In Search Of The Barber

The various Dreamcast advertising campaigns hold a certain fascination for me. The It's Thinking and Mr Sega/Yukawa campaigns from the US and Japan respectively were massively successful and we've looked at them in the recent past (just don't mention the Spud Dive). Before you groan 'not another advertising post' though, please bear with me. This is slightly different for reasons which will become apparent. The European advertising campaign for the Dreamcast launch was made up of several different TV and cinema adverts, but the one most people will be familiar with is this one:

The advert is known as Shave, and I'm sure you've seen it before or possibly even remember when it was shown on (European) TV and in cinemas back in that brief period in 1999/2000 when the world was gripped by Dreamcast-mania.

So let's break it down. Robbie Williams' Let Me Entertain You blares, rather appropriately from the speakers as a bunch of fresh-faced Foreign Legion recruits are lead into the barbers studio of some form of military installation. Three barbers await, and are labelled as players one, two and three and then quickly set about engaging in a battle to see who can shave their conscript's head the fastest. Player Two comes out on top as the guard looks on, the younger competitors beaten by the experience of their older adversary. Victorious, the character whom we will henceforth refer to as The Barber, gives a wry smile to the camera as the story comes to a close. It's not a bad advert by any means, and sets the scene perfectly - the Dreamcast was all about multi-player competition after all, what with all the online gubbins. There are some negative points, such as the way no game footage at all was used (and likewise in the other advert from this campaign entitled Buoy) but that's a different story.

Now, I did do a post fairly recently where I looked briefly at the (slightly xenophobic) European campaigns, but this time I want to focus solely on something that has been bugging me for a while: just who is the winning barber in this advert? For a very short period between 1999 and 2000, this gentleman's face was plastered all over TV and cinema screens; a poster showing him posing with a barber's chair and hair clippers could be found in pretty much every games shop in the land, and the vast majority of Dreamcast games came with a 'coming soon' pamphlet in the rear compartment with this guy all over them. But do a Google search for 'Dreamcast barber' or words to that effect...and do you know what you'll find? Nothing. Not a bean, other than a few images like this - most of which come from this very site:
So the question remains: just who is the actor who portrays The Barber? What is his name? Did he appear in any other productions and what did he make of his five minutes of fame? In the famous words of Sherlock Holmes, the game is afoot...

As alluded to previously, my detective work started where most detective stories set in the 21st century are guaranteed to begin: Google. This method turned up very little though, and after a couple of pages of results were skimmed though, it became painfully obvious that this quest was going to end up being a little more difficult than I first envisaged. You see, if you search for 'Dreamcast barber,' you'll invariably turn up a load of guides for Shenmue (remember the 'three blades' quest?) and some random articles about memes:
Image searches are no better (see paragraph above), and video searches just produce the few examples of the TV advert in question that people have uploaded to YouTube. Time to dig deeper. My next tack was to turn to Sega Europe themselves - surely they'd have a record of who made the advert or of the production company? Something...anything that presented the slimmest of leads. At the time of writing this, I'm still waiting for a response from Sega, but a) I understand this type of enquiry probably isn't at the top of their agenda; and b) I doubt the people who work at Sega now have any idea what the hell I'm talking about. Update: Sega never replied to my emails. Funny, that.

Granted, I'm dubious as to whether this quest is anything but a yet another sign of the Dreamcast-related madness that is slowly enveloping the fabric of my existence, but I want answers and I won't rest until I have them. Anyone who's heard of the (fake) tale of Sixto 'Searching for Sugar Man' Rodriguez will attest that this type of thing can be fascinating. One thing is certain though - The Barber has no idea that I am writing this or that I have a poster with his face on it hanging in my games room in my house. For me, it would be amazing to find out what became of The Barber after the Sega campaign, what he did he even an actor? Is he even still alive? It's this 'not knowing' that makes this tale even more intriguing to me.
I will find you. And I will shave you.
My next approach was to turn to social media. I tweeted the image of The Barber's scowling, weathered, all-knowing face and I even appealed for information on the Dreamcast Junkyard Facebook page...but the replies just didn't come. Could it be that nobody knows who this guy is? It's frankly unbelievable that in this age of social media, camera phones and blatant over-sharing of pretty much every form of personal information that this person cannot be found through conventional searches and appeals for information. As stated earlier in this article, this man's face was everywhere for a period - if you were a jobbing actor who happened to strike it lucky and land a part in a major European advertising campaign, surely you'd include it as part of an online resume, right?

So I altered my search terms on Google and instead started to look for online resumes and acting profiles that may include the terms 'Dreamcast' and 'Sega.' Using this tactic, I did come across several interesting results but ultimately they lead me down blind alleys. The first 'Dreamcast advert actor' I came across was Robert Harper. Intrigued, I clicked the link...but all I found was the following:

Robert Harper is actually quite an accomplished and well-known poet, and the advert is one I vaguely remember...but it's not Shave and doesn't feature my fugitive hairdresser. The other interesting search result mentioned somebody called Maloviere...but upon following that particular link I was presented with an actor who specialises in portraying Shakespeare. Turns out that this particular actor played The Bard in one of the infamous online gaming Dreamcast adverts (the British one, funnily enough).
The Bard...not The Barber
I did make one small breakthrough using this tactic though, as one of the image results showed the barber referred to as 'Player 3' in Shave, and from what I can deduce his name is Mourad Chennaoui. But that's where the trail on that lead goes cold. There are a few people with this name on Facebook but none of them look remotely like the guy in the still (even after 15 years), so the idea of using him as a contact point to get a name for The Barber turned out to be a red herring.
Not Player 2...
My next port of call was the websites that archive adverts of the past so that we in the future may laugh at the crappy products they promoted. Dreamcast not included. So I headed first to where I drew yet another blank, and the story was the same at Things changed dramatically when I searched, though. After entering the search term Dreamcast, the results presented me with my quarry - Shave was indeed listed. Clicking the link I was taken to a Quicktime movie that wouldn't play and was about to click back to Google when I scrolled down and was presented with the following information:
Of course! WCRS! The answer was right in front of me all the time. Why didn't I go straight to the horse's mouth in the first place? I went to their website and found a contact page. There's no general email address so I contacted the only named person I could find contact details for - the head of new business. This obviously isn't 'new business,' but surely they'd be able to point me in the right direction in my quest for information on The Barber? I sent the email. I waited. And waited. No reply. I'm not overly surprised - this is the firm responsible for the recent Sylvester Stallone Warburtons adverts in the UK, so speaking to me is understandably way down on their 'to do' list. So I moved down the list.

Next was Leon Jaume, Creative Director on Shave and now a bigwig at WCRS. No email address anywhere. Next on my list - Vaughan Arnell the Director of the advert. Now, I didn't actually know this prior to beginning my quest, but the director of Shave is a music video maker who has recently worked with the likes of One Direction, James Blunt, The Script...and get this - directed the video for Robbie Williams' Let Me Entertain You, the very song used in the advert!

I messaged Vaughan on Twitter but am yet to receive a reply and to be honest I don't think I ever will. I have also emailed the other members of the crew for Shave mentioned on Adeevee but am not holding out on a reply from any of them.
And this is where the whole sordid trail has lead me: pretty much nowhere. On the plus side, I've discovered that the advert was directed by the same guy who did the video for the music track used. I've also discovered that two other Dreamcast adverts featured poets - one contemporary and one a historical great. Plus, I've learned that high-powered advertising executives don't reply to emails from scum like me. But conversely,  I've also learned that I'm no closer to discovering the identity of The Barber, and while I'm disappointed, I'm not defeated. 

According to Shave's tagline, there are six billion players out there; and I live on in the hope that one of you reading this either in the next few weeks or months or even years down the line will think "hey, I know that guy!" and send me an email revealing just who he is.

The quest isn't over. In fact, it's only just begun...

Update: It is now February 2016 and I still have no further information on the identity of The Barber. There was no reply from anyone I emailed on this matter, and asking the question on social media only lead to people saying it is the late Pete Postlethwaite. It isn't. I have also heard that the guy was an actual barber who lived close to the location of filming somewhere in Spain, but I'm not overly convinced of that, either. I guess this truly is a cold case...but if any new information comes to light it will be shared here.

Update 2: It's now May 2016 and the eve of the release of Uncharted 4. I wonder if Nathan Drake can help me find this guy? No-one else seems to be able to assist. Sigh.
Update 3:
Late August 2016. Shortly after publishing Part Two of this investigation, Part Three came about because we finally found The Barber.


Simon Early said...

I so WANT to know who it is, just to scratch your itch. I did consider creating a whole fake Facebook page and posting some blurred photos of a generic Mediterranean looking chap fitting the projected '15 Years later' criterion in a Catfish stylee. But I know you are far too clever for any such chicanery. But your 'close to OCD' investigation warms the very cockles of this old heart. I was wondering how you managed to keep posting and you've given me a masterclass in the art! I love what you do. Still slightly awe-struck!☺

Simon Early said...

I so WANT to know who it is, just to scratch your itch. I did consider creating a whole fake Facebook page and posting some blurred photos of a generic Mediterranean looking chap fitting the projected '15 Years later' criterion in a Catfish stylee. But I know you are far too clever for any such chicanery. But your 'close to OCD' investigation warms the very cockles of this old heart. I was wondering how you managed to keep posting and you've given me a masterclass in the art! I love what you do. Still slightly awe-struck!☺

Simon Early said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anthony Jennings said...

Couple of suggestions:
1. Social Media Campaign #WhoIsPlayer2 check out my tweet
2. Reddit (people there are sharp as a tack, also ask for ppl who work(ed) in ad agencies)
3. Talent Agencies in uk Dreamcast (make contacts, ask about past Sega/Dreamcast contracts)
4. Official Dreamcast Magazine UK (publishing company
5. DC-UK (publishing company
6. Reach out to other DC centric news platforms and have them front page it, a media storm will uncover the guy. It's good career move for him :)

6 degrees of separation applies here

magazine title: DC-UK
release date: September 1999
publisher: Future Publishing
editor: Caspar Field

magazine title: Dreamcast Magazine
release date: September 1999
publisher: Paragon Publishing
editor: Nick Roberts

Can't remember why the publisher info above is different from what wiki says, but I gotta get back to what i was doing so I'll leave you with this :)

Hope it helps

L_______E_______T said...

I'm gonna ask someone that I strongly suspect would know - or at least know how to find him.