Last night's NYC Beard & Moustache Championships was a huge surprise. I really thought it was going to be a silly, fun novelty event but by the time I arrived at The Knitting Factory, it was an absolute madhouse of real and fake facial hair and professional-looking camera equipment. The event seemed to have better media coverage than the recent immigrant worker protests, and why shouldn't it have? I mean, some of those beards and moustaches were downright crazy!
I spent a great deal of time wandering around backstage, sweating bullets and bewildered. Very hard to know where to focus my eyes? Should I look at the swilling audience on the main floor? The crazy German guy with the Dr. Suess moustache? The guy who looked like Andres du Bouchet as Franky "No Pants", if Andres were inclined to grow the worst facial hair possible? The clusters of middle-aged men dressed as Confederate soldiers? (Note: there seems like a lot of overlap between the worlds of Civil War Re-Enactors and Competitive Facial Hair Growers. Wouldn't have guessed that.) Or the huge group of bearded female dancers, crowding out the entire green room as they got ready for their opening number?
My girlfriend is lucky, because she does not sweat. It's a medical mystery, but it's true. She was squashed right against the lip of the stage with her fancy camera, and not a single drop of perspiration dampened her nice face. I, on the other hand, do 99% of my sweating through the face and head. Combine that with the crowd and the fact that the air conditioning was not working, and by the time I got onstage and put a microphone in my hand I was a walking cautionary tale for the dangers of electrocution.
This was the first time I'd ever performed in front of a rock audience, and it was pretty insane. (With the insanity definitely tipping toward the good kind, rather than the fetal position and crying jag kind.) Rowdy and crowded, pressed all the way to the back walls. It's hard to know how to react. My first impulse, honestly, was the same kind I have when I'm standing at the edge of rock face, looking out over the landscape from a perilous height: I wanted to jump. I wanted to jump right into the crowd and let them swallow me up. I kept fantasizing about doing it, and curling up on the floor while they completely enveloped me, like a giant set of noise-canceling headphones. (In fact, one of the first things I noticed when I got onstage was the number of people up close, armed with digital cameras. I assessed them and decided it would be a bad idea to jump. I mentioned this to the audience, but I really wonder if it's more difficult for musicians to stage dive these days. I honestly believe most of the people in the audience would not catch the performer, for fear of damaging their very expensive camera equipment. As if involving themselves in the experience would somehow infringe upon their ability to photoblog the event later.)
All in all, the crowd was very cool. There was one guy who was sort of light-heartedly heckling, but it was completely reasonable within the context of the event. Besides, it would be extremely silly to get worked up about a dude who consciously chose to wear sunglasses indoors—a decision so self-damaging it kind of cancels out any abuse you might choose to heap upon others. (Seriously, are there any men's magazines still giving permission to wear sunglasses indoors? I can forgive the out-of-town dorks who roam St. Mark's Place on the weekend for committing this sin, but a local? Your friends are too kind to you.)
I was hosting the "BEST BEARDS" category, and was asked to prepare 4 minutes or so before introducing the contestants. I was actually at a loss, so decided at the last minute I'd just do a little research and write up some Beard Facts. I read some of these, but not all. There was a lot of show to get to, after all:
BEARD FACT: The most popular style of beard in America is known as the Van Dyke, named after the Flemish painter Sir Anthony Van Dyck. The least popular beard style is The Wisconsin Fuckface.
BEARD FACT: Other notable beard styles you may see this evening: Mutton Chops, The Donegal, The Musketeer, The Great Emancipator, The Confederate Sympathizer, The Pretentious New York Jew, The Jazzfunk Keyboard Player, The Six-Month Mistake, The Vagina Dentata, The Scratchy Patch, The Disgrace of Ireland, The Flavor Savor, The Clam Catcher, The Slop Mop, The Poontang Preserver, The Herpes Hideout, The Sovereign Independent Nation of Billy Ray, The Unemployable In This Fortune 500, Daddy's Little Secret, The 50 Year-Old Virgin, The Bad Guy From Robocop Who Got All Mutated and Then Hit By a Speeding Car, and The Enchanted Forest of Ungodly Food Stink.
BEARD FACT: According to t-shirts, the price for moustache rides can range anywhere between 25 cents and free, adjusted for inflation. However, the price for beard rides has remained a steady $3.98, and is non-negotiable.
BEARD FACT: Some of history's most famous people have had beards. This list includes: Karl Marx; Fidel Castro; Ulysses S. Grant; Leo Tolstoy; Moses; Fredrick Douglass; Osama Bin Laden; Chuck Norris; Captain Lou Albano; The Doobie Brothers; Dr. Phineas Q. Beardenheimer, inventor of herbal ecstasy; Al Gore, when he got all cool for a second; James Beard; Willie Nelson; that guy on your block who used to always hang out on his front porch with an iguana sitting on his lap, and my high school lunch lady.
RELATED BEARD FACT: Most of the people in the aforementioned list have died from syphilis. The rest surely will. Coincidence?
BEARD FACT: Afraid of flying? Grow a beard. Chances are you will be refused admittance on most domestic and international flights.
BEARD FACT: The name of the only non-bearded member of ZZ Top is "Frank Beard." Ironic?
RELATED BEARD FACT: every article ever written about ZZ Top mentions this fact. What they do not mention is that when the other members of ZZ Top insisted Frank Beard grow a beard, he told them, "Why don't we all discuss this matter over a picnic lunch at Lake Gofuckyourselves?"
EXTRA RELATED BEARD FACT: Frank Beard is prohibited from driving the ZZ Top car indefinitely.
BEARD FACT: If you took all the beards in this room and measured them out, end to end, you would be the most boring person in America.
BEARD FACT: A study in Australia showed that 92% of women and 79% of men would rather not work with people who have facial hair. A related study showed that 98% of men with facial hair would never want to work for your fascist company, anyhow. Rage against the machine, brothers! George W. Hitler, AM I RIGHT???
BEARD FACT: The last officially bearded President of the United States was Benjamin Harrison, who left office in 1893 in disgrace, when it was discovered his beard was made of slaves.
BEARD FACT: Did you know the U.S. Constitution was written on hemp, and that George Washington's false teeth were made of hemp? In fact, everything that isn't glass or metal can be made out of hemp. EVERYTHING THAT ISN'T GLASS OR METAL CAN BE MADE FROM HEMP!! A bearded guy told me that.
BEARD FACT: Growing a beard is the only activity that can be just as easily done both in and out of a coma.