On Saturday, January 18, a new “alcohol-free joint” called Bizzy’s Dry Bar is opening in Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood.
According to a story in Berkeleyside, the bar’s menu will feature “mocktails, shots, beer and wine — all completely free of alcohol”—and the mocktails will be made with “non-alcoholic gin, whiskey and other botanical spirits from makers like Seedlip Spirits and Ritual.”
I searched in vain for a story behind the “Bizzy’s” name, but the truth is I’m more interested in “dry bar.” Because for a decade or so, this is what those words have evoked for lots of us:
A Drybar® in Hoboken, New Jersey. (Via Hoboken Girl)
At Drybar, which was founded in 2008 in Brentwood, California, and now has more than 90 locations in the US and Canada, women pay about $45 to have their hair washed and blow-dried. The company also sells hair dryers ($135 and up), styling brushes ($20 to $145), and other hair-related paraphernalia.
What’s the difference between a dry bar and Drybar? Sense and stress.
At Bizzy’s, dry is an adjective meaning “alcohol free,” and the noun gets the emphasis: It’s a “dry bar.” This sense of dry was originally mid-19th-century American slang; you still occasionally hear about “dry counties,” and the 31-day voluntary abstinence known as Dry January—sometimes called Drynuary, Dryanuary, or Dryathlon—has caught on around the world in recent years. (“Dry January” was registered as a US trademark in 2014. The logo depicts a teacup with a little parasol.)
At Drybar, dry is the word that’s stressed. It’s used here as a verb, short for “blow dry”: “to style and dry the hair with a brush or comb and a hand-held dryer” as opposed to a bonnet- or helmet-style drying contraption. There may have been a punning intention in the creation of the name—again, no story is provided—because bar is not a word usually associated with hairstyling. You’re more likely to see salon or studio.
I had supposed that the British celebrity hairstylist Vidal Sassoon was the inventor of blow drying, but I was wrong. According to William Grimes’s wonderful 2016 obituary, published in the New York Times, the technique was pioneered by Rose Evansky, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany who opened a salon in London’s tony Mayfair neighborhood in the 1950s:
One day in 1962, as she faced a tedious morning of chemical hair-straightening and tight curling, tasks she disliked, inspiration struck.
“I’d been wandering past a barbershop in Brook Street around the corner from our salon in North Audley Street, and I saw the barber drying the front of a man’s hair with a brush and a hand-held dryer,” she told W magazine in 2012. “And this image — of the barber with the dryer — flashed through my mind and I thought, ‘Why not for women?’”
“What Florence was to painting and sculpture during the Renaissance,” Grimes wrote, “Mayfair was to the art of hairstyling in the 1950s and ’60s. Mrs. Evansky sat atop the heap, the lone woman in a field monopolized by men.” The link in that sentence goes to a sprightly 1964 British Pathé video showing Mrs. Evansky in action.
Inevitably, all this dryness got me thinking about “How Dry I Am,” subject of many snickering parodies during my childhood. I was surprised to learn just a few minutes ago that the song’s actual title is “The Near Future,” and that it was written by Irving Berlin in 1919 for The Ziegfeld Follies. You can read the complete lyric here. The song has had a robust afterlife in popular culture, including Warner Brothers cartoons and—if this ad in Life magazine is to be believed—a crooning clothes dryer.
“Yes, it actually strikes up ‘How Dry I Am’ when clothes are dry and ready to come out!”