Joseph Cirello never had a hit record. He never lip-synced on Bandstand. Yet to some people he was as well-known as his famous clients, which included Philadelphia stars Fabian, Bobby Rydell and Frankie Avalon.
You can add Frank Sinatra, James Dean, Elvis Presley and Humphrey Bogart to Cirello's client list, from his days in Hollywood when he was known as "Stylist to the Stars."
Cirello was born to cut hair, spending much of his youth in his uncle's barber shop, sweeping up hair, washing out mugs and learning the tricks of the trade. After he set up a shop of his own, he was determined to make his mark in the barbers' world. Practicing on a blind kid for 18 months, Cirello perfected a swept-back cut that he called "The Swing," after the popular music of the period.
In 1940, Cirello took his unusual cut to a competition at the Statler Hotel in New York City where he walked off with the "most unusual cut" title. Its popularity took off, though Philadelphia kids took to calling it the "duck's ass," which was shortened to a more G-rated DA.
Hollywood soon came calling and Cirello headed west with a 10-year contract to cut hair on movie sets. He stayed nearly 20 years, though, before returning to Philadelphia in 1960 and opening a shop at Fifth and Wharton streets.
Although his fellow barbers were slow to figure out the DA, Cirello always claimed it was simple: just cut out a "canal" down the back of the head, apply liberal amounts of Wildroot Cream Oil or Butch Wax to the hair and comb it over the top of the head and along the sides into the canal.
There were variations, like the high wave of a pompadour or the hanging curl of an "elephant trunk" across the middle of the forehead, but the DA was decidedly a Philadelphia creation. Cirello, who later moved his shop to Society Hill, died on Feb. 13, 1994, at age 79.
So who was the Bandstand regular from South Philadelphia who briefly recorded for Dot Records in 1960 and made acting appearances on a few TV shows, including Dr. Kildare that was mentioned in the last Bandstand Beat?
The answer is Tommy DeNoble, one of the early regulars on Bandstand from the Bob Horn era. DeNoble returned to perform on Bandstand in 1957 with his song Count Every Star. After his brief fling in Hollywood, DeNoble returned to Philadelphia where he played Sgt. Sacto on a kids show on WKBS-TV, Channel 48, in the 1960s. For 32 years he was a television engineer for WTAF, Channel 29. He died of sepsis on January 19, 2004, at age 64.
Illustration courtesy of Charlesfrederickworth