A small but grateful army of balding believers testified yesterday that new hair grew on their heads after they used a hair balm the U.S. Postal Service claims doesn't do the trick.
The satisfied users, professional and business men from Sacramento, voluntarily drove into town to testify on behalf of Robert E. Murphy Jr., whom the government has accused of using false representation through the mails to sell New Generation Shampoo and Conditioner. Sacramento Police Captain Carroll Johnson testified that he was involved in a test that Murphy and a barber friend launched to see if the potion - an outgrowth of research at the University of Helsinki - worked.
"After six to eight months," Johnson told Administrative Law Judge Quentin Grant, "I started getting a little sprinkling of new hair. It kept getting longer and longer, both front and back, and there was more of it."
Johnson said he used to comb the few blond wisps of hair he had from the right side over to the left, to mitigate the problem in the middle.
"One of my lieutenants used to tell me I was one of the best of the phonies," Johnson recalled with a smile. "Now he doesn't call me that anymore."
The testimony ran counter to claims by government witness Dr. Karl Kramer, a Miami dermatologist, who said on Thursday that there is no scientific reason to believe that Murphy's product will grow new hair or stop progressive male pattern baldness.
Kramer said that reports of new hair might be the result of wishful thinking. He also said people might indeed somehow produce new hair if they believe they will, and that this sort of placebo effect is well-known to science generally.
But there was no hesitation in the witnesses produced yesterday to support the effectiveness of New Generation.
Anthony Russell, a legislative aide in Sacramento, said he decided to test the lotion when he was a broadcaster.
I haven't recovered 100 percent of the hair I once had," he testified. "I wish I had. But maybe 60 percent has come back."
Russell, who says he still uses New Generation daily, combed his fingers through a respectable patch of dark hair an inch or two - possibly three - above his forehead.
"I only had tow or three hairs up front here," he said. "I couldn't part my hair before, and I couldn't wave it."
Dentist Lew Smith, perhaps the most hirsute volunteer witness, told of his two-decade fight against baldness, which began when he was in his late teens.
"I had transplants but it continued to fall out," he said. Then, Smith said, he bought a batch of New Generation, used it daily for six months, and began growing hair again.
"I'm a dentist and I work bent over much of the time," he said. "My assistants see my head daily, and they all remarked there'd been quite a change."
Smith brought along before and after photographs his wife took to show his progress from balding to bush-haired. She used a Polaroid camera, he said, "so there would be no question that the negatives were retouched."
He also offered to produce baby photographs showing him nearly bald then - to show that he is not by nature, bushy - but Judge Grant said he'd take his word for it.
"In all my dealings with Mr. Murphy. " Smith said, "he has been scrupulously honest. I sent too much money, and he sent a refund check before I even got the product.
And I was so excited at the results that I asked to invest in the business, but he said, no he was simply interested in building up credibility..."
Russell H. Pearson, a chain store officer, said he used to find "a steady stream of hair in the shower drain" but that New Generation stopped all that.
"I was hoping to find hope," he said. "Now I'm not quitting."
Judge Grant, whose head is neither bald nor bushy, said after the two-day hearing at the Federal Building that he could rule on the matter before the end of the year.