If there was one thing Annette Montebello couldn’t live without, it was her arsenal of wigs. She had built the collection over many years, starting when she was just a teenager in the 60s. In fact, Annette would be the first to tell you that said decade was to blame for what would become her lifelong addiction. For there were so many style icons a girl could want to emulate during this era—from Priscilla Presley to Twiggy, the options were both too vast and divergent not to rely on an array of wigs to accommodate one’s ever-changing show of celebrity worship. Because yes, one day Annette might want the beehive look and the next she might want to appear to have a short pixie cut. It all depended on a girl’s mood, who she was seeing (or, more accurately, who she wanted to see her), where she was going, etc.
The first wig was purchased when she was just thirteen, with allowance money she had saved up for months. In was summer of 1963 in San Fernando Valley. In other words, the worst a.k.a. hottest time somebody could opt to wear a wig. But that didn’t matter to Annette. She had been waiting all year to transform into Priscilla, desiring so badly to emulate the beehive that, to her, exuded sex appeal and sophistication. Her own thin, flat hair just wasn’t suited to attempting to style it that way in an “au naturel” fashion. In effect, Annette didn’t want to fuck up her not-so-luscious locks any more than they already were by adhering to hairstyle fads every time they came and went. No, the wig shop was to be her salvation. And it only took four more years before Wilshire Wigs opened in 1967, forever changing Annette’s life (along with the lives of so many “industry hopefuls”). Although it wasn’t technically “fashionable” for a girl of Annette’s age to sport a wig—such a “style choice” was more associated with elderly women at the time—she didn’t care. The wigs sold at this shop were of the highest caliber, and she couldn’t imagine anyone ever dreaming of living outside the LA/SFV nexus by sheer virtue of it possessing the greatest wig store in the world. The shop didn’t technically start selling to the public until several years later, but Annette happened to be calculated in her pursuit of one of the shop’s few employees, a woman named Deirdra.
While Annette preferred the taste of sausage above all, she was willing to make an exception for Deirdra, so clearly prone to women. Annette had sussed this out by casing the joint for weeks before it opened, monitoring the comings and goings of those leaving the shop. Deirdra was clearly the weakest link. She discovered this by trailing her every night and finding that she would usually end up at Joani Presents, a go-to lez bar on Lankershim. That was all the intel Annette needed to know how to proceed next. In fact, she was convinced the donning of one of the wigs (a Twiggy-inspired one) in her ever-expanding collection is what drew Deirdra to her one evening at Joani Presents. She had put on her best imitation of “irresistible lesbian” as she sat at one of the tables waiting and praying for Deirdra to approach her, which of course she did. Annette was the youngest, therefore most desirable thing in the place. At seventeen, she knew her youth was a strong currency to get her what she wanted—which was, in the end, unlimited and unrestricted access to the “periwigs” at Wilshire Wigs.
The conversation began flirtatiously enough, with Deirdra introducing herself and Annette pointing out that the name Deirdra meant “sorrowful” or “broken-hearted” in Gaelic. Deirdra laughed, “Oh yeah? How’d you know that?” Without missing a beat, Annette replied, “It’s my mom’s name. She’s from Ireland originally.” Deirdra grinned and said, “Well, let’s get one thing straight: I ain’t your mama.” Oh yes you are, Annette mused impishly. Deirdra had no idea yet, but she was to become Annette’s “wig mama.” That much was secured after eating her pussy right over the course of the weeks that followed. Deirdra was so far down the rabbit hole (or in this case, the vag hole) that she would have done anything to keep Annette around. And what Annette required to stick around was wigs. A lot of them. Of every color, shape and style. By the time the owner found out how many wigs Deirdra had given away for free to her machinating lover, it was too late to get them back. Because Annette had chosen to leave the country. She was twenty when she made the decision, letting three years pass since that first night of establishing her “Deirdra connection.” That was the amount it took for her to amass all the wigs she wanted. Even though, of course, “enough” was never enough. But she couldn’t keep stringing Deirdra along. The woman was way too attached, and getting more stalker-y and controlling every day. It was making it impossible for Annette to actually enjoy the fruits of her sexual labor: the wigs. Which she wanted to sport freely on the LA and SFV boulevards as she pleased, attracting men at her will. She was so goddamn sick and tired of vag lately that it took all her strength not to retch at the sight of Deirdra’a spread legs. She needed to fuck a man, and tout de suite.
But doing so was too risky with unhinged Deirdra tracking her, as though she didn’t have a full-time job to tend to. One that was at severe risk because of her behavior—which meant Deirdra would be utterly useless to Annette anyway. Thus, the best thing to do for all involved would be to leave town quietly. It might spare Deirdra from losing her position at the wig shop, therefore her entire position in life. That job was all she had going for her. Without it, she might never get laid again. So really, Annette was doing her a favor by departing wordlessly. As for Annette’s mother, the “other” Deirdra in her life, she was far too busy ensuring her constant state of inebriation all day that she would hardly notice the difference. And with this “logic and reason” on her side, Annette departed from the Los Angeles International Airport for JFK. From there, she would catch another plane to London. All while the precious treasure chests storing her hundreds of wigs followed along. Although she was able to stuff a fair amount into her carry-on suitcase, the majority were packed in trunks and checked with the other oversized luggage being transported beneath the plane. Her army of trunks raised several eyebrows as they bombarded the conveyor belt of the baggage claim at London Heathrow Airport. As she started to collect them and place them on carts, one nosy British bloke observing her struggle (without offering to help) “quipped,” “You moving here then?” Had she wanted to give him the time of day, she would have responded, “Definitely fucking not.”
Indeed, in London, she quickly grew vexed by the British accent, which rendered the English language as utterly foreign to her anyway, so she figured she might as well dip down into Paris, where the Parisians seemed to speak more understandable English. Although it was another massive chore to transport the trunks, she did so by taking the Night Ferry. Which was a not too unpleasant three-hour jaunt from London Victoria to Gare du Nord. Indeed, she felt so fresh the next day that she awoke immediately to take a walk through the Luxembourg Garden and then situate herself at a café in the fifth arrondissement. Whiling away the hours there, she found herself eventually chatting to a fellow patron who happened to be a perruquier, and commented on how authentic her wig looked. Of course, being a perruquier, nothing could fool him…no matter how authentic-seeming. When he told her as much, she invited him to join her at her table for another negroni whereupon they proceeded to discuss the history of wigs, complete with the backlash against the “accessory” after the ruling classes (read: the monarchy)—the lone group that could really afford to wear them as a status symbol—in Europe and the United States were overthrown in favor of “republics.” It wouldn’t really be until the 1960s, when modacrylic fibers were introduced into the wig game, that things became “egalitarian”…inasmuch as plebes could finally afford wigs, too. Thus, it was no coincidence that Annette developed her love of wigs at this very moment in time. Just as Deirdra was developing her own strong feelings—toward other women.
But Annette never thought about Deirdra after leaving her behind, whereas Annette was all that Deirdra thought about as the 70s wore on. In fact, the constant thoughts of Annette plagued her so mercilessly that she eventually jumped off the Colorado Street Bridge to end the pain. Funnily enough, at the very moment that Deirdra’s body made impact with the ground, Annette was putting on the first wig she had ever “filched” from Deirdra, a white-blonde short shag number that she forgot she even owned. Or rather, forgot that she had secured through her ersatz displays of affection. So ersatz that even the wigs she effectively stole seemed realer. Except to the perruquier she was about to see again that night, totally unaware that he had his own wily scheme at play: get Annette back to her lodging, spike her drink with Rohypnol (which a Swiss friend of his had recently turned him on to) and remove the collection she had spent years cultivating. He was a wig snatcher long before the phrase would come to mean instilling shock. That’s how he made his living. Reselling them at various shops throughout Paris and other cities in France. In this sense, Annette was a kindred spirit he had homed in on—someone willing to do nefarious and diabolical things to collect enough wigs. Which, again, would never really be “enough.” Not to quench such insatiability.
When Annette came to the next morning to see her trunks had been ransacked, she cried out in agony. Her lone consolation was that the perruquier had “seen fit” (or had perhaps forgotten to take it in his haste) to leave the white-blonde short shag wig on her head. The sole souvenir remaining of what she had done to Deirdra.