Jose Eber had only been working in Beverly Hills for 18 months when he got a phone call from Farrah Fawcett-Majors.
She called his beauty shop, Linterman's, because she knew several models -- as well as Susie Coelho, Sonny Bono's friend -- who were Eber clients. The actress and the hairdresser got together, and the result was a change in the most famous head of hair in the world.
And for the year and a half since then, Eber has continued to manage the celebrated Fawcett-Majors coiffure, including several color changes and the styling for the Christmas cover of Playboy. He has also done Cheryl Ladd and Racquel Welch for the covers of national magazines. And last month he faced the challenge of cutting Cher's hair -- down to an even inch-and-a-half all around.
Eber, 30, whose own hair is cut and colored precisely like Farrah Fawcett's -- "It's not intentional, my hair was like this before I even met her," he insists -- is now styling some of the finest heads in Hollywood.
The freedom to have Farrah-Fawcett shoulder-length ahir, and to dress as he pleases, is one of the things that attracted Eber to Los Angeles from Paris -- where he worked for one of the swankiest and most staid salons, Jacques Dessauge's.
"In Paris you have to dress to impress other people with obviously expensive labels," says Eber, sitting comfortably in the chair Fawsett-Majors uses in his shop. "Now, I do everything for myself." But his clients also enjoy his single-color bright red or bright purple layered outfits, which he buys across the street at the trendy surplus store Camp Beverly Hills or at Theodore's on Rodeo Drive or at the newly opened Fiorrucci.
Eber says he practically cannot recall a time when he didn't love to play with hair. At 12, he was primping and fixing the hair of his sister and mother: "It came naturally," he says. After the initial shock, his parents reluctantly conceded that their son, then 15, might be a hairdresser after all. So when the French family textile business was moved to Berlin, Eber signed on as an apprentice there.
At 18 he was a full-fledged stylist and after a stint in the army, he began work in Paris.
At Dessange's he used to work on the hairstyles for the Paris couture collections. "Maybe that is why I am so successful here," says Eber. "I don't have one particular hairstyle that I give to everyone."
He is philosophical about Farrah Fawcett-Majors and her famous hair. "Why change it? Well, everyone has to change," he begins, brushing his hand across his chin. "Her hair was, for my taste, a little too... well, messy, but not free. I didn't have the impression that she could shake her head all the time and have her hair stay the same way." He shakes his head to show what he means. "Her hair was messy, but not messy enough. Not free."
Eber says proudly, without smiling, "I really made it messy." He cut it constantly until now it is much straighter, without layers and with a smaller effect.
He kept the bangs. "When you have beautiful eyes, bangs are great. It's like a picture with a frame," Eber says, touching his own bangs. Recently he has cut the bottom of her now-straight hair in tiny layers "to give it some form."
It helps, Eber says, that she has good hair and a lot of natural wave -- "Just the right wave, like a person gets when you give somebody a bodywave" -- so she can let her hair dry naturally.
Most of the time Farrah Fawcett-Majors does her own hair -- "She's very talented, she can do it very well herself," says Eber. But when she's in town, she's usually in the salon once a week, often chatting breezily with the other clients.
Eber streaks her hair, using one color but in varying degrees, so that it looks like three colors in her hair. And as the mood strikes her, she'll change the color from darker, as it was for her first movie, "Somebody Killed Her Husband," to very blond for "Sunburn" and now blonder still for "Saturn Three," filming in London. "She just felt blond again."
A lot of customers come to see Eber with a photo of Farrah in hand. "When I think it is right for them, I do it, when it's not, I don't," says Eber. It would never work, say, on a lady with a round face, or an older woman, he says. Long hair pulls the face down.
It does work on Chastity -- Cher's daughter, one of Farrah's big fans, and another of Eber's clients.
Eber was called upon to cut Cher's hair back to little more than an inch because it had been permanented so frequently that it was dried out. Suddenly Cher hated it, says Eber. "It didn't feel like hair anymore," Cher told him. So at her insistence, he started to cut and cut and cut. Finally she said, "Cut it all off."
"I was afraid to cut it so short because I know what it's like for a woman to have hair so short. She likes it for a month, and after that she starts hating it," says Eber. "But I know Cher and if I hadn't cut it, she would have had someone else do it."
Cher's not mad for it now -- as Eber predicted -- but wears it "greased back" occasionally, as she will for one day of her week-long appearance beginning Feb. 26 as co-host on the Mike Douglas show. The rest of the time she wears wigs of various lengths.
At Linterman's, one of an international chain of 18 beauty salons (Eber shares the ownership of this one) he charges $40 to $45 for a haircut and blow-dry and does between 10 and 15 a day. (At Dessauge's in Paris he had more than 30 clients daily, with two assistants.) On location he's paid from $200 to $700, even $1,000. "I'm very flexible," he says. For "house calls" he goes alone: "It makes people feel more confident when I go by myself."
It's a lot of money, he says, but it doesn't make him a millionaire -- "compared to the people I'm surrounded with, it's nothing."
Just the same, he drives a Cadillac and is saving up for a Rolls-Royce. He lives in an apartment, and has postponed moving to a house until he can afford servants.
"I spend a lot of money and people think I'm much richer than I am. They always see the gold rings and bracelets, the new clothes [a favorite recent purchase was a black silk shirt and black leather pants for evening wear] "and I let them think what they want but it is far from true."
Even with a client list which includes some of the swellest heads in town, there are others he'd still like to tackle. Rosalynn Carter is on the top of the list and he get very serious when he discusses her hair. "She's too stiff, too done," says Eber. "She looks too fancy. She can still look like a president's wife and look a little better."
And then there is Elizabeth Taylor. "I would change her completely," Eber says. "I know she doesn't care, but she needs help. She needs to look more natural rather than [have] this bubble that is just one length and teased. She doesn't need to have a facelift -- just a natural lift with a haircut."