BYU barber shares story-telling talents

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    By Darin Helfend

    When he cut hair at Angelo”s, a famous barbershop in Northridge, Calif., he was known as the “jockey barber” because of his height.

    He moved to Utah and started cutting hair at the BYU barbershop, and he had to place a makeshift stepstool around his barber chair so he could see the tops of his clients” heads.

    Tony Elias may only measure in at a little over five feet, but all who know him look up to him.

    “He is an all-around good and honest man,” said John Cota, former employer and owner of Angelo”s Barbershop.

    Elias learned to be a provider at the age of 10 when he apprenticed at a barbershop close to his home in El Salvador. The first head of hair he cut was that of his younger brother — he shaved him bald. Ironically, the trade he learned as a boy helped support his family in El Salvador, helped move his family to the United States and still provides for his family in Provo.

    Stereotypically, barbers are great storytellers. They are sports trivia experts, know about stocks and investing and also are willing to lend a sympathetic ear to their clients” problems.

    Elias, like most barbers, is also a storyteller, but his inspiration for storytelling doesn”t come from the World Series or the latest tech stock; it comes from his life”s trials and his experience as a father.

    Elias has six children, the youngest of which are 11-year-old twins named Emerson and Andrew.

    For the past three years Elias has been inventing fantasy tales and stories to tell to his children, especially the twins; and through the wisdom of his wife, Elias started to write these stories down.

    The stories all teach important lessons based in part on the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    One story titled “El rey que odiaba la Navidad” (The king who hated Christmas) deals with a poor boy who hated Christmas because his family couldn”t afford to buy toys. Later the poor boy realized happiness does not come from receiving toys at Christmas, but rather from the joy of his family being together.

    Elias said the twins just liked the story, but the story is really based on Elias” real-life childhood experiences.

    Elias said he discovered he had a gift for storytelling and wanted to publish his stories so others could read them.

    “I make up these stories because I want to help people forget about the fear and troubles of this world we live in,” Elias said. “This world can”t have enough goodness.”

    Elias writes his stories in Spanish, and his returned-missionary clients help him translate them to English. The rough drafts are then given to Don Norton, a professor of English at BYU, for further revision.

    Norton said Elias has a great sense of narrative and understands the major themes of folk tales and fairytales.

    “He has tremendous stories and a great imagination, but because English is his second language he doesn”t yet have the capacity to record them in English. I jumped at the chance to help him,” he said.

    Norton said it is refreshing to work on this sort of project.

    “The challenge is trying to retain Tony”s flavor, tone and authentic voice while putting it into standard English,” Norton said.

    Elias said he has completed about seven stories and will send the edited copies to publishers.

    Regardless of whether his stories are published or not, Elias said he will continue to create stories because he sees how they positively affect his family.

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