HBO's latest cop show, "The Wire," ended production last year, leaving Wyatt Belton without much to do. A celebrated stylist and Richmond native, Belton styled the cast's hair and kept it in place, take after take, for five seasons. Now what?
Reality television, of course.
Belton, who operates the Main Street salon Belton's of Richmond, is producing a promo for a competitive hairstyling series he's pitching to cable networks. Fourteen stylists compete, one wins. After each elimination, the remaining stylists pull combs out of a knife block and whoever pulls the golden-tipped comb gets to confiscate one styling tool -- scissors, clippers! from an opponent.
"That'll create so much crucial hate," Belton says.
Belton watches the promo roll on a screen hanging in the sleek basement of Church Hill's In Your Ear recording studio. On the desk in front of him sits a candy dish, an oversized hourglass and a Japanese fighting fish swishing in its bowl. He's replacing a section of narration that he read himself with voiceover work from his friend, Brian Dyer, who did the Bojangles radio ads in the early 1990s.
"One gold comb," Dyer practices enunciating from the sound booth. "One. Gold. Comb. One gold tooth will give this pimp " The room dissolves in laughter.
Before "The Wire," Belton did hair for feature films such as "Hannibal" and "Radio." He once studied with a magician for two and a half months for the grand finale of a trade-show presentation. After the models walked, he paced to the end of the stage, sat under a hair-drying bonnet, pulled a sheet over his head and disappeared.
If everything works out and the reality hair show sticks, Andre Royo, who played Bubbles on "The Wire," a strung-out police informant with deranged hair and a heart of gold, has volunteered to step far out of character and host the pilot.
The reality show is just the beginning, Belton says. Next is the novel, then the stage play, then the screen play all to show the next generation of stylists the places hair can take you.
"It could be murder or a love story," Belton says, "but there will be hair in it."