Dog Bites

Dis-Tress Signal
A nasty rumor recently sent a collective shriek pealing through the city's stronghold of haircutting, the Castro.

The rumor suggested the state was going to stop regulating the 364,000 California beauty professionals who have paid good money to be officially trained -- and licensed -- to trim tresses, zap leg hair, or file nails.

Castro hairdresser Billy Manis says the rumor was all the buzz at the Third Annual Among the Stars Hair Show last month in Lake Tahoe. "With hairdressers, we hear so many different things," says Manis. "I don't know where it started."

Such deregulation, if true, would effectively open beauty jobs to a bunch of untrained yokels, the talk went. Just imagine the horror: barbarous barbers; illicit electrologists; maniacal manicurists.

Turns out the rumor is just old-fashioned salon scuttlebutt. Here's the real story:

Last February, the state Department of Consumer Affairs issued a letter explaining that the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology failed to have its mandate renewed by the Legislature in 1996, and so, under state sunset law, would be officially dissolved as of July 1. The letter explicitly stated that only the board would be eliminated. Barbers and cosmetologists would continue to be licensed.

Bob Brown, a Consumer Affairs spokesman, says he thinks the rumor about the demise of licensing might have been planted. "I think there were some out there that would disagree [with dissolving the board]," says Brown. "Where there is disagreement, there are sometimes rumors that go farther than reality."

Consumer Affairs is using a direct-mail campaign and other means to assure hairdressers that their colleagues -- and competitors -- will remain barbers, not butchers.

-- J.S.

Berry Jam
"Freshness First/ Farmworkers Last/ Lucky You're Middle Class" is how the billboard read at the corner of Third Street and Brannan last Friday morning. The day before, it had touted strawberries for the Lucky supermarket chain.

The ad was remade with considerable subtlety. The new lines referring to the farm workers and the middle class were spelled out in the same typeface as the Lucky stores' "Freshness First" tag. And the new type was pasted on as straight and seamlessly as a professional job.

The alteration bore a resemblance to pranks pulled by the Billboard Liberation Front, a group of San Francisco-based graphic designers and artists who have been subverting billboards on and off since the late 1970s. This time, though, the BLF wasn't the culprit, says a member who goes under the name of Jack Napier (as in Batman's nemesis, the Joker). And as of Monday, no group had taken credit for the act.

Eller Media, the East Bay company that owns the billboard, acted fast to repair it. The firm learned about the unapproved satire at about 9:30 a.m. Friday; by 11, it was papered over by a billboard advertising a sale on motor oil.

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