October 12, 2007

Ode to the Once-Mighty Mustache


Oh gossamer wings of chestnut brown
Soar high to the sky
Attain the celestial mile
When I smile
Fall down to the ground
On gravity's burial mound
When I frown
--Media Concepts (2007)

This is Cindy's first mustache.
--Derek Smalls, "This Is Spinal Tap" (1984)
Quick, name four things that come to mind when you hear the word "mustache." Here's my list:

1. Baseball players
2. Firefighters
3. Porn stars
4. The Seventies

I suspect that others' lists do not differ greatly from mine. How did the mustache (or "moustache") fall so far out of favor? Once the accoutrement of Presidents and scholars, the mustache is now the butt of jokes regarding working class stiffs and Middle East dictators.

The list of famous mustached men is extensive. It includes writers and thinkers such as Samuel L. Clemens a/k/a/ Mark Twain, Albert Einstein and Friedrick Nietsche.

Presidents and leaders such as Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Industrialists like Howard Hughes and Ted Turner (who both affected the pencil-thin mustache).

Artists and entertainers such as Groucho Marx, Charlie Chaplin, Salvador Dali, Oliver Hardy and Frank Zappa.

But somewhere along the way, mustaches came to be associated with villains. Perhaps it was the dynamic duo of Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin in the 1930s and 1940s. New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey probably lost the presidency in 1948 to Harry Truman because Dewey had a neatly trimmed mustache that people said made him look too smooth, like the guy on top of a wedding cake. In the 1960s, cartoon villains Snidely Whiplash of the "Dudley Doright"cartoons and Boris Badenov of "Rocky and Bullwinkle" continued the mustached villain theme.

During the past several decades, the mustache has also acquired a thick layer of cheese. First, it become the accessory of winking movie actors such as Burt Reynolds, media-hogging television journalists like Geraldo Rivera, and porn stars such as John Holmes. Even "Brady Bunch" dad Robert Reed grew a mustache to go along with his 70s perm. More recently, the full cheese mustache was a staple for New York Met Keith Hernandez, "Magnum P.I.'s" Tom Selleck, 70s white soul underling John Oates, and two-bit dictator Saddam Hussein.
It seems to me that the celebrity cheeseballs and the bad guys (and, in the case of Saddam Hussein, a combination of both) have ruined mustaches for the rest of us. We now associate wholly negative feelings with mustaches. Here's a quick experiment: try to conjure up a picture of Iranian President Mahmoud "no gays here" Ahmadinejad. In your mind's picture, does Ahmadinejad have a mustache? I bet he does. Wrong. He usually has a scruffy beard.

6 Comments:

At 5:14 PM, Blogger Barbara said...

Some people just don't seem to be complete without a mustache. Like my husband, for example. Over the past 30+ year, he has shaved his off only on rare occasions when we went on snorkeling vacations -- a mask just doesn't seal with a mustache. I must say I hate the scratchy upper lip that I must endure while it is growing back out.

 
At 6:05 PM, Blogger media concepts said...

That's too funny. I had no idea that one cannot successfully snorkel with a mustache. Surely Tom Selleck did so on "Magnum P.I." That's Hollywood for you!

 
At 6:59 PM, Blogger Barbara said...

Maybe Tom used Vaseline or a product advertised to solve the problem. But none of them ever worked for my husband. I suppose Hollywood does have a way of dealing with these problems! Or maybe he was just good at holding his breath...

 
At 7:57 PM, Blogger Aileen said...

When I started to read this, I was afraid you were going to say that you were growing a mustache! Sooo glad to hear that's not the case.

I hate, hate, hate them. I had an ex who had one, and I secretly think it's part of the reason I broke up with him :)

 
At 11:46 AM, Blogger media concepts said...

Who says I have no mustache? I didn't mention anything about that in the post.

 
At 6:14 AM, Blogger matchchatter said...

Put me in the NO column thank you. Borat has only strengthened my outlook on this topic.

However, I do enjoy a beard combined with a mustache, the total package works for me. Seems to unite with the face rather than hang there like an askew picture frame.

 

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