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D.C. Gigs: Cutting Congress' Coifs

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Joe Quatrone has worked as a barber on Capitol Hill for 42 years.  Previously, he worked as a barber in the Pentagon after immigrating to the US from Italy in 1952.
Marc Adams
Joe Quatrone has worked as a barber on Capitol Hill for 42 years. Previously, he worked as a barber in the Pentagon after immigrating to the US from Italy in 1952.

Joe Quatrone works his magic in a small barbershop in the heart of the Rayburn Building, just across the street from the Capitol. Over the course of his 42 years working there, he has crafted an extensive list of loyal customers out of America’s most powerful politicians. He rattles off a few names of people who have come to him over the years for a haircut.

“I cut Tip O’Neil and other speakers,” Quatrone says. “I had vice President Ford and Al Gore and so on.”

The late Senator Ted Kennedy and President George H.W. Bush have also been in his chair. But even with such high profile clients where a lot rides on the way they look, Quatrone doesn’t let stress or anxiety get in the way.

“They make my job really easy,” he says. “They are just everyday people.”

Quatrone, a survivor of the World War II bombings, came to the U.S. from Italy in 1952. After several years working in an Ohio restaurant with his brother, he moved to the Washington, D.C. area and took up the craft of cutting hair. He landed his first job as a barber at the Pentagon in 1960. He later applied to work as a barber in the House of Representatives and after a little help from an Ohio congressman, he got the job and hasn’t looked back since.

“I really love my job and the people that I’m working with,” Quatrone says. “They have been extra kind to me since I’ve been here… staff members and everyone that I deal with.”

Quatrone still finds joy with his job despite a slowdown in business over the last 10 years, much of it the result of new security measures put in place after Sept. 11, 2001. He remembers with nostalgia the days when many of his customers came from the surrounding Capitol Hill neighborhood for their haircut in his shop. Now, he says, because of the security checks and restricted parking, his client base has fallen and is essentially constrained to only those who actually work on Capitol Hill.

“You can’t blame the people,” he says about those who ushered in the new security procedures. “They needed to make this change for the security of the members, the staff, and everybody who is here on the hill.”

No matter how much money he ends up earning, Quatrone simply continues doing what he loves. The framed pictures of Congressional lawmakers and staffers covering nearly every open wall space, many of them current or former customers of his shop, serve as a reminder of the love he has received over the years.

“They treat me probably better than I deserve,” he says. “And I’m sure there are other barbers who would like to be in my position, other barbers who would like to have this job. And I’ve been very fortunate and lucky to be here.”


[Music: "Working for the Weekend" by The Brown Derbies from We Deliver / "Take Me to the River [Karaoke Version]" by The Karaoke Channel from Karaoke - In The Style of Talking Heads - Vol. 1]

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