Workers cleaning out Westwood barbershop Kami’s Hairstyling will have to take down old blue and yellow football jerseys, Bruin pennants and hundreds of framed photographs of regulars dating back to the shop’s founding in the ’70s.
Kamran “Kami” Parsee died Aug. 11. The barbershop he owned and ran single-handedly, Kami’s Hairstyling, was a Westwood institution for almost 50 years.
An outdoor staircase and a small sign marked the entrance to the barbershop, located on Gayley Avenue just east of the intersection with Kinross Avenue.
Entering Kami’s Hairstyling, one’s eye was drawn immediately to the hundreds of picture frames on the barbershop walls, said Sam Hirsch, a UCLA law student who has gotten his hair cut at Kami’s for the past six years.
Each picture represented a customer. Some of Parsee’s profiles included famous basketball players such as Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and former and present school chancellors, including Gene Block. Most, though, were regular UCLA students, professors, administrators and athletes, Hirsch said.
“If you think about what makes a community, really, it’s a collection of people, places, stories,” said Andrew Thomas, the executive director of the Westwood Village Improvement Association. “(Parsee) was part of the Westwood community for decades and was beloved by so many people who just knew him, loved him. … People from all over Westwood knew him and went to him to have his hair cut.”
Parsee was friendly, warm and loud, regulars said. He had a raucous, politically incorrect sense of humor, telling jokes and stories Hirsch said would sometimes make him laugh so hard Parsee had to stop and wait for him to finish.
“He was the kind of guy that I would love to be friends with,” Hirsch said.
He had strong opinions on topics ranging from politics to UCLA sports and Westwood, said David Hirsch, Sam Hirsch’s father, an alumni and regular at Kami’s himself.
And he was well-informed about Westwood, Thomas said.
“He had a tremendous sense of history,” Thomas said. “He knew so much about Westwood and the players, who owned what business or what property. He was a real treasure trove of information.”
Parsee remembered details of the lives of all of his customers, Sam Hirsch said.
After Sam Hirsch, who is interested in plants, noticed Parsee’s shop was full of houseplants and flowering vines, the two would often discuss gardening during his haircuts, Sam Hirsch said. Eventually Parsee brought him a cutting of a dragonfruit, a rare plant which only blooms for eight hours once a year, from home.
At Kami’s Hairstyling’s peak in the ’90s, the barbershop saw a large part of the UCLA community come through its door, said David Hirsch. As regulars left school, took jobs in Los Angeles and began to grow older, they would still return to Kami’s to get their hair cut and reconnect with the campus, David Hirsch said.
“They’re all UCLA people and they’re all in every industry and walk of life and neighborhood. I mean, it’s just amazing,” David Hirsch said. “And when my kids started going to law school, (Parsee) would tell me about all these lawyers he knows, or studio executives.
Parsee was a lifelong fan of UCLA, said UCLA baseball coach John Savage, a regular customer at Kami’s for over 15 years.
UCLA athletics memorabilia hung all over the barbershop, Savage said. Parsee had medals and trophies. Large mounted television screens played UCLA sports games. And Parsee himself always wore a school hat or jersey, David Hirsch said.
“It really is a shrine,” Savage said. “I hope they don’t tear down. … It can tell a story.”
Every few months, David Hirsch would drive an hour to get his hair cut at Kami’s, he said. He and Sam Hirsch would go out to lunch afterward.
Sitting in the shop, David Hirsch said he would join in on conversations about the chances of UCLA sports teams or gossip about the campus and administration. He felt as if he were back at the school he had left 30 years ago, he said.
“(And with the loss of Parsee) you lose that, because I don’t need to come to Westwood for a haircut, I don’t need to come to Westwood for a sub sandwich,” David Hirsch said. “I can get one half a mile from my house. … And I’m not saying everybody cares about that. But there are plenty of people who do.”