The Man Who Sold Neil Armstrong’s Hair
The first man to walk on the moon used to come into Marx’s Barber Shop in Lebanon about every month for a trim. That stopped in the strangest way posible.
When Neil Armstrong learned that owner Marx Sizemore picked up some of the former astronaut’s hair from the floor of his shop and sold it for $3,000 to a Connecticut collector he was furious. “I didn’t deny it or anything,” said Sizemore, who had recently bought the shop.
“I told him I did it.” Armstrong commanded NASA’s Apollo 11 mission in 1969, becoming the first person on the moon. He left the space program in 1971 to teach aeronautical engineering at the University of Cincinnati. He still lived in suburban Cincinnati as an extremely private person who seldom appeared at public functions and never granted interviews.
“He asked me to pursue trying to get the hair back,” Sizemore said. “I called the person I sold it to, the world’s largest celebrity hair collector, John Reznikoff, and told him. He was not interested in giving it back. I called Neil back and told him that. Then I got this letter from his lawyer.”
The letter threatens legal action if Sizemore does not return the hair or contribute his $3,000 profit to a charity of Armstrong’s choosing. The letter contends that the sale violates an Ohio law designed to protect the rights of famous people. It also asks Sizemore to pay Armstrong’s legal expenses.
“I’m basically stuck between a rock and a hard place,” said Sizemore, 36, who spent the $3,000 mostly on bills. “I told the lawyer I’m not going to pay him. The ball’s in his court. If he doesn’t act on it, I’m not going to act on it. If it dies out, I’ll be happy.”
Sizemore, unable to get the hair back from Reznikoff, had agreed instead to donate his profits to charity.
UPDATE: In the interest of accuracy, there are corrections and updates to the above story.
According to John Reznikoff he did not have an “agent” approach Armstrong’s barber on his behalf. The agent mentioned in the article (identified separately to be Todd Mueller of Todd Mueller Autographs) worked independently of Reznikoff until an offer was made to for the purchase of the hair sample.
Since the article was published, Reznikoff and Mueller both say they have offered to make a donation to a charity per Armstrong’s request of barber Sizemore. Of his role, Todd Mueller says his company did not profit from the transaction and “merely retained several strands of Mr. Armstrong’s hair”. Sources: From the Associated Press via The Akron Beacon Journal:
Footnote: Neil Armstrong died on August 25, in Cincinnati, Ohio, following complications resulting from these cardiovascular procedures. After his death, Armstrong was described, in a statement released by the White House, as “among the greatest of American heroes — not just of his time, but of all time,” that he carried the aspirations of the United States’ citizens and that Armstrong had delivered “a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten.
Michael Collins: The Neil Armstrong I Knew
Before manned space flights began, officials pondered what background they should seek in the crew for this bizarre new venture: Danger lover? Bullfighter? Mountain climber? Should they search for people who were self-aware and calm in extreme conditions? A deep-sea diver, perhaps? Finally, they settled on – and President Dwight Eisenhower supported – experimental test pilots, people who already had guided complex new flying machines. Thus the original seven astronauts were selected in 1959.
In 1962, I was a budding test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base in California – our Mecca – and much interested in joining NASA’s second crew selection. Pondering the competition, I wrote to my father April 19 that “Neil Armstrong will be on the list . . . because he has by far the best background.” Neil, a former Navy fighter pilot, was a combat veteran employed by NASA at Edwards. He was testing new Air Force and Navy aircraft, as well as rocket ships. His flights in the rocket-powered X-15 alone put him a stratosphere above the rest of us.
It was no surprise that Neil advanced to make the first docking in space, as commander of Gemini 8, and then moved to Apollo, where Buzz Aldrin and I joined his crew. By then he had proven his technical competence many times over, but I didn’t really know the man behind the reputation.
Neil, (who was memorialized Thursday at the National Cathedral in Washington,) always seemed serious and businesslike, but you could make him laugh if you tried. It was real laughter, because Neil did not pretend. He was genuine through and through. He signaled displeasure with his silence, never an outburst. He had high standards and stuck to them.
The best way to get Neil talking was to start with airplanes. He knew more about planes than anyone I’ve ever met, real ones and children’s models. We both were model builders from an early age, and we always wanted them to go higher and faster. My solution? Another few turns on the rubber band. Neil’s? Build a wind tunnel.
Wind tunnels are serious, high-tech business but one that Neil turned into fun. Before putting power to the tunnel he built in the basement, Neil invited his grandmother to stand in front of it. When he threw the switch, the wind blew her housecoat off.
Neil was smart as hell – and an encyclopedia of knowledge of things far beyond air and space. He trotted out tidbits on occasion. After the flight of Apollo 11, we went on a world tour. One evening we found ourselves in Yugoslavia at a formal dinner hosted by Marshal Tito and his wife, Madame Broz. The small talk got smaller and smaller, with madame doing a fine imitation of an Easter Island monolith: frozen, staring straight ahead. Neil bent over and started talking quietly to her, and when I strained to listen, I was astounded that he was talking about Nikola Tesla, the early electric genius and competitor of Thomas Edison. Had Neil lost his mind? No, Madame Broz lit up like a thousand-watt bulb, and from then on we were all buddies, including even the taciturn Tito. Later I asked Neil about his choice of topic. “Oh,” he replied offhandedly, “she is related to Tesla.”
Once, while visiting a museum in Italy, Neil drew a crowd – not because he was recognized as that man on the moon but because, standing with friends before a case of Leonardo da Vinci’s model machines, he explained their intricacies in such detail that passersby assumed he was an English-speaking tour director and stopped to listen.
After the publicity of the Apollo flights died down, Neil’s quiet demeanor was criticized. Some faulted his reticence, wanting an advocate to get out and sell the space program. But by holding to his lifelong yardsticks of honesty, humility and grace, Neil did more than any salesman or huckster. Some called him a recluse, but I think they were wrong. He supported numerous causes, especially those sponsored by the National Academy of Engineering and the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. When other Apollo flights were honored, Neil usually showed up, making the point that Apollo 11 had depended on their accomplishments. In recent years, he visited Iraq and Afghanistan. He even led cheers at a football game at his beloved alma mater, Purdue University. If this is a recluse, our nation needs more of them – people who don’t seek the limelight but can live competently in its glare, people who are the antithesis of some of today’s empty-headed celebrities.
Neil was the consummate decision-maker, which is what you look for in a mission commander. He made decisions slowly, pondering their outcome if time allowed, but acting decisively when necessary. For his lunar landing he picked his spot carefully, bypassing boulder fields. When he finally set down, he had less than a minute of fuel remaining. Good decisions all the way.
Age treated Neil well. As more accolades came his way, he took them in stride. He never showed a trace of arrogance, and he had plenty to be arrogant about. It was refreshing to see him as modest as ever. When my wife, Pat, and I had lunch with Neil and his wife, Carol, this spring, he seemed relaxed, cheerful, contented, happy. I like to remember him that way. He deserved all the good things that came his way. He was the best, and I will miss him terribly.
Source: The writer, a retired Air Force major general, was the command module pilot of Apollo 11. He remained in lunar orbit while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed in the Sea of Tranquility in July 1969. original Story . Washington Post
- Mourners recall Neil Armstrong’s ‘life well-lived and service nobly rendered’ (cnn.com)
- Why it’s so hard to find a photo of Neil Armstrong on the moon (apple.copydesk.org)