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"Hair-sterical Gal" hairdo sculptures are made from discarded rollers and curlers.

Beauty Bubble Salon and Museum

Field review by the editors.

Joshua Tree, California

The Beauty Bubble is the vision of Jeff Hafler, and a rare example of a museum in which visitors can also get their hair styled. Jeff told us that when he was young he had wanted to become an archeologist but couldn't afford a university education, so instead graduated from the Ohio State School of Cosmetology.

Jeff Hafler, cosmetician-curator of the Beauty Bubble.
Jeff Hafler, cosmetician-curator of the Beauty Bubble.

"I liked history and old things," Jeff said, and he soon began collecting antique items from the beauty industry. His artifact #1 can be seen behind glass at the stuffed-full with treasure Beauty Bubble: a 1940s Le John metal hair dryer in well-worn turquoise blue. "That was the thrift store purchase that kicked off the whole obsession," he said.

Jeff, a self-described "big ham" and dispenser of bad beautician puns ("They call me 'America's Hair-storian'"), is good-natured host at the Beauty Bubble, where rooms are densely layered (yet impeccably arranged) with thousands of his cosme-culture artifacts and novelties. "This is not all my fault," he said, referring to the collection. "People keep giving me things. It's kind of beyond my control at this point."

Asked for an example, Jeff cited the Jerdon 357 Magnum that hangs behind his head at the cash register: a vintage blow dryer that resembles a sold gold handgun, complete with a holster. Jeff said that a woman visiting the salon -- a complete stranger -- simply gave it to him because she thought that it should be where people could appreciate it. "There's a lot of positive energy in here," Jeff said, "because all this was stuff that made people feel good."

"Bar"bershop Quartet of hand-painted tavern accessories and their antique razor microphones.

Electric Face Mask would be at home in a beauty shop of horrors.
Electric Face Mask would be at home in a beauty shop of horrors.

Two days a week the Beauty Bubble is just a museum, with Jeff as its greeter, guide, and souvenir cashier. The other five days it's a working salon-museum whose employees and customers have learned to accept wandering tourists as part of the decor. One benefit to this arrangement, Jeff said, is that the strict sanitary regulations which govern the salon also ensure that the museum's artifacts are kept spotlessly clean.

The collection ranges widely, from 200-year-old kerosene-heated curling irons to a "Mod Hair" Ken doll still in his display box. Items such as "Frownie's Face Plaster" and a "Wonder Wand Wiglet Holder" share space with an inflatable striped pole for the Barbershop Harmony Society and a thrift store painting of cosmetics millionaire Mary Kay Ash, who Jeff called "our guardian angel."

Peek-a-boo Marilyn outside the Beauty Bubble bathroom.
Peek-a-boo Marilyn outside the Beauty Bubble bathroom.

Posters from the films Shampoo and Grease hang on the walls along with a Photoshopped image of a bunny with pierced ears labeled, "Bad Hare Day."

One of the more dramatic artifacts on exhibit is a 1940s Duart permanent wave machine given to Jeff by the hairdresser of Hollywood femme fatale Veronica Lake, known for her shoulder-length Peek-a-Boo hairstyle. Jeff explained how the machine worked and why it was made obsolete by advances in post-World-War-II chemistry. "I'm full of all this weird knowledge," he said, adding that the machine, which, with its dangling clips and questionably wired cables resembles a cyberpunk jellyfish, was possibly his favorite relic in the collection, "and it really does look a bit like a torture device." We wondered if it was the most frightening thing in the Beauty Bubble, and Jeff said, no, that would probably be the Rejuvenique Electric Face Mask, a device studded with metal contact points that you'd strap to your face while juicing the power with the twist of a dial. "Linda Evans from Dynasty did the infomercial for it."

Ever cheerful, Jeff found that even this nightmarish gadget had a sunny side. "I wore it for Halloween one year with a giant Styrofoam blonde flip," he said. "I called myself a 'fembot.'"

Showroom dummy sweats in the vintage personal sauna.
Showroom dummy sweats in the vintage personal sauna.

One particularly unique exhibit at the Beauty Bubble is Jeff's "Hair-sterical Gal" hairdo sculptures, assembled from discarded curlers, rollers, rods, clips, combs, and barrettes, which he had laboriously sorted by color. "I had mountain of beauty waste," he recalled, "a ton of random plastic and metal things that would've ended up in a landfill or the ocean. My original thought was that I was going to do a mosaic on the wall of a woman with big hair, but I had a wig head and a hot glue gun and I thought, well, I could probably make a wig sculpture; that might be interesting." He began with his favorite, the bubble flip from the 1960s, and has continued with other hairstyles such as the perm, the mohawk, the beehive, and the pompadour. "The pink one, the afro, has my mother's sponge rope rollers from the 1970s."

Permanent wave machine resembles a cyberpunk jellyfish.
Permanent wave machine resembles a cyberpunk jellyfish.

Jeff told us that his dream, far from impossible in art-minded Joshua Tree, is to build the World's Largest Hair Dryer, a reinforced concrete dome that would replicate the pastel-colored helmet-shaped 1960s appliance. Then he would move the Beauty Bubble Salon and Museum inside of it. "If I had the funds, I would make that happen," Jeff said. "It would make this the ultimate roadside attraction. It would be fun!"

Also see: Leila's Hair Museum | Curtis Museum: House of Beauty Hair Mall

Beauty Bubble Salon and Museum

61855 29 Palms Hwy, Joshua Tree, CA
Downtown, on the south side of CA-62/29 Palms Hwy, just east of its stoplight intersection with Park Blvd.
M-Tu 10-5, W-Sa 10-6, Su 11-4. F-Sa museum only. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Free, or get a haircut!
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

World Famous Crochet MuseumWorld Famous Crochet Museum, Joshua Tree, CA - < 1 mi.
Big Josh: Cowboy Muffler ManBig Josh: Cowboy Muffler Man, Joshua Tree, CA - < 1 mi.
Murtle The TurtleMurtle The Turtle, Joshua Tree, CA - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Statue of Sonny Bono, Palm Springs, CA - 25 mi.

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