It may be hard to imagine Rod Blagojevich looking anything but boyish in his trademark dark, helmet hair. But his longtime barber said Wednesday that the former Illinois governor has been dying his hair for years and now that he is in prison — where dyes are banned — it will soon turn gray.
Peter Vodovoz, Blagojevich's Chicago-area barber for two decades, told The Associated Press the 55-year-old has dyed his hair himself, but with no dye available at his lockup, the last color masking his gray will fade within three months.
"His hair will turn gray, like Jay Leno's," Vodovoz said, speaking a week after Blagojevich entered a federal prison outside Denver to serve his sentence on corruption charges.
Hair dyes are strictly banned in the Federal Correctional Institution Englewood because inmates could use them to disguise their appearance in attempted escapes, prison spokesman John Sell said.
Vodovoz, who last cut Blagojevich's hair a month ago, offered his prison-bound client advice he may have difficulty taking: He told him not to fret about his hair behind bars because no cameras will be around to document his changed appearance.
"'There's no media, so don't worry,' I told him," he said. "Who's going to care?"
The two-term governor was closely identified with and parodied for his thick helmet of hair. A comedian on Saturday Night Live once joked that when FBI agents came to arrest him in 2008, Blagojevich asked for five minutes to pack his things — and for eight hours to comb his hair.
In reality, so obsessive was he about ensuring every strand of hair was in place, Blagojevich famously had a security official carry around a hair brush everywhere he went when he was governor.
And some in the disgraced politician's dwindling fan base remained awed by his hair. After he gave a parting farewell statement outside his house a day before walking through the prison gates, one woman in a crowd of well-wishers reached out to caress his hair.
But it's not all bad hair news for Blagojevich.
Prison rules do allow him to wear it at whatever length and in whatever style he wants — though barbers available to him in prison likely won't take the same care as Vodovoz.
The barber, a 48-year-old who emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1990, spoke admiringly of Blagojevich's hair as the thickest of man in his 50s he's ever seen and said he'll miss cutting it. Then he added that he thought Blagojevich's 14-year sentence was far too harsh.
"In the Soviet Union, you have to kill someone to get a sentence like that," Vodovoz said in a thick Russian accent. "Blagojevich should have been given community service or something. Now, his life is destroyed. His children's' life is destroyed."