• Manly barber Rocky Carlino offers his customers a smile, a haircut and a friendly chat. (SBS/Alyssa Braithwaite)Source: SBS/Alyssa Braithwaite
"I give them a free haircut, I buy them a bread roll or a cappuccino. Because when they're down in the gutter, you don't kick them. You try to give them a hand to lift them up."
By
Alyssa Braithwaite

24 May 2017 - 12:28 PM  UPDATED 7 Aug 2018 - 8:06 AM

Rocco "Rocky" Carlino is a Manly icon.

From his little Barber Shop in the centre of the beachside Sydney surburb, Carlino has been helping keep the locals well-shaved, snipped and styled for more than 45 years - from "little bambinos" getting their first haircut through to senior citizens who have been coming to him for decades.

He has cut the hair of some of the area's best-known residents: politicians like NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard and former NSW Premier Mike Baird, rockstars such as Tim Farriss of INXS, and sportsmen including golfer Ken Nagle and rugby league player Brett Stewart.

The 61-year-old barber has many nicknames: The Italian Stallion. Rocky the Rockstar Barber. The Michaelangelo of the Scissors.

But to Manly's homeless population, he is a friend.

He cuts their hair for free, and helps them out with food, clothes, and money when they need it. And, he is always up for a chat.

"These people are homeless, they need a friend," Carlino tells SBS.

"I give them a free haircut, I buy them a bread roll or a cappuccino. Because when they're down in the gutter, you don't kick them. You try to give them a hand to lift them up."

Carlino emigrated to Australia from Reggio, Calabria in the south of Italy with his family at the age of 11. His parents were keen to give their children a better life and a brighter future, and settled in Manly. 

"We won the lottery when we came here," he says. "As soon as I was old enough I became an Australian citizen. I'm very proud of my background, and I'm very proud to embrace Australia as my new country."

As a teenager, he started sweeping the floor at Tony's Barber Shop in Whistler Street, Manly after school, and at 15 he became an apprentice barber. When Tony retired, Carlino opened his own business on Short Street, where he has been for the past 29 years, opening the shop six days a week with a smile. 

"I love my work. I look forward to coming to work every day," he says.

"I'm 61, thank God I've got the health, and I keep on going as long as I can. I've got no plans to retire. What do you want to retire for? Watch Days of Our Lives, The Young and the Restless? No."

 

There were some tough times for the business, when longer hair was the trend, but "now the older barber shops are back in fashion", says Carlino, who survived the lean times thanks to his loyal customers, who regularly send him postcards when they travel overseas.

So Carlino tries to give back to the community and help out those most in need, as a way of saying thankyou for giving him the life he loves.

"I've got a beautiful happy family, my house, my business is successful, so why not give something to people who need a hand or a friend?" he says.

"They look for a friend. I got the patience to listen. I think I've got a good heart, too. I do it with all my heart.

"Through depression or homelessness, a lot of them - they have improved, they got a job and they came back here, give me a big hug and say, 'Rocky, we haven't forgotten about you when you were good to us', and I try to offer them a free haircut and they say 'No Rocky, now I work I can afford to pay'."

Filthy Rich & Homeless season 2 airs over three nights starting on Tuesday 14 August 8.30pm on SBS. You can also stream the show anytime on SBS On Demand. Join the conversation with #FilthyRichHomeless.

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