With the remodeling of the M.F. Charles block on Main Street and Mr. Glenn’s Barber Shop destined to become a restaurant, barber Glenn Stubbs will be leaving Reading after working here in various shops for 25 years, 16 of them in his current location at 622R Main St. With him will go a veritable museum of pop culture artifacts that he has collected over the years.
For photographers, barber shops are familiar subjects for showing the drift of American culture, whether of space-age décor of shiny upscale salons to more down-home shops where the mere mention of a manicure would probably generate a reaction telling you that you’re in the wrong place.
When I arrived in Reading a couple of years ago, I was wandering around downtown looking for a barber to replace my previous one in Dayton, Ohio, whose sense of decoration was unusual to say the least. I stumbled across Mr. Glenn’s and knew immediately from the idiosyncratic art collection that this was my place.
The line between fine art and pop art was crossed a generation ago when Roy Liechtenstein and James Rosenquist produced gigantic single frames of comic strips, Jasper Johns produced some nicely painted bronze beer cans, and Andy Warhol created notable prints not only of tomato soup cans but also portraits of celebrities of the entertainment world. These all found their way into the best art museums around the world.
Since the price of these works escalated to way beyond that of the whole Charles block, Glenn settled for a more reasonably priced collection of pop culture objects. Lining the walls are shelves full of action figures representing the super heroes of Marvel Comics. Led by Spider-Man, the whole gang of Hulk, Thor, Iron Man and the X-Men are here-in glorious color. Their DC rivals, Superman and Batman, aren’t neglected either. Betty Boop represents Glenn’s softer side.
Moving away from fantasy to real-life figures, Glenn’s collection contains various artifacts representing Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Humphrey Bogart, including pendulum clocks, illuminated photos, and parodies such as Gottfried Helnwein’s famous poster “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” in which this group’s faces are superimposed on Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks.”
Because of his profession, Glenn also has a colorful collection of a barber’s paraphernalia. Lodged amongst the comic art are various lotions, manly smells, brushes and mugs, much of it little used in today’s tonsorial fashions.
Automobile-related items, posters of the city’s professional sports championships, and colorful tools of the trade round out the decorations.
Although Reading’s collection of real pop art is rapidly moving out, stop by before August 31 and say goodbye to Glenn. Get a haircut, too. Your next chance will be after September 6 when you can find him at 416 Main St. in Stoneham.