Irving V. Dassa
Irving Dassa of East Hampton, who owned and ran the first men’s barbershop in New York City to have women barbers, died of cancer on June 24 at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in Manhattan. He was 77 and had been ill for two and a half years.
The barbershop was called Delilah’s Den. Mr. Dassa also had a men’s hairpiece business called Masterpiece. For more than 40 years, said his wife, Dianne Hurwitz Dassa, he traveled to Mississippi to sell the pieces. “Many of those clients are still in touch,” she said. “They are like family!”
In East Hampton, starting in 1976, Mr. Dassa was the owner and organizer of a share house in Northwest Woods, which he named La Casa de Dassa. It had as many as 22 groupers in a weekend, said his wife. The house began as a beach cottage with no electricity or plumbing, and the couple were married there in October 1989. By 2000, it had morphed into a 5,000-square-foot house with an 1,800-square-foot living room, in which the Dassas hosted parties, concerts, and workshops featuring Metropolitan Opera singers.
Mr. Dassa himself was a gifted singer, said his wife, who met him when both were studying at the Singers Forum in Manhattan. He sang primarily ballads and Broadway music, and songs in the Ladino language, in which he was fluent. Born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on April 8, 1941, he came from a Sephardic family, one of three children of Morris Dassa and the former Allegra Estru, refugees from Salonica, Greece, who fled the Nazis for America and met on the Lower East Side.
He grew up in a five-story walkup building with a statue of George Washington out front, and graduated from Boys High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where, according to his wife, he and Little Anthony would sing doo-wop together on street corners. He loved to sketch, repair watches, design jewelry, gold-leaf picture frames, and collect various oddities, she said. When he was 23, he renovated and decorated a brownstone.
Her husband “loved and treasured books,” Ms. Dassa said, and “his sense of color was incredible . . . he was amazing at the design of space; his ego never got in the way. He was a nurturer and mentor of many people, from family to friends.”
In addition to his wife, Mr. Dassa is survived by a sister, Jewel Dassa of Delray Beach, Fla., as well as many relatives in Israel. Another sister, Sylvia Natter of East Meadow, died before him. The family will gather at the house here for a memorial service on Aug. 25.
Ms. Dassa has suggested memorial donations for any cancer foundation of choice.