Many veterans seek out the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Hospital in hopes of feeling better. Thanks to Anthony Bravo Esparza (R) — known to his friends as “Dreamer” — those veterans often end up looking better, too.
Since the 1970s, Dreamer, a veteran himself, has been giving free haircuts to vets.
He can be found in a red, white, and blue painted trailer parked at the VA, where he averages about 200 haircuts a month.
Last year, Paul Crowley (L) showed up looking for a trim. Today, he’s Dreamer’s assistant.
At StoryCorps, the pair sat down to speak about their friendship.
Click here for the transcript.
Anthony Bravo Esparza (ABE): Yeah, you'd been drinkin'.
PC: I was totally out of hope. And part of that was the way I looked. I hadn't shaved in a couple of weeks; my hair was filthy and scraggly. But, getting the haircut made me feel, for lack of a better word, normal--which I hadn't in a long, long time.
ABE: When I first ran into you, I saw a guy that could at some point, rise above it. And I just felt that, I can help ya. Abraham Lincoln once said, "Never underestimate the power of a haircut." Of course, he never said that, but he should've said it.
PC: I try to help you out.
PC: And, I mean, I'm not cutting hair, but when I'm there at the trailer, I've watched a guy that just came right off the streets, not doing too well, and the only thing he has to pay you with is an orange.
ABE: Whatever you got, we'll make a deal. I got rubber band balls; I've got pebbles, rocks, washers…
PC: I've never seen you turn anybody away. It's amazing to me to see the guys that come in in the beginning and then after they've been there a little while they're going out to look for work. And they walk in with a suit and the haircut you had given them the day before and you can't even recognize them compared to the day they walked in there. You impressed me from the very start, and I respect what you have imparted to me. It's what has made me into a better person because of my interaction with you.
ABE: Thank you, buddy. We're going to move forward that's why we comb our hair backwards.
PC: That's right.