The razor-sharp question came to The Inquirer from an astute reader: “Just curious, who is cutting Mayor Kenney’s hair?”
Given that Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s hair has remained short and well-kempt despite the fact that coronavirus stay-at-home orders have shuttered salons and barbershops across the region, we thought it a fair question.
But when we asked about it, Kenney essentially told us to buzz off.
“While the mayor appreciates the question, he declines to respond on the record,” communications director Deana Gamble said in an email.
Now that is a statement with more tease than Dolly Parton’s hairdo.
While the mayor may have intended to blow out this little story with his nonresponse, it got us buzzing like Marge Simpson’s beehive: Why is he so secretive about his hair? Does Kenney offer his clippings as a sacrifice to William Penn? Will this be part of the plot of the next National Treasure movie?
We have it on good authority from a colleague at The Inquirer who went to the same salon, that as of about three years ago, Kenney was getting his locks trimmed at a Hair Cuttery in South Philly.
Calls to that location Monday rang directly to a voice mail, which stated the store was closed due to COVID-19 orders.
Given that there appear to be more layers to this story than were in Jennifer Aniston’s hair in the mid-'90s, we’d like to present a few of the most likely suspects and let you, dear reader, decide who may be responsible for Kenney’s quarantine haircuts.
Mullet over and let us know what you think.
A lot of people have picked up hobbies and skills during quarantine, and perhaps Kenney has, too. Maybe he never really wanted to be mayor. Maybe he actually dreamed of becoming a stylist and is using his down time to practice on himself.
Move over, Barber of Seville, the Barber of South Philly is in town now (Ah, bravo Figaro! Bravo, bravissimo! Gravy! Wooder ice! Whiz! La la la la la la la LA!).
Despite calls from stylists across the nation for their clients not to touch their own hair — including one impassioned plea scrawled in large letters on the windows of the J Squared Salon in South Philly that read: “PLEASE LEAVE YOUR HAIR ALONE” — plenty of men are trying to give themselves haircuts during quarantine.
It has not gone well, as evidenced by the many hashtags created to track the disastrous dos on social media like #coronacuts, #covidcuts, and #quarantinehaircut. Several men have even managed to give themselves a style similar to the bowl cut Jim Carrey sported in Dumb and Dumber.
Since they’ve been separated from their stylists and barbers, a lot of men have enlisted the help of their significant others to trim their hair. Not all of those partners have been willing participants. Many have warned their husbands and boyfriends against it but were shear pressured into becoming an armchair stylist in the name of love.
Could Kenney’s fiancée, Letitia “Letty” Santarelli, be behind his neat trims?
The couple, who’ve dated for years and got engaged in December, are notoriously private about their relationship.
But it is well known that Santarelli, an executive assistant at Thomas Jefferson University, has skills on the basketball court. She coached the SS. John Neumann and Maria Goretti High School girls’ varsity team from 2012 to 2014 and was an All-American basketball player for Immaculata University in the ’80s.
Would her skills with a basketball translate well to a backdoor cut for the mayor? Could someone who knows how to shoot a fadeaway, also know how to fade a hairline?
That remains to be seen, but like surviving quarantine together — or going camping — cutting your partner’s hair is probably one of the surest tests of the strength of a relationship.
The coronavirus has brought changes to all of our jobs — for better or for worse. Could a member of Kenney’s staff have had their job description expanded to include the role of stylist?
We know his communications director, Gamble, can turn a phrase but can she turn split ends into neat ones? Deputy communications director Mike Dunn was sharp as a longtime KYW reporter but is he as sharp with a pair of scissors?
And Kenney’s chief-of-staff, Jim Engler, is a cheerleader for city government but could he also be Kenney’s shear leader?
We don’t know, because Kenney won’t tell us.
Last week, my colleague Helen Ubiñas wrote about how some barbers are finding ways to cut their customers’ hair underground while their shops are shuttered. One barber she spoke with even likened the scene to “Prohibition 2.0."
Could Kenney be getting his haircut by a professional somewhere in a secret room while throwing back a gin rickey and puffing on a cigar?
While it’s highly unlikely, given Kenney’s fervency about following the stay-at-home orders, Philadelphia does have a barber-shop-meets-speakeasy in the The Blind Barber, which opened last year in Center City. The shop’s website, however, lists all of its locations as temporarily closed.
This is your obligatory if-it-happened-in-Philly-did-Gritty-do-it theory.
While we admit that Kenney’s hair looks far too nice to have been done by the orange, furry paws of the Flyers unhinged mascot, we do love imagining his palms squeaking away (yes, they squeak) as he goes full Edward Scissorhands on Philly’s super-serious leader.