Column: ‘The Dreamer’ dispenses haircuts and healing for homeless people and veterans


The almost 80-year-old man who cuts hair on the streets of West Los Angeles is not your typical barber.

Most of his clients are homeless, and many are military veterans; the price is negotiable and can be paid in food (preferably fresh fruit); and nobody with empty pockets is turned away.

“Ring Man!” the barber called out the other day to a U.S. Navy veteran who often pays for his haircuts with costume jewelry.

Ring Man — 32-year-old Omar Herrera — handed over a clutch of rings and a few dollars as payment for a trim, and the barber immediately handed the cash over to a man who pulled up in a dented Nissan Sentra.

The driver, 78-year-old Vietnam veteran Wilbur Thornton, said he needed gas money and would pay it back soon, as he always does.

“He listens, he understands, he never puts a person down,” Thornton said. “And he gives free haircuts.”

The barber is Antonio Bravo Esparza, known to some as Tony Bravo. But most people refer to him by his preferred name, which is stitched onto the back of his western-style blue shirt: The Dreamer.

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