Well-coiffed retirement for community icon

By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS

Tucumcari’s Beverly Currell said she’s never had a bad hair day. Working as a hairdresser for nearly half a century may have had something to do with it.

Now the owner of Vanity Villa, a regular icon on South Second Street, is set to retire – after a long braid of contributions to the hairdressing field, her clients and the community.

Not only did Currell serve as President of the New Mexico Hairdressers Association, as an instructor teasing students with new techniques, as a member of the New Mexico Coiffure Guild – yes, there is such a thing – but she also served the community when she took stints as Quay County Chairman and on the City of Tucumcari’s Mayor’s task force in the 1970s. Oh, yes, she also helped nab a sexual predator.

Her stylish contributions, of course, were not set in a day.
Currell started beauty school in 1961, at the age of 16 and before she even graduated high school.

“My mother always wanted me to be a hairdresser,” Currell said, adding her mother’s plan was for her to have a practical vocation while she worked her way through college. Added Currell, “I never wanted to go to college.”
Currell said the college thing sort of frizzed out, and she ended up working at salons in Tucumcari and Portales for about six years after finishing high school.

“I love the profession in every way,” Currell said, adding she amassed enough money and clients to start her own shop, the Vanity Villa, in 1968.

This best-tressed lady said one of the best parts of her profession is the creativity involved. Some of her earlier stints included a Tucumcari High School show in 1963 with the theme of “An Evening in Outer Space.”

“We had wild costumes and wild hairstyles,” Currell said, adding she had the pleasure of designing them both.
She also organized and hosted many gigs for organizations such as the Girl Scouts, one with a historical theme. “We showed different decades with special costumes and hairstyles,” she said. Her shows included work on the
Miss Tucumcari and Miss New Mexico pageants.

Although she said there is no hairstyle that she hates, when prodded enough she did admit one could be pretty lengthy and difficult to produce.

“The beehive,” she said, “can take about two hours to shampoo and set, depending on length and thickness. It takes lots of processing and lots of backcombing.”

In addition to the creativity, Currell said she enjoys working for a good cause. Those opportunities came her way when she served as a regular lobbyist. She said they bid the government to listen for a number of hair-raising causes, trying to convince them act on behalf of the industry.

“One was a wig law,” Currell said, “to protect the consumer. Another cause was to stop them from quadrupling our licensing fees in the mid-1970s.”

Currell said the state ended up raising the fees, but nowhere near four times the amount as they had initially planned.

Her stint in crime fighting came about eight years ago, she said, when a man was making obscene phone calls to every beauty salon in town. Currell said she was able to convince the man to come to her salon where they had the police waiting.

“We set a trap,” Currell said. “Once they found the phone records at the motel where he was staying, they were able to see all the calls he made.”

Rather than pressing charges in Tucumcari, Currell said she agreed with law enforcement it was better to ship him back to his home in Indiana where he was wanted for violation of his parole.

When asked what she’ll miss most upon retirement, as she goes on to catch up with her painting, her sewing and her study of genealogy, Currell did not hesitate a wisp.

“The clients,” she said. “They start as clients but become good friends.”

She said she will also miss the staunch camaraderie with the other hairdressers in town, adding they are not in competition but in support of each other.

In fact, Tonya Rigdon of Tonya’s Hair Resort is set to throw a reception sometime after Oct. 15 in honor of Currell’s retirement.

“I started doing hair in ’78,” Rigdon said, “and she’s always been there. She’s been like an icon and we want to honor her.” Rigdon said she will alert friends, clients and submit a notice to the newspaper regarding the date and time of Currell’s reception.

“Her client base will have to be spread out now and that will help us,” Rigdon said when asked of the impact of Currell’s retirement, adding, “but we hate to be helped that way.”

Putting away her clipping shears comes not by choice but by necessity, Currell said, as she has had Multiple Sclerosis for about 15 to 20 years, only diagnosed six years ago.

“In the last three months it’s gotten really bad,” Currell said. “My clients have been extremely good with my slowness. I got the clumsies,” she said.

Although Currell said she has thrown her many trophies away – “I figured no one would want them” – she said she will neither forget the honors she received nor the joy her career and community has brought her.