Just as you stroll down into the Castro in San Francisco right off Market Street, past the Twin Peaks Bar and just before you reach the historic Castro Theatre, you may miss the newest gem to grace this famous street known as the epicenter of the gay rights movement in America. It is a little salon called Lisa’s Hair Design right at 421 Castro Street.
One might expect some oversized, beehived, rhinestoned, pancaked, heavily rouged version of Ivana Trump with a Dolly Parton accent to greet you when you enter the establishment. After all it is the Castro. However, what you find is this petite sized, pretty lady of chinese ethnicity named Lisa. Oh yeah, by the way, she is totally straight.
You may ask how did such a person end up in the middle of Queer Mecca? Gary and I met Lisa a few years ago when she still worked at another salon on 17th Street close by. Haircuts were inexpensive and Lisa was friendly. Our hair ( especially mine) grew fast so we were seeing her every two weeks for a cut. We really got to know her.
Over the years our relationship became something like the kind found at the beauty shop in the movie “Steel Magnolias” and the one in the barberhop in the movie, “Barbershop” but with a twist. We would tease each other about many things. I kept giving her advise to get something at Victoria Secret’s to spice up the love life at home with her husband. She kept saying that was long gone, always with a mischievous smile.
Lisa had a steady clientele of gay men of all age. She was good ( and still is) at making us all feel handsome, even after a night of drinking and partying. She really knew how to work the room and egos. Hey, that was one good way to get tips!
She also has a steady lesbian clientele who have flirted with her on occasion. She reminds them that she is married, and like the gay boys, preferred men. They kept trying to get her interest but to no avail. Lisa was able to tap into the “relieved” straight men clientele who lived near the area who appreciated a good haircut from a WOMAN who likes men. In this case, a pretty one.
Although Lisa is Chinese, she grew up in Vietnam and her family lived there during the war. She was a young girl during that time. She has told us stories of how her and her family eventually join the throngs of people who went into the jungles fleeing the Viet Cong. She saw and experienced starvation. She witnessed killing and the savagery that humans can afflict on each other.
Her family ultimately fled Vietnam and were one of the many to be known as the boat people. They ended up in Hong Kong and for a period of time lived on the streets before finally moving over to the West. Hers is a story of survival and the indomitable spirit to win back one’s life by creating a new one.
She and her husband live with her two daughters in San Francisco. Lisa opened her own salon this year. It is a small space and she has filled it with this big dream. It is busy. She already has a large clientele because they have moved with her from the old salon she worked at because she earned their loyalty. Many of them relate to her because she represents someone that has fought for her dreams no matter what the odds.
June is Pride Month. Somehow this Salon owned by this straight woman fits in the Castro. This is a place where dreams live and come true. Lisa’s Hair Design is also where you can get a great haircut for a good price! Drop by some time.