Brighton Beach barber Jack Skolnick had plenty of interesting and colorful customers since he began cutting hair professionally in 1964.
For several years, beginning in 1967, Skolnick regularly cut the hair of legendary songwriter and singer Neil Sedaka, a longtime Brighton Beach resident who was by then 28 and already a well-known musical commodity, having recorded, “Oh! Carol,” which reached #9 on the U.S. charts, eight years earlier.
“He was a very, very nice guy, very pleasant to talk to,” recalled Skolnick, who added that his own wife and his daughters regularly sat on nearby Brighton Beach during the summer months with Sedaka’s wife, Leba Diamond, and the Sedakas’ young kids.
Although he never cut the hair of another neighborhood musical icon, Neil Diamond, who graduated from nearby Abraham Lincoln High School, as did Sedaka and lived only a scissor’s throw from his soon-to-be-closed barbershop, Skolnick regularly gave haircuts to Diamond’s dad, Kieve Diamond, who ran a haberdashery on Brighton Beach Ave.
Skolnick used to snip the locks he hair of Hollywood director Darren Aronofsky, who grew up in nearby Manhattan Beach. “I gave him his first haircut,” Skolnick noted with a chuckle, adding that he still regularly cuts the hair of Aronofsky’s dad, Abe.
In the 1960s, Skolnick cut the hair of legendary defense attorney and “hanging judge” Samuel Leibowitz, who later sat on the Brooklyn Supreme Court as a judge. Leibowitz was one of the country’s most famous defense lawyers, known for his successful post-conviction defense of the so-called Scottsboro Boys, an infamous case in which nine black boys from Alabama were wrongly convicted of raping two white women; he also successfully defended gangster Al Capone on at least one occasion. After he was elevated to the bench, Leibowitz became known for his unrepentant support of the death penalty, which he meted out with unusual relish to murders convicted before him.
Another customer was Sid Loberfeld, an early radio announcer for the Brooklyn Dodgers who went on to become a lawyer, baseball player rep and close friend of the New York Mets baseball organization.
He also cut the hair of Hy Cohen, former owner of the famous Brighton Beach Baths, a magnificent private breach club located parallel to the boardwalk on one side and across the street from Skolnick’s current barbershop on the other side. The defunct beach club is now a luxury coop.