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[whitespace] Splitting Hairs

Cupertino--In the end, Cupertino Junior High School principal Andy Mortensen stopped a few hairs short of giving the people what they wanted, but he still held up his end of the bargain.

At the beginning of the school year, Mortensen challenged his 825 students to raise $100,000 for school activities by selling magazines.

If the kids could do it, Mortensen wagered, he would allow his thick patch of salt 'n' pepper hair to fall victim to a set of clippers. It was billed as, "The Mortensen Mohawk."

"I thought it was pretty safe," Mortensen said quite humbly of his hair. "Last year they raised $85,000."

The school gets to keep 40 percent of the funds for dances, a music program and after-school sports.

In the minutes leading to the buzz, which would take place in the center of school at lunchtime, Mortensen was overheard to be backsliding.

"I'm seeing rain out there," he said from his office. "I don't want anybody to get zapped out there."

And, "I heard there may be some delay with the hairdresser. We could postpone this, you know."

But the staff and the students had no mercy.

Liz Adams, assistant principal and principal plotter of the scheme, said with good nature, "This is a gigantic leap for him--he's always used to being in control."

Adams, who put the students over the top with a $30 purchase, currently owns the next-most-desired dome to be seen. "I want to see a GI Jane," Mortensen sniffed.

Rumor has it the students are demanding Adams go with a tri-colored dye job, said one administrator who preferred to remain anonymous.

When the hairdresser arrived with her tools, Mortensen was witnessed scurrying back to his office.

Julie Evarkiou, owner of Rapunzel Hair Salon in Saratoga, came prepared with clippers, snippers and razors. She also brought along 10 years of experience that included at least 200 buzz cuts and three mohawks, by her count.

"I want him to go bald," Evarkiou said. "But I don't think he's going to go all the way," she said, with a tinge of disappointment.

Mortensen was seen lobbying the hair stylist before the cut. "A modified buzz," he was heard pleading.

As he marched to the center of the asphalt, listening to the roars of the students, Mortensen took the chair in a sweatshirt that read, "The $100,000 Buzzz."

"Bald! Bald! Bald!" the students chanted. "All of it! All of it!" they demanded. One heckler had pity for her principal, shouting, "Keep the bangs."

"Before, it looked real funky," seventh grader Bella Zaghi said. "And now, he's getting a buzz cut?"

Anna Traina, also a seventh grader, took aim at her principal while he was in the chair. "It was bad enough before, and now it's going to look worse."

The event lasted 15 minutes.

When it was over, the crowd felt shortchanged by the absence of a bald head. But a whopping round of applause punctuated the moment.

"I don't give into peer pressure that easy," Mortensen said in a post-'do interview.

The words "George Clooney" were used by some to describe his new look.

"I think next year," Mortensen said, "I'm going to be a lot more expensive."
Justin Berton

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Web extra to the November 12-18, 1998 issue of Metro.

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