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Ron Levin, Sought-After New York Hair Colorist, Dies at 81

  • January 22, 2021

Ronald Stanley Levin was born on Oct. 9, 1939, in Philadelphia. His father, Herman, was a police officer. His mother, Madeline (Simmons) Levin, was a homemaker. He grew up in Philadelphia and, as a boy, spent summers with his family in Atlantic City, N.J., where his mother, wearing fur, sat on the boardwalk watching him play on the beach.

When Mr. Levin was 16, he realized he was gay, and he started visiting Rittenhouse Square to meet men at night. One evening, his uncle spotted him and told his parents. Angered, Mr. Levin’s father sent him for conversion therapy. Apparently, as Mr. Levin recounted, the shrink was also gay, and he recommended that Mr. Levin consider leaving home.

As Mr. Levin experienced tension with his family, he started to wait tables at what he recalled as a “gay restaurant” in Atlantic City, and he gradually realized something about his most successful customers: “The only gay people in those days that made any money,” he said, “were hairdressers and decorators.” Spurred by this revelation, he dropped out of high school and enrolled at a cosmetology academy. In 1956, he left home and headed to New York.

Mr. Levin’s relationship with his father, who died when he was in his late 20s (and who he sometimes claimed had been a lawyer), remained strained. His mother paid for cosmetology school and supported him through his early career.

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