Moniz facing tough critics -- in the House barbershop

President Obama's nomination of Ernest Moniz to succeed Steven Chu as Energy secretary on Monday has yet to generate much controversy from those on Capitol Hill tasked with vetting the nuclear physicist's policy chops -- a situation that has left plenty of time for speculation about one other important matter: Moniz's distinctive coif.

But while amateurs took to social media to debate whether Moniz's hair was wild or wonderful, more George-Washington-elder-statesman or Benicio Del Toro in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," the experts who handle men's hair for a living in the basement of the Rayburn House Office Building had Moniz's hair nailed within seconds of seeing a picture of the new nominee.

"It's pretty much long hair," said Giuseppe "Joe" Quattrone, who, as of yesterday, has cut hair on Capitol Hill for 43 years and four days.

"I would say for him that hair is a little bit too long," said Quattrone, an Italian immigrant to the United States, who, according to the signed photos in his Rayburn shop, has cut the hair of some of the most famous, and occasionally infamous, men in American politics.

Just down the wall from a picture of former Vice President Al Gore in Quattrone's shop is a framed photo of former Rep. Jim Traficant (D-Ohio), whose use of a toupee was exposed publicly only after he was sent to federal prison following his expulsion from Congress.

Asked to describe the type of haircut Moniz sports, fellow barber Shelton Fersner -- who occupies the chair two down from Quattrone and has worked in the Rayburn barbershop for only the past couple of years -- indicated that that was something of a trick question.

"That's definitely not a haircut," Fersner said. "He just let it grow."


If Moniz happened to come to the Rayburn barbershop, Fersner said, he'd ask the nominee what kind of haircut he wanted, but "obviously, he doesn't want anything."

But the always diplomatic Quattrone, who seems to understand the correlation between a long career on Capitol Hill and one's ability to avoid getting drawn into political conversations, was also quick to point out that there is a lot that can be done with longer hair.

"It depends on the person and how much you want to do," said Quattrone, an affable man who seems to call most people "buddy."

Now that Moniz has been nominated, he's expected to be on Capitol Hill quite a bit to meet with members who will sit in on his nomination hearing and vote on whether to confirm him. And while those hearings and votes will take place on the Senate side of Capitol Hill, Quattrone's shop has been known to be sought out by those from both chambers of Congress. Quattrone said he often gets business from those who have been called to Capitol Hill to testify.

"Because they are a lot on TV, I think it's very important" to get a good haircut, he said. "And everybody around here wants to look good. ... We deal with people who run the world."

Whether it's a member of Congress, committee witness or congressional staffer, Quattrone has a simple rule.

"I listen. That's my job, to listen, and not to give any kind of advice or anything, because they don't need my advice," said the man who has cut the hair of former President George H.W. Bush and considered former House Speaker Tip O'Neill (D-Mass.) a friend.

But, if pushed, he'll offer some counsel on the secrets of a properly kept coif.

"I think a man ... should get a haircut every three weeks," he said. "Three to four."

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