August 2010: Former Golddigger Paula Cinko

When we prepared our Ultimate 50 list at the launch of Super-Hair in 2000, a lot of memorable hairstyles from a three-decade span came to mind. Some women were obvious and deserving. But we knew a few would be obscure to most people -- yet we knew the styles belonged, after seeing them stay in line through active and challenging situations.

PAULA CINKO was one of the most active -- as a dancer on television's Dean Martin Show, and joining the troupe The Golddiggers in summer replacement series on NBC. Yet her short natural hair seemed to hold precisely through every bouncy production number and quick turn. In our youth, this fascinated us -- and while the Golddiggers faded away, we never forgot her.

We received several "Cinko sightings" over the years from people in the area of Akron, Ohio. But we only heard second-hand from Paula, who apparently isn't into computers and the Internet. For our 2010 Ultimate update, we decided it was time to track her down ourselves. Some online sleuthing led us to an address in suburban Akron, and a woman who's surprised to be considered a Super-Hair legend. We chatted one late evening by phone -- then Paula mailed us several of the pictures embedded in this interview:

SUPER-HAIR: What are you doing these days, for those who might not know?

PAULA CINKO: I was injured at my job. I worked as a food server for about 22 years, and I broke my hip. And so I'm actually trying to get that heale, and I'm drawing workman's compensation.

S-H: How would you describe your hair, and the current style you have now? And is it any different from what you had, when we saw you on TV years ago?

PC: Oh yeah, I think it's a little different. It's a little longer, and I have a body wave in my hair -- a light perm, whatever you want to call it -- because I'm very low-maintenance when it comes to fixing my hair. I don't really like to do that, so I (laughs).... back in the day, I had people styling my hair and blowing it dry and that sort of thing. I don't really like to do that myself. So I just get a little body wave, touch thing. And I do a lot of swimming so I wash my hair and let it just sort of dry.

S-H: How long is it? Say, is it shoulder-length? Or a little above that?....

PC: I'd say it's about chin-length -- but wider than it used to be.

S-H: Wider?!

PC: opposed to the narrow haircuts that I had before.

S-H: Is that on purpose -- you want t do go wider? Or did it just happen that way?

PC: Well, I have a body wave, so....

S-H: That explains it....

PC: Pulls it out to the sides, yeah.

S-H: Have you always kept your hair on the short side? Have you ever tried going even longer? Shoulder-length or longer?

PC: No, I've never had really long hair. I did have platinum blonde hair for a while, which was very interesting.

S-H: When was this? I never knew this.

PC: I think it was probably in the late nineties, for about four years. But I didn't really enjoy the upkeep of that (laughs). I enjoyed the color. I think it suited me. And I enjoyed everything about it except for the fact that my dark roots kept growing in.

S-H: Did it get you more attention, or.... how did people respond to it? Do blondes have more fun?, I guess is my question.

PC: I'd say they might get better tips, if they work in restaurants. Perhaps I did earn a little bit more money, but I'm not really sure. All I know is I got very frustrated with trying to maintain the blonde hair -- although it was fun.

S-H: What do you like most about your hair?

PC: Well, it's not real straight and it's not real curly. It's just sort of ordinary, and it's brown -- and I like it. Generally it's kind of on the shiny side. But when I have a perm solution in it, it tends to dull the shine a little bit. But I still like it. I mean, I'm grateful that I have it.

S-H: Anything you dislike, that you might want to change, if you had your druthers?

PC: I'm going to be 60 pretty soon, so I do have gray hairs that come in, and I wish they wouldn't come in anymore. (Laughs)

S-H: It happens.

PC: That's life....

S-H: Yes, it is.

PC: But I put a shampoo and color in, and that takes care of the problem.

S-H: Let's go back to the Golddigger days. You started with the Golddiggers -- when? With the Dean Martin, the shows....

PC: I was hired in the beginning of 1969.

S-H: And what did you do before then? I found online that you did some sort of high school, or at least local theater work in Akron.

PC: That's correct. I did lots of local theater before I went to New York City, and that's why I was inspired to go there. I worked in high school, worked in the community theater, I worked in the summer stock productions, the McKinley Players, and I met lots of people that said to me if I was serious about wanting to be in the entertainment industry, then I should move to New York City. And so I did - and I was fortunate enough to be hired at the very first audition to be on the Dean Martin Show.

S-H: You were by many people's estimation, you were the tallest of the Golddiggers. How tall are you, may I ask?

PC: I'm about six feet tall.

S-H: Did it get you more attention than some of the others, or did that make a difference?

PC: No, I don't -- I wasn't really looking for more attention. I was just the tall one.

S-H: We talked to Michelle Della Fave [left] a few years ago, and she told us that you really strove to make sure your hair was right all the time -- perfect all the time. What did you do to accomplish that?

PC: (Laughing) I don't really call that I did that. But all I can say is that we had hairdressers that fixed our hair. It didn't really have anything to do with me.

S-H: But having a short style -- how much would they have to do, to get your hair ready for a routine?

PC: Not too much, but I was always put in some hot rollers, and kind of.... getting a little pouf here and there. Putting a little whoop-de-do on the bottom to get things the right way....

S-H: One of my questions here was how has your styling routine changed from the Golddiggers days. You mentioned that you have a perm in it now....

PC: Right.

S-H: Any other changes you've made, since that time?

PC: Well, like I said, I was blonde for a while. And then now I have, like, a perm in my hair. So that's about it.

S-H: We put you in the Ultimate 50 list because your hair always did seem perfect, at least on television. And we never saw it fall in your face, or anything.

PC: Well, it was short. It couldn't really fall in my face.

S-H: Has it ever fallen in your face? Have you ever had a really close call?

PC: (Laughs) I don't think that would be something that I would be able to say that it had. No, I don't think my hair's ever fallen in my face. No.

S-H: So you've kept it in line all this time. That's good to know.

PC: Uh-huh.

S-H: What's the biggest challenge you face in the day-to-day upkeep of your hair? I guess with a perm in it.... are there any major challenges you face? Like, say, for the summer or the winter, or anything like that?

PC: You just really have to keep it well-conditioned. Like I told you earlier, I love to swim, and I swim at my gym, and.... it takes a toll on your hair. And you just have to keep it really protected against the chlorine. So you have to kind of keep it well-conditioned -- and so I do.

S-H: It seems to us that through the decades, from the Golddiggers era to now, that dancers in general don't seem to care as much about their hair as they once did. Would you agree with that assessment, or am I just seeing things there?

PC: For myself personally.... I never had any long locks that were well coiffed. I was kind of a short-haired lady for many, many years, so I never worried about my hair. I like it to be kind of on the bottom of my things to worry about (laughs). I've never been one for wanting to style my hair, or have it.... set. I don't really enjoy doing that. I don't even blow-dry my hair. I just like it to dry, and be there. Not with, like, a tight frizzy curl or anything, but just like a nice pretty curl. So I've never really spent a lot of time on it -- even when I was blonde. It was very, very short, and.... I basically just had to let it kind of dry. It wasn't curly, though. It was shaped short.

S-H: Do you have a personal time limit? I only want to spend so much time a day, and no more? (Laughs)

PC: Yeah -- like one minute. (Both laugh)

S-H: That IS low-maintenance.

PC: I wake up, and I kind of brush through my hair, and then I spritz it with water, and scrunch it out - and that's about the extent of it. After I wash it, I like to put a nice mousse in it to give it some extra body. But that's about it. I don't really do anything else these days, and I really like it that way.

S-H: Any particular brand of mousse? We can give 'em a free plug here.

PC: I like Paul Mitchell Extra Body styling mousse. That's what I like.

S-H: What advice would you give someone who's going into show business, thinking about doing what you have done in the past? What advice would you give them in terms of looking good, and making sure their hair is good -- having Super-Hair on stage?

PC: Well, I suppose you just have to really care about your appearance. In the beginning, I think that I did more than I do now. And just make sure that you're well groomed -- not just your hair, but your face. I think the makeup is important as well. And putting your best foot forward and trying to maintain a nice image, and just having a lot of enthusiasm about going forward and following your dream. I don't think it works to be shy and unenthused. So I think being enthusiastic and.... trying to have a lot of confidence. It's easier said than done, but if you can lift some of that up and go about your way, I think it's a good thing.

S-H: Does makeup matter more than hair, in terms of being on stage? Or is it -- does it have to have a balance there?

PC: I think there's a balance. I think makeup is important, particularly for having been a short-haired girl. I think I played up my makeup more than my hair, to tell you the truth. Somebody gave me.... a really good haircut back in around 1969 or '70, whatever that was, and people seemed to really latch onto it. But I was really all about the makeup, personally. And I still try to have a good facial when I go out - but not full makeup, like I did when I was a young girl.... But back in the olden days, like I said to you before, somebody was always putting on my makeup and fixing my hair, so we really didn't have to do too much about that.

S-H: Who was the best stylist you ever had?

PC: Best stylist I ever had.... I never really thought about that before.... I probably can't really think of the guy's last name. It was somebody in California who did my hair who I really liked, and I didn't go to him for a very long time. Something happened to him, and he moved away....

S-H: Do you have a favorite stylist now, in Ohio?

PC: Well, there's somebody that I go to pretty regularly, and her name is Phoebe Hendricks.

S-H: I'm going to put you on the spot again. Of all the women you worked with with the Golddiggers, who would you say had the best hair of the bunch?

PC: Best hair.... I hope I'm not disappointing you, but I didn't really think about it that hard. But when I think about them now.... I think my friend Susie had really good hair. Her name was Susie McIver before. And she had a really good head of hair. But you know what? All those girls did. They really did. They all had really good hair. I had short hair, and I kind of stood out - but they had long hair.... They all had nice hair. But I'll say Susie.... Susie Ewing, actually, was what she called herself....

S-H: So you balanced out all the long-haired ladies, then. Is that fair to say?

PC: Something like that. I was also the tallest, so that was peculiar as well. But they wanted to hire me, and at the time I auditioned -- I'll tell you this story. I had short hair, very short hair. And I had a fall in my head. Do you remember falls?

S-H: Vaguely. Michelle Della Fave told us about those.

PC: They're like a hair thing that you stick on the top of your head, and I had bangs, and you kind of pin it in, and it looks like you have long hair down to your shoulders with this thing called a fall, and then you put a hairband on. And then you pin that on, and you look like you have long hair. So when I went to the auditions, I had that on my head -- that fall. And underneath the fall, I had toilet paper to pouf it up.

S-H: Wow....

PC: So I had pouffy hair and this long-kind-of-looking hair and a headband, and my real bangs. And at the time there was a television show called That Girl with Marlo Thomas.....

S-H: Yes, I remember that.

PC: And that's the kind of hair I had. I wanted to look like her, and I kind of felt like her when I moved to New York City.... And it truly was the very first audition I had gone to in New York City, for the Dean Martin Show. And I was there the first day, and I was called back on the second day, and I want you to know that the producer of the show came over to me and pulled that thing off my head! That fall!

S-H: Wow....

PC: And underneath it was the toilet paper.... and everything (both laugh) and he said to me, "I don't ever want to see you where this thing again." And so there I was, with my very short hair and no fall, and he had pulled it off my head.

S-H: And toilet paper all around you....

PC: Kinda sorta. And he hired me, that day! But I never wore that fake hair (laughs) on my head again. But when I went to the audition, I wore that fall on my head. I felt more confident with that long hair, somehow.

S-H: Has anyone pulled your hair like that since? (Laughs)

PC: Never.

S-H: I didn't think so.

PC: No. I've never had fake hair on my head since then -- except from time to time with the Golddiggers, we would wear wigs.... So we would look more appropriate for the particular era we were portraying. So we wore a lot of wigs.

S-H: Very interesting. Is there any woman with a great head of hair nowadays, that you think has the best head of hair out there? We like to ask women who they think has the best head of hair today.

PC: There are lots of people out there with really good hair. I've always liked the curly-headed women. I can't think of somebody in particular, except going way back to Melissa Manchester. I used to want to have hair like hers.... and she had great big bushy curly hair. And I always wanted big wild rocker.... I'm not a rocker, but that kind of hair. Big wild curly hair all over my head. Like Tina Turner, maybe -- but I think she wears a lot of wigs.

S-H: The dream of having quite the opposite of what you have, isn't it? That's true of so many.

PC: I know, so many. You're absolutely right.

SUMMARY: This was a keepsake moment for us -- and filled with surprises at that. For someone who doesn't want to work on her hair very much, Paula has kept it in remarkably nice shape for decades. And we don't think she'd lie about her never falling in her face! We appreciate Paula's graciousness, the pictures she sent us -- and we can't help wondering how long that perfect hair record will last.

(Special thanks to The Golddiggers Super Site for some historic photos.)


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