Mark Okun’s parents told him his was adopted from the beginning. How could they not? How else would Okun reconcile his tall stature, blonde hair and fair complexion with his parents, who Okun described as “heavy set [with] the black hair, olive complexion and brown eyes common to Eastern European Jews?”
While Okun admits to never really noticing the differing outward appearance, in A Short Jew in the Body of a Tall W.A.S.P., he chronicles realizing he was gay, confronting the inner demons of substance abuse and his ultimate passion for styling hair.
Okun begins his story briefly in 1990 when he comes across his adoption papers in a filing metal cabinet—the same one he said he opened in 1967 to steal the Indian Head pennies his father had saved for his college education. Instead, the pennies funded a life full of education as Okun ran away to California in 1967 when he was only 13 years of age.
After the brief reflection that led to A Short Jew, Okun recounts her earliest moments of being gay. He admits to not realizing when he first thought he might be gay, but has a few humorous stories that include playing Vampire and standing up to a bully that kick his story off in an entertaining high gear.
The real story begins when Okun leaves home. Readers tag along with Okun on a wild ride through the 60s and 70s as Okun bounces from Syracuse to Los Angeles, New York and Memphis. The page-turning book is 200 pages of details of Okun’s near six decades. Okun reflects upon the torture of watching friends die from HIV/AIDS (and his own eventual positive diagnosis), various relationships and sex stories, drugs and his partying as well as coming out and his eventual sobriety. He talks about discovering hair after a horrible haircut and quitting school to pursue it. Okun also reflects on meeting his birth parents on national television.
After a nearly ten year journey to publication, Okun describes A Short Jew in the Body of a Tall W.A.S.P as a “gay history book.” Okun hopes that younger readers will reference his book and get a better understanding of what he and his generation went through to be who they were. He also hopes that people, gay and straight alike, who lived through those eras to see themselves there and living it as they read it.
Today, Mark Okun remains active. He cuts hair once a month in Memphis, Tennessee—45 people in two days—and he has been doing that for 22 years. He also makes house calls to Miami and Palm Beach every month, bringing his salon service to a few wealthy clients for the ultimate first class service.
For more information on Mark Okun or to purchase a copy of A Short Jew in the Body of a Tall W.A.S.P. click here.
Additional reporting by Ukela A. Moore