If you’ve seen Adaptation, Scream 4, or Training Day, you’re familiar with hairstylist Larry Waggoner’s handiwork. Since landing his first film gig working on the set of 1987’s RoboCop, Waggoner has steadily built his reputation as a go-to stylist for A-list celebrities like Billy Crystal, Nicolas Cage, and Jack Nicholson, among others. The Dallas native maintains his Hollywood home, but he recently took an advisory role at HoneyComb Salon & Color Lab on Fort Worth’s West Side. His son, Brandon Waggoner, works at the business.
“One of the most important things a salon owner can do is to educate his staff,” the senior Waggoner said in a recent phone interview. “That’s what we’re trying to do. [Brandon] wants to train his stylists to be current on advanced haircutting techniques.”
Waggoner’s early years were bumpy as he grew up in East Dallas. His mother did her best to raise him and his two siblings on her own, but he left home around the age of 15, landing a job at a nearby grocery store. “I was a kid surviving on the street,” he recalled.
He was around 18, he said, when he started beauty school. Waggoner was enticed by the prospect of better earnings and a friend’s stories about cute girls in class.
By 1986, while working at the hair salon chain Toni & Guy, Waggoner’s schedule was booked three weeks in advance. That’s when he received a call from Nancy Allen’s representative. RoboCop was being filmed in Dallas, and Allen, the movie’s lead actress, had heard about Waggoner through a local modeling agency and asked him to be her personal stylist. The young hairdresser resisted, not wanting to upset his regulars. The agent came back the next day with an offer of $5,000. Waggoner rescheduled his other customers.
The connections led Waggoner to Los Angeles, but it took him two years to acquire the union membership required to break into the business. The 27 years since have been spent working on set for films and TV shows and personal-stylist stints. The decision on how a movie character’s hair will look is a collaboration among the actor, director, costumer designer, makeup department, and hairstylist, Waggoner said. Once filming begins, Waggoner remains close by, ready to make adjustments so the character’s appearance is consistent from scene to scene. The hours are long, Waggoner said, and the work is repetitive. He prefers prepping for films, when he oversees a creative team that hand-stitches wigs and other props.
Even after more than two decades, Waggoner said Hollywood culture feels cold and impersonal. While he maintains a good relationship with Crystal, Waggoner said Nicolas Cage is another story. “I worked with [him] for seven years. I traveled around the world with him on his own jet. At the time, I thought we were very close friends. But there comes a time where that stuff cuts off.”
The cold shoulders are a frequent reminder of what he misses about his childhood home. “My heart’s in Texas, [even though] my home is in Los Angeles,” he said. “There’s a chance I might even move back there once I retire.”
For novice hairdressers, Waggoner advised, “I think that producers want somebody who is going to be on top of things because there’s so much money at stake. If you’re doing a good job, people notice it. And you will work in this town.”
HoneyComb Salon & Color Lab, 6040 Camp Bowie Blvd, Ste 3105A, FW. 817-737-4256.