Wednesday, September 27, 2023 Sep 27, 2023
93° F Dallas, TX


By Aimee Larrabee |

Michael Koler

The Hair Stylist

When you meet Michael Koler, you’ll probably see a man with neatly slicked-back hair, a carefully trimmed beard and, depending on the occasion, conservative clothing. But oddly enough, you aren’t that shocked when he turns around and exposes a tight braid that stretches more than halfway down his back. It somehow seems to fit the picture-not of Koler, but of his alter ego, Michael Motorcycle: philosopher, entrepreneur, resident guru and hair stylist extraordinaire.

Koler/Motorcycle is the man behind Michael’s Motorcycle, a beauty salon on Travis Street that caters to an interesting conglomeration of men and women-everyone from middle-aged wives of prominent civic leaders to the civic leaders themselves to the young, beautiful jet set (heavy on the latter). The common link among Michael’s customers is that they’ve been climbing the stairs of the small renovated building on Travis Street since 1981 to patronize the antithesis of the typical beauty salon.

The name of the salon is, of course, the most obvious hint that Michael’s Motorcycle isn’t your average beauty shop. But the name makes a lot of sense -if you happen to think like Michael Motorcycle. Several years ago, Koler was working for Aki, a well-known local hair stylist, when he decided to sell his motorcycle. Koler says that at the same time, a man appeared at his door wanting to buy the motorcycle. So Koler sold it. With cash from the sale in his pocket, he stumbled upon a building that was being renovated, then looked around the site and decided to apply the proceeds from the sale of his bike toward the founding of his own salon. In a way, the new salon became what was once Michael’s motorcycle and. . . well, you get the picture.

Koler says that he chose the offbeat name for another reason: to distinguish his shop from the dozens of Highland Park salons. But it’s not just the name that’s different; the service and the surroundings are different, too. The scent of incense-not penning lotion or hairspray-fills the air. When you enter, a trim, bald man wearing small, round glasses offers you herbal tea, juice or perhaps champagne. The hard-wood floors, natural lighting and full mirrors remind you of a ballet studio.

After an acupressure shampoo and perhaps a manicure or massage (a private room with a masseuse is available), it’s time to enter Koler’s room.

After a scalp reading (Koler says he can discover a person’s character traits by studying the hairline) and a brief discussion about the customer’s desired hairstyle, Koler will take a sip of water (purified, of course), close his eyes, count to 10, en-vision the new hairstyle-and voilà, a new do.

If all this seems kind of hokey, well, it is hokey. And profitable. Koler now has eight employees, including one of Dallas’ most highly regarded makeup artists and hair color-ists. Merely getting an appointment with Koler can take weeks.

Koler says he hopes to expand his business someday, by opening salons in Los Angeles, New York, London and Paris and spending his time traveling between locations. Ideally, no single location would be home -he says he’d keep a futon at each salon so he could sleep there and just go with the flow. Like. . .wow, man.

Queen Randall

The College President

Take a stroll through down-town’s El Centro Community College, and you’ll probably be surprised. A year or so ago, it looked a lot like the same institution that was built during the Sixties-same decor, same curriculum, same type of students. But today, the 18-year-old college seems new, thanks mostly to El Centra’s president, Queen F. Randall.

Randall, who has a doctorate in education, became president of El Centro after a series of moves through two other community college districts. When she arrived in Dallas in August 1981, she had served as assistant to the chancellor of a community college district in Missouri; as the president of the nation’s first “college without walls” (programs are routed through existing facilities) in the same city; and as professor of mathematics, department chairperson and dean at a college in California. Randall says she was attracted to El Centra because the school provided her with another challenge: updating one of the country’s first community colleges-a community college that is part of one of the most highly regarded systems in the country.

When she arrived at El Cen-tro, Randall says she found stable programs and a capable staff, but she believed that the college needed a “new direction for the Eighties.” She instigated building renovations and helped obtain state-of-the-art computer systems and other equipment. One of her highest priorities was to strengthen the college’s relationship with the business community. Shortly after her arrival, she applied for a number of federal grants that funded research on the needs of the community. Out of those surveys has emerged a newly shaped curriculum geared specifically to the business community. Special non-credit courses in communications, health care and insurance have been added, as well as special courses for middle management, on-site courses, lectures, laboratories and workshops on campus. Staff members are also available to work with corporations in creating individual programs for them.

Randall is also working to upgrade El Centra’s ability to help people who need short-term training. Last year, El Centra took over a skill center from the DISD, and with the help of the federal Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) has set up about 10 programs for automotive and clerical training.

Although she’s been at El Centro for more than two years, today Randall strolls around campus and attends department meetings as though she were still trying to get to know the place. And she is, in a way, because the campus, she says, is always changing-and if Randall has her way, the change will continue. “When I first came here,” she says, “I spoke a lot about excellence. I guess I just keep coming back to that.”

Tom Denolf

The Theater Director

“The problem with kids these days is that they watch too much television.” Sound like a crotchety old grandfather? Well, Tom Denolf, the man who spoke those words, is hardly old or crotchety. A very active 24-year-old, Denolf is making a career out of offering area children an alternative to television. With the help of two friends, Denolf has created Theater SMU’s Children’s Program, a program that brings live theater performances to elementary school students.

Last September, Denolf, who graduated from SMU’s school of theater, teamed up with Steven Cowles and David Cabral, and they began to shape the program. A handful of theater programs for elementary students had been available in the city, but the cost of getting students to theaters often discouraged administrators from participating.

The group’s first step was to obtain funding. Most school districts in the area were interested in the program, but since it was September, most of the endowments had already been allocated. So the three men returned to their alma mater, and with the help of SMU’s theater department chairman, received a one-year endowment.

After reading more than 50 children’s plays, the trio found Where to Turelu, an adventure about three siblings who set out on a tricycle to meet a con-iving salesman. Denolf says that the play contains a variety of lessons and is staged perfectly for a traveling show. The cast consists of six SMU theater students.

Denolf, who is directing the play, says the production should be an excellent experience for everyone concerned. The theater students will have the opportunity to perform before what Denolf believes is the most open, honest audience around: children.