“There! That’s the one!” A celebrated famous movie director and producer is shouting at his television. He’s also famously morbidly obese. He’s watching NBC’s Today Show, when up comes a commercial for a diet nourishment drink, one of scores of Ultra-Slim-Fast-type products of the day.
But he’s never been interested in dieting or health. He is one of the 20th century’s great story tellers and film makers. He’s been looking for someone. Someone special. And now he’s captivated by the lithe and pretty blond pitching the diet drink. She has the beauty, the poise, the elegance, and the charm to play the characters in some films he’s been itching to make. She’s the one.
You’re never too old to change.
I’ve been biting my fingernails since my earliest memories. My parents tried every way possible to help me stop. It’s such a disgusting habit in several ways. If nothing else, it’s atrocious hygiene; and people will – unconsciously or not – often judge your character poorly for it. And it looks terrible.
But I couldn’t stop. As Sluggo said to Nancy when asked about it: “But they’re so convenient. They’re right at my fingertips!”
I worked for a few decades with a fellow who gnawed his nails constantly. Way worse than even me. Every digit’s nail bitten right down to the quick. Catch him thinking about work stuff (another aerospace engineer) and his saliva covered fingers were jammed into his mouth.
“Well”, I could tell myself, “at least I’m not that bad.”
But, I did even disgust myself.
I tried many times to quit. Eventually, about 10 years ago, I started making great improvement and finally was able to cut back to almost never.
But a new problem arose. When nails grow long, they crack and split. Then what? Back to biting? I never replaced nail biting with a proper new habit, which – one would naturally think – would be to regularly trim my nails. So, even though I’ve mostly quit biting, my nails still look like a mess, as I will nervously pick at the splits and cracks, or maybe trim them with my teeth, or resort to a deep gash with clippers to remove the nick.
Nails, Nails, everywhere
During the 2007-2009 economic recession, I found myself looking at what was going on in brick-and-mortar businesses. Who’s closing? Who’s staying open? What businesses are resilient? I’ve been doing this ever since.
One curious thing that I noticed is that our urban and suburban areas are absolutely loaded with Nail Salons. They are everywhere. Even now, I can’t help but scan strip malls and shopping centers to find the almost-always-present *NAILS* marquee signs. Usually in neon.
One reason, I suppose, is that people (mostly ladies) like to have very nice looking nails. I appreciate that. It’s a fairly inexpensive splurge (for most) that allows them to feel good about themselves, a bit feminine, and attractive. Any more reasons?
Go inside a nail salon and … wait!!, I don’t go in those. Maybe I should. Probably could use a good manicure occasionally (but no fake nails for me).
Anyhow …. look inside and you’ll very likely observe that the professional manicurists are Asian ladies. And if they are Asian, they are almost certainly Vietnamese ladies. [Yes, I’ve peered in the windows, and peeked through the doors to verify this. I usually don’t get pleasant looks in return.]
Nathalie Kay Hedren was born in 1930, in New Ulm, Minnesota, the second child (and daughter) to first generation immigrants. New Ulm, probably with the closest hospital, is about 10 miles from her first hometown, the tiny hamlet of Lafayette, lying in the fertile south-central breadbasket of Minnesota. There, in Lafayette, her Swedish father ran a small general store. She was small and precocious, so her father called her “Tippi”, Swedish for “little girl”, or “sweetheart.” Tippi: The nickname stuck for life.
When Tippi was four, the family moved to Minneapolis, probably because of the impact of the great recession on her father’s farmer-customers. Genetically blessed with good looks, naturally blonde hair and bright hazel eyes, Tippi started appearing in local fashion shows and advertisements in the Twin City area when just a lass. When she was 16 her parents sought a gentler climate, as her father’s health was slipping. Upper Midwest winters will do that. They settled in San Diego, where she finished high school.
She then began studying art, at Pasadena City College, and also developed an interest in modeling. Soon, her good-looks, grace and aplomb would take her to New York. And on to a very successful decade in modeling. Over those years her face (and lean figure) graced the covers of Life, The Saturday Evening Post, McCall’s, Glamour and other magazines.
A failed marriage and one child later (she is actress Melanie Griffith’s mother), Tippi was back in southern California, making commercials for various brands, including Sego, a meal-replacement drink of only 225 calories. Thin was “in”, even then.
Alfred Hitchcock’s wife and film-making partner, Imelda Staunton, noticed her first. A brilliant blond, on a diet drink commercial. She knew “Hitch” was looking for another blond to cast in a movie he was hoping to make. And she knew he had an eye for beauties, especially blonds, and putting them in terrifying situations; as in Eva Marie Saint (North by Northwest) and Janet Leigh (Psycho).
An interview was set up. That paved the way to screenings. Hedren was no actress. But she worked very hard on her lines, which were generally from earlier Hitchcock hits. She impressed him with her determination; plus she had grace and class. Hitchcock intended to make her a star. He’d be her coach.
Hedren starred in the 1963 thriller “The Birds”, generally regarded as a top Hitchcock classic. Hedren went on to make one more movie with Hitchcock: the not-so-popular “Marnie” (1964, with Sean Connery) which was met with mixed critical reviews. Then they had a falling out (lots there, maybe watch the movie “The Girl”, a Hedren/Hitchcock biopic). 
She then floated in-and-out of acting the next few decades, mostly spot appearances on several TV series. She appeared with her daughter in an ’80s Hitchcock TV episode. Nothing so significant as “The Birds.” But she had developed new interests along the way.
The late 1960s found her in Africa for filming. There she became enchanted by exotic cats and she grew concerned about their exploitation and mistreatment. Inspired to act, in the early 1970s, Hedren began what would become a mission for the rest of her life: working with wildlife charities to assist in the rescue and protection of such beautiful animals. Land was bought north of Los Angeles to establish the Shambala Preserve as a wild feline sanctuary. Later, she established the Roar Foundation to further support this charitable activity. In fact, she lives at Shambala now, aged 90, with her beloved big cats.
For the United States, the Vietnam war ended in 1973, when the treaty known as the Paris Peace Accord was signed in January. Although the US was out, the war continued. Treaty or not, North Vietnam bore down on South Vietnam. The South’s capital, Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), fell in April, 1975.
Fearing for the fate of so many who had been loyal to South Vietnam and the US, the US government evacuated over 130,000 refugees and brought them to the United States. They were put in camps around the country: to be fed, clothed, and trained for employment and integration into the US society and economy.
Hedren was moved to act. She visited the first non-military camp for refugees, Hope Village, near Weimar, CA, along I-80 in the foothills about 40 miles outside Sacramento. This was a humanitarian visit to encourage them and find a way to help. She came with typists and seamstresses, hoping to find careers the refugee women could connect with. 
Now 45, Hedren was still a strikingly beautiful blond. At 5’-5”, she was tall to them. Blond and tall: that’s not all they noticed about her. They noticed her beautiful nails. They were long, perfectly shaped, … and painted. They had never seen anything like that. They all wanted nails like that. How do you do that? They wanted to become manicurists!
Trying to find employment: why not work with what you love? Hedren flew her personal manicurist to Camp Hope, to help train them. Then she recruited a local beauty school to work with them. In that first class, they trained a group of about 20 Vietnamese women. She guaranteed them all jobs, when they graduated, mostly in southern California. And she flew them to LA too. And they continued to train more refugees who wanted to become manicurists. Not pure coincidence that LA county has the highest population and concentration of Vietnamese of any place in the world, outside Vietnam. [Many other refugees from nearby Camp Pendleton eventually settled there, too].
And from there the nail phenomenon exploded. In the US, the nail salon industry grosses over $8 billion in sales annually. There are about 55,000 nail salons in the US – you can see them in almost any strip mall and shopping center – and about half of them are owned and operated by Asians. And over 95% of those are Vietnamese. Of these Vietnamese professional manicurists, most are only one or two degrees of separation from Tippi Hendren and her nail salon school for Vietnamese refugees. 
Until next time, be well,
Joe Girard © 2021
-  the veracity of Hedren’s sexual harassment claims against Hitchcock are much disputed, including by actors and stage hands who worked with them on “The Birds” and “Marnie.” I tend to concur with the skeptics. At 5’7″ and 300 pounds, one can hardly imagine that the rotund 61-year old Hitchcock thought he had any romantic chance with the 5’5″ 110-pound 30-year old blond bombshell. But, stranger things have happened (ahem: Harvey Weinstein). Plus, she returned to work with him, briefly, in the ’70s on a TV show.
-  Hope Village is now the home of Weimar Institute, a health oriented college.
-  US Nail Salon sales, staff and salary stats here