Joe Quattrone, right, has been cutting hair in the Capitol complex for 40 years. His longtime friend, Rep. Bill Pascrell, is a regular in the shop.
The career ended up sticking. He worked for a small barber shop before landing a job at the Pentagon’s barber shop, where he worked for a couple of years. He then cut hair at Andrews Air Force Base. While he was there, a position opened up in the House of Representatives barber shop.
Quattrone contacted Rep. Wayne Hays, his Congressman from Ohio, and Hays helped him land the job.
On March 1, 1970, the day he was supposed to start his new job, a bomb went off in a women’s bathroom in the Senate. With all the chaos, it was decided he should start the next day.
Quattrone hasn’t left since, though times have changed. In 1970, each of the House office buildings, as well as the Capitol, had barber shops. There were 16 barbers employed back then.
Today, there are only two barbers besides Quattrone, and there’s just one barber shop, in Rayburn. Their jobs were privatized in 1994, and they now work on commission.
While those aspects of the job have changed, for Quattrone, the most important one hasn’t: He still gets to meet and talk with people every day.
Over the years, he’s become close with several Members. For years, he cut President Gerald Ford’s hair, when Ford was the House Minority Leader and vice president. He remembers cutting Ford’s hair just days before President Richard Nixon’s resignation.
“He had no idea it was coming,” Quattrone said.
They remained close, and Quattrone attended Ford’s funeral in 2006.
On a recent morning, Rep. Bill Pascrell came into the shop, and the two sat on a bench sharing news of their respective Thanksgiving weekends. Quattrone explained that Pascrell is like a brother to him.
Pascrell, the grandson of Italian immigrants, came to Congress in 1997. In the years since then, Quattrone has become more than the man who cuts his hair while the New Jersey Democrat is in Washington. The two smiled as they shared stories of going to picnics at the White House and visiting the Embassy of Italy.
“We’re family,” Pascrell said. Pascrell describes the barber shop as a saloon and Quattrone its head bartender.
“You don’t get a drink, but you get a lot of good advice,” he said. “You come in a lot of times just to talk.”
Another Member who frequents Quattrone’s chair is Sen. Mark Kirk. The two met when the Illinois Republican was an intern in the office of Rep. John Porter (R-Ill.). Quattrone recalls the young man who came in to get his hair cut, and a hint of pride enters his voice.
“I was one of the first people he told he was thinking of running for Congress,” Quattrone said. “He’s now a Senator, can you believe it?” Kirk calls Quattrone an “absolute institution.”
“He’s touched so many lives — just look at the pictures on the walls,” Kirk said. “You ask about each one, and you get a story. He’s one of the crown jewels of the House.”
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