For a time in the 1970s, Tim Hawkins was barber to the nation’s stars.
Some days, actor Ricardo Montalban would get a trim in Hawkins’ barber chair at a hotel in San Francisco.
At other times, Hawkins cut the hair of author Truman Capote, actor Karl Malden and even President Gerald Ford.
Those are some of the big names that Jan Hawkins recites when describing her late husband’s half-century of work cutting hair in two states.
While the stars showed up during Hawkins’ three years of work in California, the Minneapolis native spent most of his career at salons and barber shops in the Twin Cities.
Hawkins, 75, of Plymouth, died Dec. 24 after being diagnosed last summer with cancer.
“He was just very skilled,” said Ron Schara, a Twin Cities television personality and journalist who first got a haircut from Hawkins in 1968. “And he was a great listener.”
Shortly after graduating from high school in Robbinsdale, Hawkins joined the Navy in 1959.
Family members say that once he was assigned to a ship, he was promptly given the keys to the vessel’s barber shop and a manual on how to cut hair.
The previous barber was already gone, and Hawkins had no experience. When the ship docked in the Dominican Republic, he would go ashore and pay local barbers a couple of bucks just to watch and learn.
“It would have never crossed his mind to even become a barber,” Jan Hawkins said. “It just kind of turns out he had the gift to be able to do this.”
When Hawkins returned to Minnesota in 1961, he got his license and started cutting hair in Brooklyn Park. Then he was recruited to a new concept salon that focused on men’s hairstyling.
Schara recalled coming to the Twin Cities from “the prairies of Iowa and Minnesota” to work as a nightclub singer in the 1960s. This was before his stint as an outdoors columnist at the Star Tribune, followed by his continuing work in television.
A music director at one of the clubs looked at Schara’s hair and told him: Don’t touch it.
“Let it grow until I tell you to go and get it cut,” Schara recalled the music director saying. “And when you go get it cut, you’re going to Tim Hawkins.”
“That was in 1960, and he’s cut my hair ever since.”
There was a gap in the 1970s, of course, when Hawkins cut hair in San Francisco. But after a few years, the barber returned to Minnesota, where he cut hair up until 2015.
The national luminaries didn’t follow, but family members say Hawkins cut the hair of many prominent businessmen in the Twin Cities. As his clients got older, Hawkins made time to provide haircuts in their homes or at long-term care facilities, said his son, Curtis Hawkins.
“He’s got plenty of customers who’ve known him longer than I have,” said Curtis, who is 49.
“When you’re a barber, you get to live many lives vicariously,” he said, adding that his dad “had a lot of customers who became very good friends.”
In addition to his wife and son, Hawkins is survived by a daughter, Michele Anderson; a brother, Greg Hawkins; a sister, Jill Clifton, and five grandchildren.
Services have been held.