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Michael Barnes

Preview: For 50 years, Rudy Rodriguez cut hair in East and West Austin

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A profile of barber Rudy Rodriguez, who grew up in East Austin, will appear online Saturday or Sunday, then in print on Monday. Here’s a short preview.

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Austin barber for 50 years, Rudy Rodriguez at the University of Texas Club.

At age 14, Rudy Rodriguez picked up the scissors and comb.

Barely tall enough to clip his clients’ hair, he managed to graduate from Austin Barber College, back then on East Sixth Street across from the Ritz Theater. The next year, he began working at Ledesma Barber Shop, run by an elderly haircutter, at East Sixth and Waller streets in East Austin.

“My only customers were my buddies,” Rodriguez, 64, says with an affable grin. “Ten years later, I bought him out.”

Why would a ninth-grader, who also caddied at the old Austin Country Club on East Riverside Drive, take up this line of work?

“One brother was a barber, and a sister a cosmetologist,” he says. “Uncles, aunts, cousins are barbers and beauticians. I guess it runs in our family.”

During his 50 years behind the barber chair, Rodriguez has sheared the pates of major East Austin players such as former State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, former Travis County Commissioner Richard Moya and former Austin City Council Member John Treviño.

He also has done up Longhorn athletes, including star quarterbacks Rick McIvor, Robert Brewer and Randy McEachern as well as Todd Dodge — also a former quarterback and now coach at Westlake High School.

“I still enjoy cutting and styling hair,” he says over lunch at the University of Texas Club, inside Royal Memorial Stadium, where he sold souvenirs at age 11, when game tickets were $5. “If you love what you do, it ain’t work.” …