When I heard the news that Judge Robert Bork had passed away, one of my first thoughts was about hair. I know that’s weird, but Judge Bork did have iconic hair. And on top of that, we shared a barber once.
George Pettinato of Charles Barber Shop on 18th and K in D.C. cut Bork’s hair during the senate confirmation hearings. He was gracious enough to share a few memories about his old friend and client.
“I think the man was completely misunderstood,” said Pettinato when asked about the media’s portrayal. “He’d of been a good justice.”
I asked about their conversations. “He knew all about the Redskins,” Pettinato recalled. “Almost like a scout — he was that knowledgeable.”
“His wife wanted the long hair, but she didn’t want the beard,” Pettinato remembered. ”He kept the beard for a long time…the beard was his trademark, I think, even though it’s kind of scraggly.”
He also had a good sense of humor. Pettinato recalled a time when Bork hadn’t been in the shop for a long time, and it turned out to be because his doctor had given him the wrong medicine — which caused a negative reaction. When Pettinato asked what Bork was going to do about, it, the judge replied: “When I get well, I’m going to sue the son of a bitch.’”
Bork was joking, but Pettinato recalls: “The shop was full of people. I thought, well that would hit the papers — but it didn’t.”
When asked how Bork dealt with losing his nomination fight, Pettinato said, “This shop’s been around here for over 100 years…and [one day] I jokingly said: ‘You know, judge, you sort of messed up the family routine. My father cut Justice Brandeis’ hair and Justice Sutherland. And then, my uncle cut Justice Holmes’ hair. And I’m sorry you didn’t make it, because I’d be in line with cutting a Supreme Court Justice’s hair.’”
“He said, ‘I’m sorry, but things happen’ — that’s the way he put it.”
“I think it kind of ate away at him,” Pettinato added.