started to go out a lot: clubpeople and nightclubbing ended up being a huge influence, my high school even. Warhol and Interview weren't what the nightclubs in Pittsburgh were about. Drugs and sex and dressing up were. I found out about Warhol's being from Pittsburgh in a book one day at the library. There was a department store where, I read, Warhol did windows and displays. I thought, Well, you know, Andy Warhol did that and look at him now. He definitely gave me a lot of hope, but I never ever thought I would ever get anywhere near models, let alone be able to do their hair. Anyway, around age 16, my uncle brought me to New York on a church-sponsored trip to St. Patrick's Cathedral, where by the grace of God we stayed on 43rd Street. All the prostitutes were still on 42nd Street. It was like a Donna Summer video - unbelievable, the most divine thing. On that trip I got my first issue of Interview.

BRUCE: Do you remember who was on the cover?
JIMMY: Yes, that actress, Rachel Ward. How exciting to see Interview put models - Rachel Ward was just a model at the time who was gorgeous gorgeous and did commercials and was doing some screen tests - without any reason on the cover. I pored over that issue of Interview: I took that thing home and I knew it cover to cover. It was my only issue for about a year and I looked at it probably every day. The Saks catalogue, Redbook, the things that filled my fantasy world were not really weird things when I look back at it. André Leon Talley once said something about how it meant so much to him, the fantasy of magazines and being able to get lost in them ... I was, you know, battered by the neighborhood and all that, but I was always able to go into complete fanstasyland via magazines. I was thinking about all of this the other day. I love any movie that has real models in it - in Klute there's a go-see that Jane Fonda goes on, and there's a big line up of real models. In Annie Hall there's a scene where there's a famous model, she's an extra. Her name is Shaun Casey. She was in an Estée Lauder ad, shot in Arizona. For some reason as a teenager I fancied I looked a little bit like her and that I should move to Arizona. My aunt lived in Arizona, and I made efforts to move there to stay with her. Luckily she found out I was gay and wouldn't let me come. At the time I was very disappointed I didn't get to go and look like Shaun Casey in Arizona in Estée Lauder ads. Instead I moved to San Francisco and met transvestites. I started to play around with makeup, I started to wear makeup as a boy. I was in a fashion show as a boy. I started to dabble. Fun, but I got so broke and hungry that I had to move back home for the summer. I met a guy and I moved to New York on my 19th birthday. My first month in New York I was go-go dancing on the bar at the Pyramid, where there was a young drag scene starting.

BRUCE: Drag queens pride themselves on their specific look. Could you describe your early drag look and the queens at the Pyramid who inspired you?
JIMMY: I was try to look like a real girl. I was even wearing my own hair, kind of spiked up, red lipstick and vintage dresses, stuff like that. Trashier and trashier. I started to wear wigs and everything else. A-flip-in-high-heels kind of look but punk. I met Tabboo!, who has been a huge influence on my life - we became roommates and friends. At the same time, I met Ethyl Eichelberger. Ethyl was the person who told me to got to beauty school. She simply said, The drag performing is one thing, but you have to have something to fall back on. She was a hairdresser and went to ...

BRUCE: Ultissima Beauty Institute
JIMMY: Yes. Hair was an income for him. Ethyl and Augusto Machado and Madame Ekathrina Sobechanskaya (a man named Larry Rée), those three people were really moms to all the young queens. They were a big part of why I didn't get into wanting to have a sex change or get into prostitution. They were doing something radical. They were performers. I was directionless, I didn't know what I wanted to be. I could have been a junkie, had a sex change, who knows what. They helped guide me to skills for how to take care of myself. Another major influence, let me not forget, was Danillo. He was a hairdresser, a beautiful man who was also into wearing makeup and dressing fabulously and going out, but he always had money - I mean always had money to take care of himself. He was somebody doing exactly what I wanted to do but he was taking care of himself and I wasn't able to. One day it hit me: go to beauty school.

BRUCE: Where did you go?
JIMMY: I went to Robert Fiance on a grant and a loan. School was great: you could skip, you could be late, people were lovely and encouraged me. Debi Mazar was in my class. There were a few people in my class who stood out - every freak like me who went to beauty school - and they're doing great. Everybody else was from the boroughs, very normal. You would think New York beauty school would be a free-for-all, but believe me big time, it's not. I started to work at a haircoloring parlor which was very trendy at the time. I got fired. Some of the places I worked in closed. It took me a while to be able to figure out to look notice credits in magazines - names of photographers, stylists, hairdressers, etc. I saw a big Steven Meisel ad for Oribe. An incredible photo. I decided to start all over again. I was maybe 23, thought I was ancient and that everybody in town would want to be an assistant at Oribe, that everybody had heard of Steven Meisel, etc. You know what? They didn't, they hadn't. Nobody. They needed an assistant, it was an emergency, and they were so happy I wanted to work there.

BRUCE: For years I thought your name was hyphenated and a single name like Cher or the big '80s male model Attila. How did you get your name?
JIMMY: I started to work for Danilo. Very tumultuous. There was a guy named Omar who was Oribe's agent and who completely took me under his wing. My drag name was Paulette, and Tanya Ransom, the head drag queen at the Pyramid, who hired the go-go dancers, came up with it. One night I was in this outfit the queens made out of tulle for me, and Tanya said I looked like a French perfume model and should have a French name. It can't be Jimmy, we'll call her Paulette. Lady Bunny, who's a dear friend, started to call me Jimmy Paulette. Then Danilo called me Jimmy Paulette. Omar started to get me photo shoots, little photo shoots for Interview, front of the book kinds of things - baby stuff. Omar had to have a name for me. My last name is Miskovich - too long. Omar said, How about Jimmy Paulette? No, that doesn't work. How about Jimmy Paul?

BRUCE: How did you come to be photographed in drag by Nan Goldin?
JIMMY: Jack Pierson and I were roommates, so I was hanging around with this Boston crowd. People would talk to me about Nan Goldin. Everybody loved her and worshipped her work. She was a notorious junkie, and she was always a Big Thing. I was working as an assistant at Oribe. I had a really big ego as a drag queen, but I did not exist the same way as a hairdresser. Drag put me on an emotional roller-coaster: I would go into full fantasy and wouldn't be prepared for the big letdown whenever I didn't get the same attention out of drag. So I made a decision: I cut with drag to concentrate on hairdressing. Around the same time, I met a guy. We were boyfriends for three years. He hated that I did drag. I would not even consider doing drag while I was with him, but the salon was going well, my freelance career was starting to click. And I met Nan.

BRUCE: So you weren't doing drag when you met her - how did that photo happen?
JIMMY: I broke up with the guy who hated drag. Lady Bunny called me and asked, Do you want to be on this float we're doing for Gay Pride Day? On the spur of the moment, I said yes. I went out and bought all new stuff, new high heels. I had some wigs, but I bought an outfit. I invited Nan to come over. I lived near where the float was going to meet, so Tabboo! and Miss Demeanor, friends of mine, also came over to get ready at my little apartment. Nan brought her camera. I had never been photographed by Nan before, so I didn't really realize what might go on. I thought she was taking snapshots. Tabboo! and I were putting our makeup on in the same mirror. There's a famous photograph by Diane Arbus of these two transvestites backstage, their shirts off, their wigs off. All of sudden Tabboo! and I had our shirts off and our wigs off, our makeup on. Nan said, This is the best picture I've ever taken in my life. We were like, Wow, great, not thinking anything of it. When you're in drag, it's fantasia. To the point where you don't really even think, Oh, I've got my wig on and I ain't got my shirt - I'm gorgeous! Nan was just taking pictures, we were just camping. Little did I know that one day the pictures would be great.

BRUCE: She chose that photo for the cover of The Other Side.
JIMMY: Oh my god, yes! But as with hairdressing, some people know models have hairdressers doing their hair, some people think that's the way they look all the time. Some people have never heard of this book, some amazing people have. I'm proud to be a part of it and that the efforts that I put into drag as a young man have been so rewarded. But the thing that I'm most proud of - this might sound strange - my favorite thing about the pictures in the book is that there's an idea that we're friends. I love the fact that Tabboo! and I are together but we're not having sex: we're doing this fun thing, it doesn't really have anything to do with sex per se or anything like that. In the book you can tell that we're actually having fun and that we're not tragic. Sometimes people think that's what I do every day, that maybe I am a prostitute. I do look like a prostitute in the book. Thank God there are transvestite prostitutes, I get tremendous inspiration from them! The fact is: I hadn't done drag in years when the pictures were taken, it was my first time back at it, and I probably did drag maybe only two other times after that.

BRUCE: Let's shift gears a bit. You are in great demand for photo shoots. How did you start to really understand how hair works, especially when photographed?
JIMMY: Steven Klein was the first photographer I ever worked with who was a perfectionist: he cared about the hair. In any fashion photograph, even though you might do something with clothes, the hair is a really big part. It fills up a lot of the picture. It determines the way a girl looks. Not to say that a girl in a hat can't be fantastic, that a girl with slicked back hair can't be can't be fantastic. A lot of times I work with hats and slicked back hair. But if the hair is showing at all, it might be secondary, it might not be that big of a deal, but bad hair can ruin a photograph. I should also mention fashion stylists Victoria Bartlett and Joe McKenna, from whom I learned a great deal. The fashion stylist is probably the most unsung person on a fashion shoot. Grunge was a big help for me. I got grunge. A lot of hairdressers didn't. Danilo said I was one of the first queens to do rock drag. Rock fashion has been a huge influence on my esthetic. My career began to kickstart because I got grunge: using grease in hair.

BRUCE: Could you give me a few words to describe a grunge haircut?
JIMMY: A grunge haircut is something dirty: you might put grease and powder and stuff in the hair to make it look like that. Kurt Cobain had perfect hair - it was colored, it was damaged, it was broken on the ends. I would raise the hair to make it look like Kurt Cobain's, put oil in it, color it. If anyone has hair like Kurt Cobain - don't change it! It's the ultimate. Because of grunge I met Steven Meisel. He gave me a big chance. I got to do Vogue with him. I worshipped everything he did for years, and it was great to work with him and, on that shoot, the legendary model of the '50s, Donna Mitchell.

BRUCE: What is it like to have your hands in Donna Mitchell's hair?
JIMMY: A complete fantasy. I adore the history of models and makeup and hair. I can spot a model by her hair and makeup alone. I think I have a great ability to get excited by a talent like Donna Mitchell's: the power of looks. I mean I just sort of did something that maybe anybody could do - any hairdresser could do - but I was also able to help her, to give her emotional support. I believe that's what a hairdresser does, besides doing technical work. You're able to give people support. They see you putting effort into what they look like and that helps them gather up their strength and put their beauty across - to feel powerful. They get excited by the way they look and they're able to use that. I'm excited that Jackie Onassis went to Kenneth, that Billy Baldwin decorated Kenneth's salon, and that they both knew Truman Capote. That is why I want to do this: to be in this long line of queens - in public! Everybody I named was a small town queen just like me. I'm the furthest thing from an aristocrat, but I could do an aristocrat lady's hair, or I could do the hair of a hooker who goes out with an aristocrat. It's a laugh, we could be going out to a fancy restaurant and the most beautiful women in the world could come up and give me a kiss and say, Jimmy!, know my name like the back of their hand because I've helped them get their look across. It's just a complete giggle. I think I'm able to give that to people, maybe not every time but ... Usually a barber won't give you the boost that a queen with some humor can.

BRUCE: You said to me that for the longest time you felt doing men's hair would be a bore. Then you did the Italian's men's fashion week and it was a blast. Could you talk about the difference - the shift or the similarity - between working with sexy guys and beautiful women?
JIMMY: Well I went to Milan with Steven Klein to do L'Uomo Vogue and Arena. The flamboyance of what was going on was incredible. Dandy freestyle! Blown dry hair! The hair and clothes were super and so funny. It's a very tricky time for women's fashion. It's a bit transitional, things are very serious - and the hair is very serious. Editors are very strict about what you're doing. Whereas with men, right now, on some of the shoots, they've allowed me to have a sense of humor. Big '70s hair: it's hysterical. You're allowed to get a giggle out of looking at it. Working with women's hair is what I mostly do, but to do guys - although I'm not really attracted to straight guys, you know I can't deny that I think the guys are sexy because they are, they're beautiful, and they're always playful - but my favorite things are like a shoot I did for Italian Vogue. A bikini store. The models had suntan oil all over them, bikinis, big bouffant hairdos, and full faces of makeup. Something like that gives people some respite from their daily drudgery. That's what I think the job is in fashion, its service to the world, what gives it integrity: it's a break from the doldrums.

BRUCE: Sexy too.
JIMMY: It is sexy: seeing people doing their own things.

BRUCE: What do you think of Shampoo?
JIMMY: Shampoo! Julie Christy! A straight hairdresser always makes me giggle. There are actually a lot of them. A lot of European hairdressers are straight - it's a European tradition, hairdressing.

BRUCE: Hair words are so great. Could you just give me a few words for certain hairdos, to describe certain haircuts?
JIMMY: OK. There's the bob. Very, very boring. But if you say, the '60s Sassoon bob ... You could say the gamine look, but better to say the Jean Seberg gamine look or the Mia Farrow gamine look. Shag is an over-used word that was sort of a big trend a year ago. But if you say the Klute shag, the Jane Fonda Klute shag, or if you say Warren Beatty's hair in Shampoo - his shag! - you really conjure something up. The Cher look: her bangs in the '60s with the side chunks - I mean there's nothing more divine. I definitely always have a reference, but words like "bob," "shag" alone don't give much to me. I would say instead Shelley Duvall - incredible movie hair woman. Nashville and Annie Hall. Shelley Duvall means meticulous braids and stuff I can't even believe! In Shampoo Julie Christy means frosting. I think Jon Peters did a lot of the hair for Shampoo. I'm not 100% sure, but what he did for Barbra Streisand - the Superstar perm look is beyond! I mean a lot of people might think that's an abomination, but not me. I think it's heaven. When I first started to be on the gay scene, the cruising scene or whatever, I would always think, Well maybe I shouldn't tell people I'm a hairdresser, maybe I should tell them I'm a plumber. But now I'd never deny what I do: I get to make my dreams come true on a daily basis.
© index magazinegelatin1
Jimmy Paul by Lucas Michael, 1997
© index magazinetobias
Jimmy Paul by Lucas Michael, 1997

 
 
 

 

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