Friday, August 19, 2011

"Put on a Hairy Face"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

As runner-up in the 2010 Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year Contest -- a defeat I took with grace, humility and, of course, a stiff upper lip -- I know what it’s like to lose by a whisker.

So it was with a sense of deja fu manchu that I recently got involved in another hairy situation when I attended the launch party for the new reality TV series “Whisker Wars.”

IFC, the cable station on which “Whisker Wars” airs Fridays at 11 p.m., hosted the bash at the Blind Barber, a New York City establishment that is part barbershop and part bar. According to the bartender, however, it does not serve gin and hair tonic.

The nice folks at the Blind Barber let me come in, though I have no hair on my chinny chin chin. I couldn’t say that for the bearded boys of “Whisker Wars,” a program devoted to what is described in an IFC press release as “the fascinating and hair-raising world of competitive facial-hair growing.”

Yes, raising a beard, or a mustache, or a goatee -- which is much less expensive than raising a child, because you don’t have to put a beard through college -- is now a sport. I felt right at home.

“You have a very nice mustache,” said Phil Olsen, the founder and self-appointed captain of Beard Team USA and one of the stars of “Whisker Wars.” Olsen not only has a mustache himself but a thick, luxurious and extremely impressive footlong beard.

“I get compliments on my beard every day,” said Olsen, 62, a semiretired lawyer and a settlement conference judge in Nevada. “I’ve never heard anyone say anything negative about it. I’m sure some people don’t like it, but they can keep their opinions to themselves or I’ll send them to jail.”

“I like your beard,” I said.

“Thank you,” Olsen replied. “You are free to go.”

And go I did, straight to the mustache competition, which was being judged by three other “Whisker Wars” stars: Alex LaRoche, Jack Passion and Myk O’Connor.

In a strong field that featured a variety of lip growths, I made it to the semifinals: a hairy half-dozen composed of five men and one woman.

Unfortunately, my chevron mustache, which was so successful last year, didn’t make the cut.

That wasn’t the case with Wendi Gueorguiev, an artist from Queens, N.Y., who made it to the three-person finals despite wearing a faux manchu.

“Sorry,” O’Connor told me, “but she has better qualifications.”

They weren’t enough to put her over the top. Still, Gueorguiev was pleased to be the runner-up, especially since, technically speaking, she cheated.

“There’s a photo booth in the back of the bar,” she explained. “I was trying on hats, mustaches and beards. I decided to keep the mustache. I don’t know what came over me. I made my way out front to the contest. I was surprised I finished second. I felt honored.”

Gueorguiev, who declined to give her age but said she is “old enough to grow a mustache,” commented favorably on mine. “It’s pretty formidable,” she said. “It’s thick, nice and lush, a little more masculine than the Dali-esque mustache that won.”

But the winner was masculine, indeed.

“Hello, Dali,” I said to him.

“Hello, Jerry,” replied Max Baehr, a 25-year-old Web producer from Brooklyn, N.Y. The champ said he was inspired by his father, Tim, who isn’t so much a Salvador Daddy as he is a whisker warrior.

“He has a beard,” said Baehr, who waxed poetic about his waxed handlebar mustache. “My lady friend likes it,” said Baehr, adding that he likes my mustache. “It looks great,” he said.

It wasn’t good enough to win the contest, but maybe, if I borrow one of the Blind Barber’s fake beards, I could still be a star on “Whisker Wars.”

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, August 5, 2011

"He's All Wet"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

A rolling stone gathers no moss -- except, of course, for Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who are looking a little green around the gills these days. But a standing house gathers moss -- and it takes a lot of green to get it off.

That’s why I recently shelled out $300 for a power washer.

I was prompted to make the purchase when a guy who does power washing on the side (as well as, presumably, in the front and back) offered to do the house for $400.

My wife, Sue, who is always thinking (of stuff for me to do), said we could save money if we bought a power washer and did the house ourselves. Or, more specifically, myself.

After God made Sue, He broke the mold. Now it was up to me to get rid of the mold with a new power washer.

I went to a large home-improvement store and spoke with a very nice, knowledgeable and helpful sales associate named Frank, who knew that when it came to power washing, I was wet behind the ears.

“The proper attire for power washing is a bathing suit and goggles, but if you want an undersea effect, you can use a snorkel,” Frank said after I chose a machine approximately the size of a Subaru, which was no coincidence because it has a Subaru engine.

Before I loaded the power washer into my car, which is not a Subaru, I got quite an education from Frank, a college business professor who has worked in landscaping and construction.

“I wear many hats, but not when I power-wash my house,” said Frank, who added: “You’re the first guy I have ever met who admitted that he doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

According to Frank, guys think they know everything about home improvement, even when they don’t, which is most of the time. But even if they’re handy, they’ll always defer to their wives.

“I’m pretty handy,” Frank said. “But my wife doesn’t trust me. We were redoing our home and we had to get his and hers shopping carts. When we got to the register, she kept everything in her cart and I had to empty mine. Guess who did the work. Me! And with the stuff she bought.”

The house came out nice, said Frank, who predicted that mine would, too, because my power washer would get off all the moss, mold and mildew and that, thanks to Sue, I would save money.

“The wives are always right,” Frank noted.

I wasn’t so sure when I got the power washer home and it wouldn’t start. When I brought it back to the store, Frank started it on the first try.

“You have to pull the cord like you’re mad at it,” Frank said. “Swearing helps, too.”

“I already tried that,” I replied.

“And make sure the choke is in the right position,” he advised.

“I’d like to choke the stupid thing,” I said.

“Don’t get that mad at it,” Frank warned.

When I got the power washer back home, I swore at it and pulled the cord hard. It started on the first try.

Clad in a bathing suit and goggles, I posed as Sue took a photo, which will no doubt end up on a “wanted” poster. Holding the trigger handle and spray wand, I looked like either an action hero or a space alien.

When I pulled the trigger, a powerful stream of soap and water shot out. It splashed off the vinyl siding and soaked me.

“Are you having fun?” Sue asked above the din of the power washer.

“It’s like my own personal water park!” I said giddily.

Best of all, the green on the side of the house started to melt away.

There’s still more to do, but the place is looking much better. And, for what it’s worth, I’m the cleanest guy in the neighborhood.

Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima