When is a man a man? When he's a MUSTACHE MAN! Though not as fashionable today, there was a time when sporting a 'stache was a source of pride and glory. Now the heyday of the look was definitely the late 60's and 70's, with guys like Sonny Bono and Ted Nugent showing us how it's done.
But by the 1980's you couldn't turn on the TV or read a magazine without finding a guy with a pushbroom on his face. Many of my childhood pop culture memories involve mustaches. Strange, but true. So I thought I'd offer a run-down of My Favorite Mustaches. Wow. that could be a new reality show! And if it included some of the guys I'm about to talk about, things could get a little HAIRY. Get it? To quote the man from Melmac, "Ha! I Kill me."
Now there were a lot of whiskers to COMB OVER (zing!), so I had to lay down some guidelines as to who was eligible to be considered in the best of my mustache memories.
First off, these gentlemen had to have chosen the mustache as a way of life. None of this Kurt Russell in Tombstone slapping on a fake mustache to play Wyatt Earp. Facial hair is not a game, it's a bold statement about your philosophy on life, boy!
Now Sam Elliot in Tombstone is a different story. I just saw him in Ghost Rider, still living the life of a mustache man.
Second, no animated or video game characters. The reach of these types of characters is too vast and really not anything you can aspire too. Therefore Mario and Luigi are out and that goes for Murky the villain from Rainbow Brite, too.
Hey Murky kinds of looks like the lost Mario brother doesn't he? I'm sure he used to be a helping hand in the battle against Bowser, but one day he ate too many Wintergreen Tic-Tacs, which seeped into his blood stream and the rest is history.
Finally, NO BEARDS. Yes, it can be said that a mustache is incorporated into the overall makeup of the beard. But, a Weird-o with a Beard-o is a very different animal from a Man with a Mustache and so we bid farewell to ZZ Top, Kevin Smith and Grizzly Adams, who did have a beard!
For me, when I flash back to the 80's the very first thing that comes to mind is a mustache that cruised along the coasts of Hawaii each week in a sports car, solving crimes and wearing Hawaiin shirts.
Of course I'm taking about Tom Selleck as Magnum, P.I. This was a classic. The look says, "I'm macho, but I know to treat a lady." I can't say enough about how this guy defines the 80's for me. Seriously if you say 80's, I say Tom Selleck's mustache. It's a reflex.
Magnum, P.I. actually has the distinction of featuring two of the greatest mustache men of yesteryear as stars. You see, the prim and proper Higgins also dabbled in facial hair and gave Magnum a run for his money, though not with the ladies (did Higgins have a girlfriend?), but certainly in mustachary.
Also on the TV dial, though not quite the same level of thrill seeker as the "Magnum-stache", was a distinguished patch of lipfuzz from across the pond, belonging to one Mr. Lynn Belvedere.
Could we really have taken Mr. Belvedere (or Brocktoon, as he's known in some circles) seriously, if he didn't have that mustache? Not only did it thin out his face, but it made any bit of advice he gave Wesley that much more palatable.
Case in point, do you remember when Christopher Hewett aka Mr. Belvedere took over for Tattoo on Fantasy Island? NO. Why? Because he went without the mustache, making him just another chubby Englishmen in a white suit. Guys like that were a dime a dozen back then. I couldn't even find a picture online, that's how forgettable he was with out the mustache! Be warned.
The next fellow I present to you is not English, far from it. He is the All-American Grandfather figure, with taste for Oats and a penchant for wearing his Diabetes condition on his sleeve. Ladies and Gentleman: Wilford Brimley.
Mostly I've included him because he seems to be the darling of the retro-website world. Everywhere I go it's Wilford Brimley and his Oats! I don't remember him so much for his Oatmeal commercials or his time on the TV show Our House.
No it all comes down to his role as Noa, the grumpy hermit from the classic Ewoks: Battle for Endor. But the Brimster was sporting a beard in that fine feature, so he's out of the running.
The wrestling world of the 80's also gave us some of the finest mustache artistry our planet has been fortunate enough to see. Funny, these guys wax and shave their bodies, but are man enough to let the facial hair go wild!
The title of World Heavyweight Handlebar Mustache Champion was always a grudgematch between Hulk Hogan and Jesse "The Body" Ventura, I think Jesse even claimed once on air that Hulk stole the look from him.
But the Iron Sheik may have had them both beat, with his thick patch of power, that featured a sinister curl at both ends. The fact that he didn't have any hair on top of his head to distract attention from his face also gives him extra points.
Nikolai Volkoff was there too, but his mustached was rather subdued, almost looked French. Mean Gene Okerlund also deserves a mention, because he would be virtually unrecognizable without his facial fur.
In the world of less-theatrical sports we had quite a few stars of the day wearing the mighty mustache. Patrick Ewing stood tall with a with his declaration of machismo. Ken Griffey, Jr. was always sporting the barely there, pencil thin variety.
Griffey always made me laugh, because for all that he was able to grow, he should have just shaved and not embarassed himself. Remember when everyone made fun of Bud on Married...With Children for trying to grow a mustache? That's what it was like.
At the local movie theater we were more likely to run into the stylin' 'staches of Eddie Murphy, Ernie Hudson and Lou Gossett, Jr. each with their own distinctive look.
Being a Ghostbusters and Congo fan, Ernie hudson wins this particular round of entrants. He was always so suave, yet hilarious and the mustache made the man.
Speking of hilarity, there are few who could compete with the power of one man's mallet wielding mustache. Ready to smash any and all comers, get your ponchos ready it's Gallagher.
If this guy didn't have his iconic mustache, he would be in trouble. Mostly because his voice is pretty annoying and his comedy isn't that great. Smashing fruit? eh. But I have vivid memories of seeing the cover art to his VHS tapes at the video store growing up. I never wanted to watch them, just laugh at the long-haired, bald mustache man on the front.
For real comedy, we have to go the main man of mockery, the parody prince, the strangest man to ever come outta Lynwood, California: Weird Al Yankovic.
Before a high school friend (eventually bandmate) introduced me to the world of KISS, Black Sabbath and Metallica, Al's music was all that I owned. I knew the Weird Al versions of songs before I had ever heard of Nirvana and other bands he parodied.
It was a comfort to find the Maniacal Mustache Maestro staring at me from his newest album release, music videos, UHF (a classic!) and I even went to his concerts at the local county fair each year. But then Al pulled fast one on us.
He shaved it off! Oh, for shame, Al...for shame. I must admit, it took me a long time to buy Running With Scissors (the one with The Saga Begins and All About the Pentiums), just because I was so shocked.
To this day, I still haven't bought Poodle Hat or Straight Outta Lynwood, although I'm more inclined to go for the latter since he has facial hair on the cover. See, Al? Mustache = $$$! The only reason Al is still eligible is that for most of his career from 1983-1998 he was keeping his upper lip warm with style.
Going back to Metallica though, James Hetfield gave me enough nightmares as a kid to warrant a mention. He had this modern biker-barbarian motif going during the Black Album period that when coupled with his face fading in and out of blackness in their videos freaked me out.
Even after they went alternative with Load/Re-load and cut their hair, James kept it real with the mustache for a while.
A special award goes to a few actors that took a 'Stache stand in multiple decades and on multiple shows. The first of which is none other than Major Dad himself Gerald McRaney.
Also known as one half of Simon & Simon, Ol' Gerald has stood steadfast in his commitment to the look and bridged the gap between the 80's and 90's. Just look at the evolution...or lack thereof.
Also part of this exclusive group, is that "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot" Dabney Coleman aka that lovable scoundrel of a teacher, Mr. Drexell.
From 9 to 5 with Dolly Parton, to mixing leather and lip hair in Cloak and Dagger and finally strutting his 'stache in the 90's with the short-lived sitcom Drexell's Class on Fox, Dabney has never let us down. Frankly, he doesn't give SCHICK! (Snap, yo!)
To finish off I would like to mention one of my favorite pairings of mustache men from the 1990 CBS prime time line up. From a long forgotten sitcom, that showed us the dangerous spectrum of mustache mayhem, called Evening Shade, it's Burt Reynolds and Michael Jeter:
Notice that one is with a woman and one is not. This is the power of the mustache, to repel or entice the female of the species.
So who wins the top spot? Well, it all goes back the beginning and Magnum wins the prize. Look upon the majesty that is Mr. Baseball, the man who won the hand of Monica Gellar (pre-Chandler), the man they call Tom Selleck! He takes all challengers.