As the Barbershop movies made clear, often the best place for black folks to get in on some free-flowing gossip, boisterous political debate and, occasionally, a good haircut is the community barbershop. In the Phoenix area, however, it's hard enough to find a stylist who knows the difference between a bald fade and a finger wave, let alone one who can officiate over a no-holds-barred throwdown on the D.C. sniper and Rosa Parks' ass.
Fortunately, a real-life Calvin's can be found on the Valley's west side, at Another Level. Operating out of the same modest storefront since early 1997, Another Level boasts a staff of 13 barbers and hair stylists whose outrageous banter, says owner Brandon McFadden, could give Cedric and Eve a run for their money. "There's a lot of characters here," says McFadden. "Sometimes I feel like I'm the only normal one in the shop!" Sports and R&B luminaries ranging from Penny Hardaway to Glenn Jones have been known to drop in for a taper, but mostly it's the same friendly crowd of gossiping gals and ware-hawking guys, some of whom will hang out for three hours or more without even getting a cut. "There's a lot of sitting around," says McFadden. "People just like the atmosphere."