Sy Sperling, the Hair Club for Men founder who famously reminded viewers that he wasn’t just the company’s president but “also a client,” has died, SouthFloridaReporter.com reports. His spokeswoman Terri Lynn confirmed to the Associated Press that Sperling died Wednesday in Boca Raton, Fla. following a lengthy illness. He was 78.
Though he retired in 2000 after selling the Hair Club for Men to a private equity firm for $45 million, Sperling was a memorable television presence throughout the 1990s thanks to his commercials. The ads used Sperling’s own before-and-after transformation to tout Hair Club salons specializing in a hair weaving technique designed to restore hair.
“I’m not only the Hair Club president, but I’m also a client,” Sperling, who started losing his hair at age 26, would say as he held up a photo revealing his previously balding pate.
Sperling opened his first salon in 1969, relaunching it as the Hair Club for Men seven years later.
“I got in the business because of my own personal needs,” he told the Wall Street Journal in 2011. “I had thinning hair and it affected my self-esteem. I tried [a natural hair-restoration process called weaving] because I didn't want to do a toupee. If you're dating and going to be having special moments, how do you explain, I got to take my hair off now? Weaving was a non-surgical alternative. You were able to go to sleep, wake up and style your hair. It worked very well for me. The results were so positive and so life-changing that I knew I could sell [weaving] to other men who had thinning hair.”
Sperling, who is survived by his wife Susan and two children, Shari and Andrew, also reflected on his brush with TV fame.
“Even to this day people stop me in the street,” he told WSJ. “People perceive me as the guy next door. My speech is imperfect. My whole TV success had to do with the fact that it was believable and that I was able to afford good TV time by going on late at night.”
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