NEW YORK, NOV. 21 -- Joseph Provenzano, known to his customers as "Joe P.," has been barber to Wall Street's finest for 29 years. He doesn't know Michael Milken, but he said the former junk bond financier has touched his life profoundly.

"He ruined my business," Provenzano said today as he snipped away at a banker's chestnut locks. "I used to have a lot of customers. Now they're all gone. I blame it on him."

With layoffs and bankruptcies poisoning Wall Street these days, no one -- from barbers to bond buyers and even a Salvation Army bell ringer -- was in any mood to feel sympathy for a man with a $700 million nest egg, even if he has to spend 10 years in federal prison. Many, like Provenzano, faulted Milken for helping catapult the nation into the savings and loan debacle and what could become the worst of financial hard times since the Great Depression.

But as word of federal District Court Judge Kimba Wood's decision swept through Wall Street, even people who said they were no fans of Milken expressed shock at the unexpectedly lengthy sentence that Wood imposed today in a dramatic courtroom proceeding. Some confided that, although they have no compassion for the entrepreneur from Encino, Calif., they felt that in some ways he is being made a scapegoat at a time of changing ethical standards within the financial community.

"He was just taking advantage of the business," said the 35-year-old Manhattan banker in Provenzano's barber chair, who refused to give his name. "Who is more guilty, him or the management of the companies that handled the LBOs? Nobody is going after the head of RJR."

As the Wall Street bustle wound down for the Thanksgiving holiday, some people lingered in the streets, watching the filming of a movie behind the New York Stock Exchange and practically gloating about the news of Wood's punishment of Milken.

"No matter how charming and nice he seems to be or how repentant, it doesn't matter," said Yvonne Vlittner, 49, an administrative assistant at Bankers Trust Co. "He was greedy. He could be a Robin Hood but I still feel he committed a crime."

"I'd say he deserves it," said John Mullaney, 52, a lawyer at Conway Farrell. "He stole a lot of money. They were talking about fining this guy, but ... it wouldn't have meant anything to him. Going to prison, he'll feel it."

There were only a handful of voices who spoke up for Milken. One was Robert Lifton, co-chairman of the investment firm Marcade Group Inc. and a friend and former client of Milken.

"I was appalled, frankly," at the sentence, Lifton said in a telephone interview. "Criminals involved in drugs and other stuff don't even get this much sometimes."

But most seemed to feel that if anything, Milken may have gotten off too lightly.

Ten years, said one 64-year-old legal secretary from Queens, is "not enough -- that bastard. He's brought the decline of the whole country, him and {Ivan} Boesky. They should take away all of the money they've got."

Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer at First Albany Corp., said the case was about a man with a brilliant mind who may have overstepped the mark.

"Every period of financial market speculation carries with it traces of an individual who crosses an ill-defined line of propriety," said Johnson. "I'm still not sure whether Mike Milken crossed that line."

And while Milken's sentencing was seen as the end of a heady decade, he is not the only financial icon crumbling with the 1990s.

Stephen Bollenbach, chief financial officer for developer Donald Trump -- the self-proclaimed "king of cash" who is beset by financial woes himself -- offered an epitaph for the fallen king of credit.

"It's terrible. It sounds like the final stroke in an unjust prosecution," said Bollenbach.

"I don't know if he did anything wrong. But I do know he's being made an example of the national guilt that was brought on by the mountain of debt accumulated in the 1980s."

"I think they should lynch him," said Luis Batson, 36, a nursing student from Brooklyn, as he stood in a Salvation Army uniform on a windy Wall Street corner ringing a bell. "These people always get away with the white-collar crimes. Ten years should be the minimum, but when he serves, they should put him in with the regular prison population."

Asked whether he took into account Milken's record of philanthropy and charity, Batson gestured toward his Salvation Army collection can. "I'm helping charities also," he said, "but I'm not putting my hand in the pot." $RAY; Invalid basket name FI/WIRE