Stuart M. Kolber, son of Bernard and Rose Kolber, father of Todd and Bart, passed away suddenly on Jan. 13, according to his brother, Gene. He was 80.
Gene, whose daughter is ESPN anchor Suzy Kolber, remembered the energy and enthusiasm of his late brother, a citywide yo-yo champion and billiards aficionado whose manual dexterity put him in demand.
“Stuart was one of the most famous hairdressers in the city,” said Gene, founder and president of Kolber Advertising. “He was the Jean Madeline or Adolf Biecker of his day.”
Gene said women would get in line early in the morning before his Castor Avenue salon was even open. The crush of customers often kept Stuart at the salon past midnight.
This was, Gene notes, at a time when Castor Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia was the place to be.
“All of the Jews from South Philadelphia were moving to the Northeast, and [Castor Avenue] had all the latest stores, bakeries, delicatessens,” Gene said. “That’s where Stuart opened the salon, and it was a gold mine from day one. He had seven or eight operators; everyone wanted to work for Stuart Kolber.”
Gene thinks Stuart’s success owed to his spirit of adventure.
“He brought new innovations to the field of hairdressing. He was always ahead of the trends.”
When Stuart posted an old photo of himself in front of the Castor Avenue shop on Facebook, he got enthusiastic responses: “Wow that takes me back a few!!!! he gave me the best shag haircut!!!!” and “you were the best the whole time I lived in Philly. I always came in feeling blah and left feeling like a princess!”
In addition to his work in the salon, Stuart worked in the entertainment field with his brother, who went by Gene Kaye.
Together, they put on teenage dances and rock ’n’ roll shows in Philadelphia and the Lehigh Valley.
“[We] were instrumental in the careers of Frankie Avalon, Fabian, Chubby Checker, Paul Anka, Bobby Darin and Connie Francis,” Gene said. They also did shows with Dick Clark, Tom Jones and Evel Knievel.
While Gene was the main on-air personality, Stuart worked behind the scenes with entertainers, handling travel and hotel arrangements — and, of course, their hair.
“We were kind of like a team and he was like backup,” Gene said, noting that Stuart helped create the careers of Jay and the Techniques and Leslie Gore.
During his downtime, Stuart liked to spend time at the Jersey Shore.
“He loved being out on the water,” said Gene, noting his brother’s “unbelievable energy and lust for life.”
“Stuart thought nothing of working in his salon until midnight, getting into his car and driving to the shore, going out clubbing till 3 or 4 in the morning, then getting out on his boat by 9 a.m. to be with his kids.”
Gene says that’s how he was until the day he died.
“Stuart loved entertaining … and he never said no to anybody.”
In addition to Gene and his two sons, Stuart Kolber is survived by nephew Paul, niece Suzy and great-niece Kellyn.
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