Bad hair day — teasing out the details of Blagojevich’s famous coif
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Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich used to block out the entire day on his schedule to do his hair, says a former top aide who once made it his business to cover for his ill-fated boss.
Bradley Tusk, who served as deputy governor to Blagojevich from early 2003 through the Northwest Side Democrat’s 2006 re-election, said it wasn’t until he saw those first photos of a white-haired Blagojevich in prison that he realized what was happening.
“I kind of knew he dyed his hair. I didn’t realize what that entailed,” Tusk said in an interview Monday.
“It clearly was like an all-day process, and it clearly was private or embarrassing or something enough that he did it on his own,” said Tusk, who is promoting a new book that devotes a couple of chapters to his work in the Blagojevich administration—part of it detailing the former governor’s lack of work.
Unlike so many people for whom their association with Blagojevich was a career killer best forgotten, Tusk is the rare individual whose well-timed escape from Illinois led to an extremely lucrative second act.
Tusk left two years before Blagojevich’s indictment and ended up running New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s successful campaign for a third term. He then parlayed his government experience into consulting work for a fledgling outfit called Uber.
Tusk took his fee from the now transportation juggernaut in equity. Published reports have placed his stake in Uber at $100 million.
“I have not denied it, let’s put it that way,” Tusk said of the amount, calling himself “very lucky.”
Now, in addition to consulting other startups on how to deal with regulatory hurdles, Tusk has his own venture capital firm to invest in them, plus his own charitable foundation.
Tusk was in town Monday for an appearance at Chicago Ideas Week. He was pitching his idea to drive greater voter participation by allowing people to vote from their phones using blockchain technology. His foundation helped pay for a pilot program this year in West Virginia for deployed military personnel.
While he was in town, Tusk did a series of media interviews to talk about his book, “The Fixer: My Adventures Saving Startups from Death by Politics.”
In the chapters on his Illinois days, Tusk describes a Blagojevich who was missing in action when it came to the responsibilities of the job.
Noting that Blagojevich preferred to work from home, he added: “ ‘Work’ meaning a loose mix of a few phone calls, watching SportsCenter, reading long biographies of Napoleon, preparing to go for a run, going for a run, stretching after the run, and then showering for at least 90 minutes after that.”
Tusk also described the governor’s hours-long trips to the tailor to get fitted for new suits, but made no mention of Blagojevich’s hair care. Given the governor’s well-known attention to his mane, I had to ask why not.
Tusk explained that he was occasionally allowed to tag along to the tailor but that hair days were strictly off limits.
He said he remembers once trying to schedule a meeting with Blagojevich that bumped into his hair plans.
“How about the other 23 hours in the day,” Tusk recalls asking.
“No, no, no, that’s the whole day,” Blagojevich insisted.
Tusk, it should be noted, was under the impression Blagojevich got his dye job from his barber.
But the governor’s former barber, Peter Vodovoz, told me Blagojevich dyed his own hair. Vodovoz said the governor’s monthly haircuts never took longer than 25 minutes.
As jealous as I may be of Blago’s hair, I’m left with this pitiful image of him hiding out at home with a box of Just for Men and a shower cap.
I asked Tusk about the imprisoned governor’s bid for a pardon from President Donald Trump.
Tusk, who testified against Blagojevich at both his trials about the governor’s alleged effort to shake down then-congressman Rahm Emanuel over a school construction grant, said he believed Blagojevich received a fair trial and has never taken issue with his 14-year sentence.
But if Trump ”were to say seven years is enough time for this particular crime, I’m going to commute the sentence, I wouldn’t have issue,” he said.
“I really don’t know if there’s enough in it for Trump to choose to do that,” he added.
Stranger things have happened.