March 15, 2012 -- Prior to making the long trip today from his Illinois mansion to a Colorado prison where he began serving out a 14 year sentence, disgraced former governor Rod Blagojevich sought the advice of a long-trusted aid -- his barber.
"I taught him how to do the do haircut. Hopefully, he'll be okay in prison. Otherwise, I don't know what will happen to him" said Peter Vodovoz, the self-named Mr. Barber of Chicago, who has cut Blago's hair for 21 years.
Though impeached and later convicted of attempting to sell the Senate seat vacated by President Obama and then lying to the FBI about it, Blagojevich's coif generated as much comment as his crimes.
The Elvis inspired haircut has engendered so much attention, it has its own Twitter feed and has been the focus of David Letterman jokes.
That haircut, a feathery jet-black pompadour, once described by the Washington Post as a "menacing mop," was the Samson-like source of Blago's outsized confidence. Former aides said he would fly into a rage if he was unable to find his preferred Paul Mitchell hair brush, which he called the "football," a reference to the "nuclear football" or the bomb codes that are to always be within a hair's reach of the president.
Now Blago, who begins serving his stretch today, will have to figure out how to maintain his signature do in a place where blow dryers are contraband and his choice of brushes consist of a 25 cent "comb palm brush," a $1.90 "comb/brush set," or a $2.85 "brush, rubber base" sold at the prison commissary.
"Prison will be a real adjustment," said Tim Allport, who worked 25 years as a corrections officer and drug counselor at FCI Englewood, the minimum security prison in Littleton, Colo., where Blagojevich will serve time.
"Prison is an equalizing experience. There are people there from all walks of life. It doesn't matter that he used to be a governor, or was on a reality show. Once he's there he's an inmate doing time like everyone else," Allport said.
Blago won't have Vodovoz anymore to shape his trademark quaff. Instead, a fellow inmate, assigned a job in the prison barbershop, will get the honor.
Vodovoz says Blago doesn't use any hair products other than dye.
"He dyes his hair himself. He does it at home. You put in the dye and wait five minutes. After five minutes, he looks like he can go to a Halloween party. It's too black," he said.
According the Federal Bureau of Prisons commissary list, Blago's choice of hair products will be limited to a choice of shampoo – Pert, Suave, V05 or Head & Shoulders.
If Blago planned to blow dry his hair in his cell, he needs to think again, said Allport, the former guard now running to be a state representative in Colorado.
"Blow dryers are contraband. There's motors in them that inmate can use to make tattoos. But maybe he could get a job in the barbershop," he said.
Blagojevich will also have to trade-in tailor made suits for a khaki prison uniform, and move from a mansion in tony North Side of Chicago suburbs to sharing a cell in a dorm-style section of the Colorado prison.
Blagojevich, who in the days following federal allegations against him held press conferences in which he impersonated Elvis and quoted Kipling, held court for the last time outside his home before leaving for the airport.
"I'm leaving with a heavy heart, a clear conscience and I have high, high hopes for the future," Blagojevich said. "Saying goodbye is the hardest thing I've ever had to do."