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With the buzzing of a razor the only sound in the room, the staffer sitting in the barber’s chair thought he’d strike up a conversation with the man cutting his hair.
“How long have you worked here at the Capitol?” the staffer asked.
“40,” Joe Quattrone replied nonchalantly.
“That’s a long time.”
Since his first day on the job, on March 2, 1970, Quattrone has become a fixture in the basement of the Rayburn House Office Building. “Joe Q.,” as he’s affectionately known to his loyal clientele, has been there far longer than most Members. Only four — Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.), John Conyers (D-Mich.) and David Obey (D-Wis.) and Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) — came to the Capitol before him. But Quattrone’s status as a Capitol Hill legend hasn’t gone to his head. Even with the walls around him covered with photos from Members of Congress, military leaders and Hollywood stars thanking him for his services, the 75-year-old remains humble.
“I love my job,” Quattrone said. He is dressed in his usual uniform, with a red smock covering a shirt and tie. “It’s an honor for me to serve some of the most powerful people in the world.”
Growing up in a little town in Italy, Quattrone thought he might become a barber someday, although he never dreamed it would be for America’s elected officials. He hails from Reggio di Calabria, where his family farmed. Born in 1935, he was a child when Benito Mussolini was in power. His oldest brother moved to America in the late 1930s, and after turning 18, Quattrone moved to Steubenville, Ohio, to join his brother and to work in his restaurant. Italian farm life wasn’t for him.
“I came here to make my life better,” he said.
He became a naturalized citizen and joined the Air Force shortly after he arrived in 1953, serving for more than a year before returning to the restaurant business.
In 1960, he came to the Washington, D.C., area on what was supposed to be a short trip. He liked the area, so he moved here with his wife, Rita, to help with a friend’s restaurant. He picked up construction work on the side.
While doing some construction work in 1965, he fell and hurt his back. Unable to do any physical labor, a friend suggested he go to barber school.
It didn’t take much convincing. He needed something to do while he got better.