Barber Sells Astronaut’s Hair for $3,000

Neil Armstrong’s barber sold a bag of the astronaut’s hair for $3000. Armstrong is less than pleased.

Barber sells astronaut’s hair for $3,000 (Cincinnati Enquirer)

The first man to walk on the moon has some sharp words for his barber. About once a month, Neil Armstrong got his hair cut at Marx’s barbershop in Lebanon, Ohio. “Nothing special. Just a regular businessman’s haircut,” said owner Marx Sizemore, 36, of West Chester, Ohio. And then Armstrong discovered that Sizemore had sold a tiny plastic baggie of his hair for $3,000. “He doesn’t come in here anymore,” Sizemore said.

Armstrong’s lawyer, Ross Wales of Cincinnati, contacted Sizemore by letter, warning that legal action will be taken unless Sizemore agrees to return the hair or contribute $3,000 to the charity of Armstrong’s choice. Sizemore has also been asked to pay Armstrong’s legal fees. “I don’t have $3,000 to donate to a charity. And I told his lawyer I’m not going to pay for lawyer fees for someone I didn’t hire,” Sizemore said.

[…]

Armstrong, who is 74, resigned from NASA in 1971. He later became an aeronautical engineering professor at the University of Cincinnati. He lives in a Cincinnati suburb and zealously protects his privacy.

Sizemore was approached in May 2004 by an agent for John Reznikoff, who has the largest collection of hair from historical figures, according to the Guinness Book of Records. The collection from more than 100 people includes locks from Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein, Napoleon and Elvis Presley. “First I told (the agent) I wasn’t interested, but he kept at it,” said Sizemore, who said he spent the money long ago on bills. “It’s just picking up the trash on my floor after a haircut, anyway.”

Sizemore said the astronaut confronted him and asked him to get the hair back. “The (agent) felt he got a good deal for the money,” Sizemore said. “He didn’t want to return the hair.”

It’s rather difficult to argue that Armstrong’s privacy has been infriged in any meaningful way here. Unless he had some sort of contractual obligation to the contrary, one would think ownership to the clipped hair would transfer to the barber, anyway. To the extent Armstrong has a claim, it would presumably be against Reznikoff, who is the one marketing Armstrong’s name.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Brian J. says:

    Sure, it’s easy to say that now, but after the buyer clones an army of Neil Armstrongs from the DNA in hair, what will you say?

  2. markus says:

    So you wouldn’t mind if someone picked through your trash then?
    I don’t know the current law on the matter and I’m unsure on what it should be, but I believe throwing something away in the good faith that it will be anonymized and destroyed is different from relinquishing all claims to the matter in question.
    FWIW, anonymity is the main argument in ethical considerations of research into e.g. alcoholism, that uses bottles from the trashcan instead of questionaires. Though even here things can get tricky, as when street level data are published and used by employers or insurance companies.
    On top of which, there’s the legal angle: anyone obtaining NA’s hair might use it to frame him in a crime (I don’t think the Mob would be unable or unwilling on principle to do so) or, get a DNA test and find someone young enough who matches that pattern (sure, it’s below 1 in a million IIRC, but that still leaves quite a bunch of potential bastards).
    Basically, I think it comes down to reconsidering what privacy means in the information age.

  3. JACK ARMY says:

    Brian J said: “…after the buyer clones an army of Neil Armstrongs…”

    Maybe we have just discovered the answer to our recruiting problems! The Star Wars option of an Army of Neil Armstrongs. Imagine the terrorists chagrin when they realize that our Army is growing faster than they can kill it – and it’s being replaced by the same guy!

  4. Steve Verdon says:

    So you wouldn’t mind if someone picked through your trash then?

    It is my understanding that once you put your trash on the curb it is fair game.

    I don’t know the current law on the matter and I’m unsure on what it should be, but I believe throwing something away in the good faith that it will be anonymized and destroyed is different from relinquishing all claims to the matter in question.

    Sooo…we should arrest/tax/penalize/or something all homeless people who pick through the trash…have I got that right?

    On top of which, there’s the legal angle: anyone obtaining NA’s hair might use it to frame him in a crime (I don’t think the Mob would be unable or unwilling on principle to do so) or, get a DNA test and find someone young enough who matches that pattern (sure, it’s below 1 in a million IIRC, but that still leaves quite a bunch of potential bastards).

    Actually I think this cuts in favor of Armstrong. With the story, lawyer, and what not we could make a case in precisely the opposite direction. Armstrong wasn’t there and somebody used his hair that he left on the floor of a barbershop. Also, can a forensics expert tell if a hair has been cut, broken, etc.?

    Basically, I think it comes down to reconsidering what privacy means in the information age.

    Frankly I don’t think you’ve made even a weak case here. Sure privacy in the information age is important, but so far you’re biggest concern is about things you threw out. If you want them destroyed…destroy them yourself (shredder, fireplace, etc.). Saying that people have control over something even after relenquising ownership sounds like nightmare.

    “Say…isn’t that my old toothbrush? Give it back, you might use it to implicate me in a crime!”

  5. Four Clones and Seven Years Ago . . .

    The premise of Jurassic Park was that dinosaur DNA, preserved in amber, could be used to clone dinosaurs. As I remember, most considered that to be a stretch allowed for science fiction novels, but not much to be worried…