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John Kelly's Washington

Beautiful People, Inside and Out

By John Kelly
Tuesday, January 18, 2005; Page C11

The hottest disco in town Saturday night was a hair salon on K Street NW.

Around midnight, a DJ was pumping out salsa and hip-hop tunes at a near-deafening volume, and beautiful people were doing that dance that beautiful people do: arms raised as if they were surgeons having rubber gloves snapped onto their hands, hips swaying a bit behind the beat.

_____Children's Campaign_____
Washington Post columnist John Kelly is raising money for the Children's National Medical Center, one of the nation's leading pediatric hospitals. You may make a tax-deductible contribution online anytime between Nov. 29th and Jan. 21st. Thank you for your support.
_____By John Kelly_____
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That they could dance -- that they could even stand -- was amazing, given that most of them had been working since 6 a.m., when Andre and Serena Chreky's annual Salon-a-Thon kicked off. These hairdressers, manicurists, masseuses and aestheticians had been shampooing, clipping, tinting, tweezing, kneading, blow-drying, polishing and sweeping up hair for 18 straight hours.

And the night wasn't over. There was still money to be raised for Children's Hospital.

"I think it's fun for all the New Yorkers who come in," said Serena, blonde, model-slim and dressed in fashionable black. "Washington is not traditionally known as a hip town. They're surprised."

Those would be the five "celebrity stylists" -- Xena Parsons, Mark Garrison, Dwight Miller, Luis Alvarez and Albie Mulcahy. They aren't all from New York, but they all have that Big Apple/Hollywood aura.

"I love coming here," said Luis, who was doing his fourth Salon-a-Thon. "It's karma. You do good, and it comes back."

For him and the others, celebrity is a word with a double meaning: They cut the hair of celebrities and in the process became celebrities themselves.

"You can't play it safe," explained Albie Mulcahy of celebrity stylehood and, perhaps, of life. "You have to live on the edge. If you're not living on the edge, you're just taking up space."

Serena started Salon-a-Thon seven years ago, inspired by the Jerry Lewis telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. How about raising money for Children's Hospital by cutting hair for 24 hours straight, she said to her husband, Andre.

"Andre's like, 'Are you nuts?' " remembered Serena.

Nuts she may be, but she's also good at convincing/cajoling/strong-arming people into participating in what has basically become a daylong party -- a party among the attractions of which are both a gaggle of Redskins Cheerleaders and D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz.

Dashing about was a slight, curly-haired man in a billowing shirt: Andre. Like a chef juggling three sauce pans, he multi-tasked, styling several heads simultaneously. The Chreky daughters, Isabel, 15, and Lillian, 13, also were busy, offering slices of pizza to anyone who looked hungry.

Isn't it tiring, I asked celebrity stylist Mark Garrison who, with his shiny black pompadour and snazzy red-and-white patterned suit, looked like a beanpole Elvis.

"It's like working out," Mark said. "Energy brings energy. Once I get started, I don't like to stop. Every year it gets more and more amazing. The turnout, the energy. It takes on a life of its own. Before you even get in the door, you feel the positive energy. And it's for such a good cause."

What's the secret of becoming a celebrity stylist?

"It's all about doing the work and not believing the hype," said Mark.

Still, allow me some hype: Mark has styled the heads of Scarlett Johansson, Sandra Bullock, Marisa Tomei, Matthew McConaughey, Rebecca Folsom. . . .

Rebecca Folsom? She's a 19-year-old from Fairfax who wanted Mark to lay his hands upon her hair.

"Before, it was all one length," she said of her locks.

"Very heavy," Mark said, motioning to Rebecca's shoulders as if they once carried around 80 pounds of chain mail.

Now her brown hair -- spiced with highlights -- is layered and terraced, a shaggy and fashionable drape.

"It's a lot better than what I thought it would be," she said.

"And it was fun!" Mark added.

Rebecca had a special reason to be there. When she was 2, she almost died from a kidney infection. Her life was saved at Children's Hospital. Her mom, Carol, was so grateful that she took a job in the fundraising department. And now they both come to Salon-a-Thon.

"You should see her mom," said Mark. "She's really cute."

So is Jill Farr, who at around 1 a.m. was paying her bill -- and making her contribution. Luis Alvarez did her hair. It looked like a confection, her long, oak-colored tresses pulled into flat inch-wide strands that looped around the back of her head. It resembled a cascade of ribbon candy.

I pointed out that she was going to wreck the impressive creation the minute she lay her head on a pillow.

"I know," she said. "I can't go to sleep."

She could always go dancing.

Comb One, Comb All

Some 600 clients participated in this year's Salon-a-Thon. Yesterday, Serena told me that the event raised a whopping $100,000. Adding that to our running total means that so far we've raised $517,179.81 for Children's Hospital. We need just a shade over $80,000 by Friday to reach our $600,000 goal. Here's how you can contribute:

Make a check or money order payable to "Children's Hospital" and mail it to Washington Post Campaign, P.O. Box 17390, Baltimore, Md. 21297-1390.

To contribute by credit card online, go to www.washingtonpost.com/childrenshospital and click on "Make a Donation." You'll be greeted by a pop-up that takes you right to the donation page.

To contribute using Visa or MasterCard by phone, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200, then punch in KIDS and follow the instructions.

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