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The Well-Groomed Grooms: Mark Johnson & Maurice Peterson

Rural Intelligence Community The guests at Mark Johnson and Maurice Peterson’s wedding on June 5 in Lenox made an extra effort with their clothes and hair, but that was to be expected. After all, the two grooms own Seven.Salon.Spa, the improbably chic day spa and hair salon that they opened four years ago in the shadow of the Red Lion Inn. As an interracial gay couple, they are not your typical Columbia County homeowners/Berkshire County businessmen, but over the past four years they have built a community of loyal friends and clients including many weekenders who could get their hair cut in Manhattan or Boston but prefer to go to Stockbridge.

Like many urban transplants to the Rural Intelligence region, the men were originally weekenders.  “We closed on our house the week before 9/11,” says Mark.  “And gradually, we decided we wanted to live here all the time.” They knew they would have to start their own business in order to make a good living. “I had thought about opening a salon in New York, but I couldn’t afford to buy space and to build out a spa when you are renting makes no sense,” says Mark, who still cuts hair twice a week at Space Salon in SoHo. Adds Maurice: “The fact that we found a building in the perfect location that we could buy and renovate made all the difference.”

Rural Intelligence CommunityThe sweet yellow house with the glassed-in front porch may look like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting (indeed, it is right across the street from where Rockwell lived), but inside it’s about as close as you can get to Melrose Place or Madison Avenue in the Berkshires.  While Mark cuts and colors hair (along with eight other stylists) wearing shorts and flip flops like a rural, gay version of Warren Beatty in Shampoo, Maurice oversees the office and the team of massage therapists, manicurists and facialists who work in the suite of zen treatment rooms upstairs. “We make a good team,” says Maurice, who seems to have lived nine lives before his country incarnation, including stints as an actor, writer and website designer.

The men met twenty years ago in New York, and it was pretty much love at first sight. “We were at the Vanderbilit Y where we both worked out,” recalls Mark. “I was on my lunch hour—it was as corny as that!” Four years later, Maurice divorced his wife (with whom he had a daughter, Monroe, who is now 25), and they moved in together.  Even after same-sex marriage became legal in Masschusetts, they waited to get married until New York State recognized gay marriages from other states. “I really wanted us to be married even though we had been living together in a committed relationship,” says Maurice. “It’s a matter of dignity and respect. There was nothing that said we belonged to each other.”  (“There may be extra bliss when two people who have loved each other for 20 years release their vows for our ears to hear,” observes their friend Petria May, the vintage clothing expert, who shared her photographs of the wedding with RI.) Mark and Maurice had bought rings in Thailand ten years ago that symbolized their commitment and decided to use them for the ceremony.  Their wedding suits, however, were brand new. “I have many clients who work at Calvin Klein and they set us up at the Calvin Klein store’s VIP Living Room,” says Mark, as Maurice interrupts excitedly. “They took such great care of us! They are the most beautiful, perfectly fitted suits!”

Rural Intelligence CommunityThe wedding suited them perfectly, too. A ceremony outside by a duck pond and dinner for about 80 close friends and family, followed by a dance party and dessert for 150 more guests. They chose to hold the party at Stonover Farm (and catered by the Marketplace of Sheffield) because it’s over-the-top and down-home just like they are.  “And it’s close to Tanglewood which is very important to me because that was how I first came to the Berkshires,” says Mark, who played the flute and saxophone. “I was a student at the Tanglewood Institute more than 20 years ago. I was very serious about music. I went to the Manhattan School of Music for undergraduate and graduate school, and then I studied at Vidal Sassoon in LA. Cutting hair is a lot like playing music. They are both very technical.”

Their clients often become adoring friends. “They are a perfect pair, a blend of sassy and sweet,” says client/friend Carole Murko. “They are always the life of the party—full of the joy of life!! Maurice is a sensitive, kind, sage and spiritual man and Mark is a multi-talented ball of fire.” Their joie de vivre belies their drive and focus. They work seven days a week during the summer and won’t take their honeymoon until the fall when the summer people have gone home. “We’ll go away in September,” says Mark with a grin, “during the Jewish holidays.”

Seven.Salon.Spa
7 South Street, Stockbridge; 413.298.0117

Rural Intelligence Community
The grooms flank Peterson’s daughter, Monroe, at Stonover Farm; photograph by Petria May.

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