I wasn’t compensated for writing this post. I received a copy of Hell Toupee to facilitate my review. Yeah, yeah, these opinions are my own and they’re honest.
“They never mentioned it would be glued to my head.”
As he hit his 30th birthday, MITCH FRIEDMAN, writer, improv comic and fledgling musician, felt he needed a boost—something that would make him feel better (much, much better)—about himself. Having once proudly possessed a full head of hair—a glorious “Jew fro” that had essentially vanished in a few short years, Mitch decided to get a “hair replacement” otherwise known as a hair system.
In HELL TOUPEE: MY RIDICULOUS YEAR WEARING A HAIR REPLACEMENT, (December 2014, Paperback, $14.99) Friedman describes in detail – sometimes excruciating detail — how his life changed during the year he sported this new head of “hair.” As his story moves back and forth through time, it’s clear that his childhood, with two parents who came to hate each other, and divorced while he was a child wasn’t exactly a recipe for healthy self-esteem. Having a girlfriend, feeling confident among his peers — these things eluded him, and once he lost his full head of hair, his balding dome became a symbol of all that was wrong.
He signed on with a well-known company in New York City and started the $1,500 process. Little did he know what he was getting into. “…a clump of wet, dark brown hair…had been expertly adjoined to the top side of an oval-shaped piece of vinyl mesh, bearing a resemblance to canvas one might do needlepoint on. Flipping it over to reveal its seedy underbelly, one could see that the mesh template was fortified with a solid strip of…one-inch wide plastic around its perimeter.”
It goes downhill after that. The color and texture of the system doesn’t match his remaining hair, and the daily struggle to wash and style it is an ongoing trial. “Well, now, not only did I have to wash my hair, but I also had to wash under my hair—and when I say under my hair, I mean under someone else’s.”
This frequently hilarious and vividly candid memoir, takes us from the ’60s through the ’90s and is set against the backdrop of the always difficult odyssey of growing up, from his childhood in a troubled family on Long Island to an early adulthood shaped by a litany of bad hair, bad jobs, clueless friends and a single girlfriend he loved…and lost.
My review of Hell Toupee
Wow. Mitch Friedman is an absolute riot. Hell Toupee is a book that I tried not to read in public (like a doctor’s waiting room) because I looked and sounded like a lunatic, giggling away like the village idiot. You don’t find many laugh-out-loud funny books but, boy, this one is one of the funniest I’ve read.
Friedman’s style of writing is quite unique and impressive. It’s refreshingly bright and challenging. Hell Toupee is not hard to read, mind you, but it’s not a breezy walk in the park. He writes strong, rich, complex sentences with 50-cent words but it’s not done gratuitously. It’s genuine, and it’s a welcome change of pace.
Let me give you an example: “The further [the system] became disengaged, the more difficult it would be to get it to cooperate with my real hair, no doubt sneering at it like the freeloader it was.” See what I mean? Great sense of humor but great writing as well. Hell Toupee is filled with this from beginning to end.
You probably need a good laugh. Which means you need Hell Toupee. Go ahead, you deserve it.
About the author of Hell Toupee
MITCH FRIEDMAN has been telling humorous stories for five decades, whether it has been as a funny kid, a comedy performer/monologist, exhibited ironic street photographer, award-winning quirky pop songwriter of five albums, or on the job as a film/video editor for the likes of Howard Stern and Ellen DeGeneres. Hell Toupee is his first book. He lives in Brooklyn.
You can purchase Hell Toupee on Amazon.