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Hair Do Well

“It’s hard being a woman. Period,” says Alicia Keys, 22, who won five Grammy Awards for her debut album, Songs in A Minor. And she has the beauty-parlor war story to prove it. “I went to one and asked, ‘Can you blow out my hair so that it can be straight, but not permed?’ I could tell they were scared of my hair, but they blow-dried it and turned me around to look in the mirror. Instead of being straight, it was puffed like a huge box. I hated it, but I was afraid to say anything.” Keys, who has since adopted a lower maintenance braided do, still endures some abuse in the name of fashion. “I won’t do anything that makes me feel uncomfortable, but I love heels,” says the R&B star. “Some low, some high and some that hurt even before you leave the house.”

It’s All Relative

Portraying a hit man trying to protect his son from killers in the gangster drama Road to Perdition made Tom Hanks reminisce about his own far less dramatic relationship with his father. “My dad was in the restaurant business, and he could not fathom why I didn’t want to become the assistant manager of the Jack in the Box down the street,” says the 46-year-old Concord, Calif.-reared actor. “And then he said, ‘Any knothead could be assistant manager in six months.’ I said, ‘Well, number one, thanks for the praise. And number two, I have never heard you talk about what you enjoy doing for a living.’ ” The two-time Oscar winner pauses before fessing up. Of course, Hanks adds, “I didn’t actually say this to my dad.”

Rat’s All Folks

Playing a creepy alien in Men in Black II was no sweat for Lara Flynn Boyle, who has had some experience with undesirable critters. “I used to shovel up dead rats,” says Boyle, 32. “My mom was a manager of this building in Chicago. In the summer, like in all cities, we had rats. So she used to set out rat bait, and I would shovel them up.” Now that she’s a star, rodents are a thing of the past, right? “Every city has rats, even Beverly Hills,” says Boyle. “I have a little tiny house there, and sure enough, on the side of the house there was a dead rat. I called my mother and said, ‘I’m never shoveling up another rat. I’ll pay whatever it costs to get someone over here to do it.’ And she said, I understand. I’m on my way’ ”

Fighting the Uphill Battle

Harrison Ford fought the evil empire in Star Wars and conquered ruthless Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but the big-screen hero wasn’t always so tough. “I went to a fairly small junior high school, and I somehow made myself an attractive target for bullies,” says Ford, 60, who plays a formidable Russian submarine captain in K-19: The Widowmaker. “The school had been built above some soybean fields, and every day at recess, bullies would push me down the hill. I’d spend the rest of the recess scrambling back up. I guess it was as much show business as it was physical abuse because it was the entertainment of the day.” He soon learned that being an underdog wasn’t all bad, however. “There were two attractive twin girls whose sympathy made it all bearable,” says Ford, who gained the high ground in high school. “Finally somebody pushed me too far. I whacked him, and he fell backward down a flight of stairs.”