The Great Photo Album Adventure (Part 10B): John the Barber

(Continued from Monday, March 14.   Click here to see Part 1…)

When word got around that South Philadelphia nightclub musician John Valente, Sr. had a local barbershop,  visiting stars began dropping in.

16_03_17 1 John the Barber Valente DC_4068(John the Barber, Jr. reflected in a shop mirror below photos of his –
and his dad’s – famous customers.)


Soon John, Sr. and John, Jr.  (who joined his dad full-time after graduating from St. John Newmann High School in 1959)  began cutting the hair of South Philadelphia celebrities like singers Bobby Rydell and Al Martino;  comedians Guy Marks,  Al Fisher and Lou Marks….

 16_03_17 2 John the Barber Valente DC_4143      16_03_17 3 John the Barber Valente CM_0829(A trio of articles about the shop’s celebrity customers,  left.  That’s John, Sr. on the right with
Jerry Vale and Lou Marks,  Jimmy Durante,  and Bobby Rydell.)

...Phillies baseball stars Jack Baldschun,  Rick Wise and Johnny Callison;  Palumbo’s bandleader Carmen Dee and emcee Bob London…

16_03_17 4 John the Barber Valente CM_0936(That’s Palumbo’s bandleader Carmen Dee on top with his saxophone.  John, Jr. still cuts
his hair.  Bottom row:  Comedian Guy Marks with John, Sr.,  Perry Como,  and President Kennedy.  Customer Mike Mangione,  far right,  was a local bodyguard for Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.)

…and,  of course,  our very own South Philadelphia nightlife writer,  Art Tavani.


Out-of-town stars soon joined the list:  Drop-in customers included Tony Bennett,  Robert Goulet,  Joey Bishop,  Henny Youngman…

16_03_17 5 John the Barber Valente CM_0849(John, Sr. and wife Laura with Jimmy Durante,  top left,  and Joey Bishop,  top right.  Fisher
and Marks,  Bobby Rydell and Al Martino cavort with John Sr. at bottom center.
The Valente sign has been there since 1934.)

…Lorenzo Lamas,  Norman Brooks,  Sergio Franchi,  and the aforementioned Jimmy Durante and Jerry Vale.

Even the area’s top law enforcement officials got into the act…

16_03_17 6 John the Barber Valente CM_0842(Customers from top left:  Former Phila. deputy police commissioner Richard Zappelli,
Delaware River Port Authority police chief Vincent Borelli,  Philadelphia Police
Commissioner John Timoney,  and Daytona Beach chief Michael Chitwood, Jr.
Bottom left:  Jimmy Durante poses with bandleaders Carmen Dee,  left and Rocky Valentine –
a.k.a. Rocco Valente,  brother of John, Sr.)


John the Barber, Sr. retired at age 57,  following two coronaries.  He died on June 23,  1981.

Today, John the Barber, Jr. and Stacey DiDonato keep the shop packed from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with customers who have been going there all their lives.

16_03_17 7 John the Barber Valente CM_0939

John, Jr. once asked his father why he located across from Columbus Square Park  (now mainly an athletic field),  since the empty expanse meant so many less customers.

John, Sr. said he enjoyed looking out at trees and flowers.

“Besides,  I knew I was a great enough barber that they would come from all over for me.”

He certainly had it right.

16_03_17 8 John the Barber Valente DC_4199(When John, Sr. installed this lucky horseshoe above the barber shop door in 1934,
he accidentally placed it upside down,  but it hasn’t affected the shop’s luck.
That’s a photo of customer Frankie Belgiorno with fighter Rocky Graziano.)


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Click here to see more great 1960s photos from Art Tavani’s South Philadelphia photo album.

16_03_17 9 John the Barber Valente CM_0815(John the Barber cuts hair from 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.,  Tuesday
through Thursday.  Stacy is also there on Friday and on
Saturday mornings by appointment.)