Arts & Culture » Culture

Remember the mane


Recently dubbed “Billy bin Laden” due to his bushy, bearded and braided appearance, longtime area music man/theater techspert/band promoter Billy Guzman decided to part ways with his almost 6-foot-long locks at Rene’s Hair Shoppe in Royal Oak. It had been 30 years since he last sat in a barber’s chair.

Guzman, who at 5 foot 10 is just a hair shorter than his mane, is a lifelong Royal Oak resident who has worked for popular venues for as long as he’d grown his hair. He’s done stage work for many major venues and has worked as an independent band promoter.

His hair became his trademark. Guzman jokes, “Lots of people have said, ‘Who’s going to hire you looking like that?’ I tell them, ‘Anyone who wants the job done right, that’s who.’”

Friends utilized his mane to spot Guzman in a crowd, and as a handle to avoid getting separated at crowded events.

Guzman says he’s met some famous people who have offered coif commentary. Muhammad Ali saw Guzman and reportedly quipped, “I thought I saw everything.” Songstress Shania Twain purportedly proclaimed, “That’s the longest hair I’ve ever seen on a guy. The only other person with hair as long was Crystal Gayle.”

Going through with the buzz proved to be a real tress test. “I was so nervous, I couldn’t even eat,” says Guzman. “And when I can’t eat, that’s something.” The eve and the day of the shearing involved some imbibement — Guzman guzzled shots of Crown Royal to keep himself steady.

Rene Schovon, who cut and styled Guzman’s pate and barbered his beard into a goatee, has run her Royal Oak shop for 27 years. “I think his life will just get better from here,” says Schovon.

Gazing reflectively at Rene’s hair-strewn floor, Guzman observes, “There’s a lot of positive energy lying on that floor.”

What to do with the 16-pound (that’s the weight of a college shot put) attachment? Friend Sally O’Mally discussed alternatives with Guzman, all surrounding charity.

“The hair can’t be donated to a company that makes wigs for cancer patients, because of the condition the hair is in. A girl braided it for Billy back in 1989 and he’s never taken it out,” says O’Mally. “But I did talk to Billy about putting the braid on eBay to see if it might bring a charitable donation.”

Tracy Minnis is an editorial intern at Metro Times. E-mail


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.