[The Boston Phoenix] Birds of paradise

By James Parker
Read Birds of Paradise: A conversation with Jerry Lauretano, proprietor of Jerry’s Underground Hair Salon

How old are you?

Sixty-two years old. And 60 of those I’ve lived right here on Tufts Street.

I see you have some press-cuttings. [reads] “Hairdresser applies a little dab of international intrigue.” What’s that one about?
That’s from the Cambridge Chronicle, from when I had a business in Harvard Square. I was using a foreign product called Bio Silk Sunglitz.

Tell me about the set-up you have here.
Well, I guess the word is “unique.” I’ve brought my hobby, which is bird watching, to my professional life. You can have your hair done and look out through these French windows and see chickadees and cardinals and goldfinches — you never know what’s coming through. We’re on a major migratory route here. Some of these birds are so pretty it’s like flowers in your window, only they move! Flying flowers.

What has been your proudest moment as a bird watcher?
The very first one. I saw this bird. A Rufous [sided] Towhee — orange, black, and white, with white tips, against a yellow forsythia bush. And . . .

It blew your mind?
It blew my mind. The most beautiful thing that I ever saw was in my yard. Why wasn’t I taught this? How often does it come? Are there more? And is the bird flying through the garden or is it really that the garden is flying through the bird? You know, everyone has their own substance, their own eloquence of life.

The colors of the bird corresponded with something within you.
Yes. The artist.

How’s business here in the salon?
Good, good. My regular customers are the sort of people who want to meet you because you’re a professional and you’re enjoying life.

And they appreciate what you’ve created in the garden?
One of my clients, she said, “Do you know what you’ve done?” I guess she was so relaxed, she thought she had a spiritual experience! Life is so fast, and we’re all in it, but when people come here, it just seems to open up their souls. And for me to feel their peacefulness is the best happiness of all.

You’re close to nature here.
My wife’s cousin was visiting one time, and she was watching me from the window, with all the cluster of nature around me, moving toward me, and she said, “Jerry is — ”

St. Francis of Assisi?
She said, “Jerry is Tarzan.”