He got his hair permed when he got out of the Air Force, and was unsuccessfully trying to make a living as a painter, says longtime business partner Annette Kowalski.
“He got this bright idea that he could save money on haircuts. So he let his hair grow, he got a perm, and decided he would never need a haircut again,” Kowalski explains.
Before he could change it back, though, the perm became his company’s logo — Ross hated it. “He could never, ever, ever change his hair, and he was so mad about that,” Kowalski says. “He got tired of that curly hair.”
Ross was a meticulous businessman whose every move on his TV series “The Joy of Painting,” was scripted in advance. He did three copies of every painting he did on the show. His art supply company is still in business today, more than 20 years after his death, and the show is coming to Netflix.
Kowalski discovered Ross “in the aftermath of a family tragedy.” Her oldest son was killed in a traffic accident. All she could do afterward “was lay on the house and watch television.”
She watched a painter named Bill Alexander, who was big on PBS back then. Kowalski’s husband was desperate to get her out of the house, so he signed her up for Alexander’s painting class, 900 miles away in Clearwater, Fla. But then Alexander stopped teaching and passed his classes off to an unknown protege.
“I was very disappointed,” Kowalski says. “I so wanted to paint with Bill Alexander. But my husband said, ‘Get up. Get in the car. We’re going.’ ”
It was a five-day class in a hotel conference room. At the easel upfront was a guy with a perm who went by Bob. His paintings were good, but when he started talking to the class, that’s when Kowalski knew she had met someone special.