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May 16, 2007

Chief Chops Locks For Charity


Rick Murphy is going to give Yul Brenner, named the most famous bald man of the century by baldrus.com, a run for his money in the chrome dome department come today.

Since November, The Independent's Editor-in-Chief's normally close-cropped head of hair has been transformed into a glorious cascade of curls that rivals soul singer Lionel Richie's famous mane and provided the office's resident mouse with the perfect nest. But the locks are not long for this world.

They will be shorn today at Special Effects Hair Salon in East Hampton. The wild swings in hair length are not signs of a midlife crisis on Murphy's part, but rather a deep-rooted charitable desire. The haircut comes after Murphy raised $5000 for RSVP, a local organization run by Hampton Bays residents Frank and Linda Mosca. RSVP rescues dogs that are scheduled to be euthanized by local shelters.

Murphy has known the Moscas for years and as a fellow dog lover admired the couple's charitable work. "I realized how much he and his wife were doing for the dogs and my wife Karen and I decided to help out as best we could," he said.

Knowing that RSVP was in desperate need of funds and inspired by singer Britney Spears' bizarre buzz cut ("'Britney Shears' as I like to call her," he joked), Murphy vowed to shave his head if he could raise $5000 for the dog lovers' charity. In order to make the change more dramatic, he hasn't darkened the door of a barbershop since last November.

And the $5000 goal has been met – in surprising ways. Rather than large donations from local businesses as Murphy had expected, "most of the money came in $10 and $15 donations from dog lovers," he said. "It really touched me."

And there's no turning away from the scissors now. "Now that I raised the money, I've been shamed into doing it," Murphy said.

Karen Fredericks, Murphy's wife, described her reaction to the impending cut as a mixture of "shock, horror and delight."

"I'm so proud of what he's done, and all for the animals," she said, adding, "He's such a funny guy that you wouldn't expect such deep wells of tenderness."

Frank Mosca praised Murphy's fund-raising plan as "creative and inventive," adding, "He's a great guy." But the RSVP founder couldn't resist taking a cut at Murphy's expense: "He's finally seen the light and is entering a monastery," he joked.

Reaction in The Indy office to the hair-owing event was mixed. Indy Publisher Jim Mackin said he admired Murphy's devotion to charity, but admitted the editor's changing hair styles have been hard on office morale. "I've asked him to wear a hat to meetings these past few months so as to avoid frightening people not used to the finger-in-the-socket look he's been cultivating," he explained.

Though changes are in store, Mackin doesn't have high hopes for a new look: "I'm pretty sure I'm going ask him to keep the hat on for a few more months," he said. "I don't want Jerry to get jealous," referring to The Indy's reigning bald man supreme, Jerry Della Femina.

Being a mere hairsbreadth from the seat of power has put Kitty Merrill, News Editor, on edge. "I've been offering to cut his hair with a blunt and rusty instrument for weeks on end," she said. "And if I were to slip a little, it would put me in the big chair."

The office has banded together to smooth Murphy's transition into life amongst the follicle-ly challenged: all combs, hair gels and mirrors have been removed and a strict ban on singing anything from The King and I or the use of the words "Mr. Clean" or "Rogaine" has been put in place.

Murphy has never been bald, even at birth, said his mother, the former Eleanor Forcucci, who was born and raised in Sag Harbor. "We almost shaved it when he had head lice in the fifth grade," she recalled. "He was only 23 then."

"I won't know what to do when my hair is gone," Murphy said. "Do you still use shampoo? Do you put Old Spice on it? I just hope they don't find '666' carved in my scalp."

But one person looking forward to Murphy's hairlessness with no small amount of glee is Indy's Web Director Rosemarie Ferrari. Her luscious locks had long been considered the office's finest curls before Murphy made a strong play for the title, and she expressed relief at the impending cut. "Once again I'll reign supreme as the person with the best curls in the office," she said. "Frankly, I've always doubted the naturalness of his curls."

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