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Pampering and manicuring the men of Sixth Street

By J.K. Dineen
Of The Examiner Staff
Published on Monday, October 27, 2003

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It was "men's day" at The Rose Hotel down on Sixth Street and John Duke, fresh from a massage, was explaining why a man would get a manicure.
"Fingernails are a neglected part of personal hygiene," he said. "One of many."

"Men with money have diamond rings and stuff to show off," Duke said, a scraggly man who described himself as "anti-barber" who resides in a room at the Pacific Bay Inn.

Duke, who had a guitar slung around his neck, was reminded that the discussion was not about "diamonds rings and stuff" but about Sixth Street -- SRO's with bathrooms down the hall, rats in the hallways, Schlitz in a bag and oxygen tanks on wheels.

For years, The Rose Hotel, a beacon of defiant community spirit within The City's toughest blocks, has been pampering ladies with its annual women's day, an afternoon of free makeovers, massages and manicures.

This year hotel manager Denise Jackson decided it was time for men to get in on the action. She found some masseuses and enlisted volunteer barbers and beauticians from Miss Marty's Hair Academy Esthetics Institute and the Bay View Hunters Point Barber College.

She also got staffers from the Prostrate Cancer Research to hand out information on prostrate screening and folks from the Gene Friend/Soma Rec Center to talk about the weight room and basketball courts.

While the day started a little slow, by noon The Rose was packed with men waiting for haircuts and shaves.

"Everyone is getting groomed up," said Henry Flood, who was getting a trim. "I'm just waiting for the strippers, pizza and beer," he joked.

Alas, it was not that sort of a party, but in the parking lot behind the hotel, Stephen Nelson, caterer and 17-year Rose tenant, was working the grill. By 1:15, he had already served 375 hot dogs. He expected to exhaust the entire supply of 1200 franks, along with pounds of chili.

"We got all the condiments, got juices, got the healthy stuff, and quite naturally we got water," he said.

The hot dog line snaked into Minna Alley, and the men held little red raffle tickets as Jackson called out numbers. She was raffling off new clothing and a man named Johnny Ray was talking with friends about how he was going to get his hair done. Someone suggested he get a "Louisville fade."

"I'm going to get one of them Tupac Shakur cuts," he said.

Nappy Chin, skid row's resident photographer and tireless volunteer, said he had got his hair "twisted" by a woman named Lynette from Miss Marty's.

"This here is a big step for me," he said. "I'm a straight old-time guy. I'm not Jeri curled and stuff."

Nappy did not recognize his beautician immediately, but as he started talking to her, he realized she was the daughter of the late Al Jenkins, an old "comrade" who raised her in a Sixth Street hotel. At the time, Nappy was taking care of an infant in the Pontiac Hotel while was the baby's mother was in jail. He and Jenkins were close -- two men raising babies by themselves in eight-by-10 rooms.

"The woman who twisted me up, I held her in my arms when she was an infant," said Nappy Chin. "It was just the most mind-blowing thing."

George Jurand, a program director at the Sheriff's Department, said he had come to men's day to talk about "today, yesterday, and tomorrow." He said most of the men at The Rose had passed through his outfit's custody at one time.

"It's always good to connect with them when there are on the outside to reinforce some of the messages they received when they were in our care," said Jurand.

Jackson and Rose case manager Randy Silva said they were shocked at how the men of Sixth Street took to the pampering of men's day. About 250 got some sort of treatment and many more just showed up for the food. As it turned out, they were more demanding than the ladies.

"With the guys we got more saying that wanted foot stuff, pedicures and foot massages," said Jackson.

The prospect of the men of Sixth Street taking their shoes off in the Rose Hotel was not something Jackson would consider.

"Oh no, we're not doing foot stuff here," she said.

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