My 70’s Mustache Dilemma; Good Guests Bring Cascade

Last February, I rented the 70’s urban-paranoia classic Death Wish , starring Charles Bronson, and it rocked my world. By the time the credits rolled I had developed a delusional identification with the Bronson character, or at least with his look: I started to fancy myself as a rugged vigilante with a mop of butch, unruly hair, single-handedly making New York City a better place to live.

My hairdresser, Antonio Prieto (25 West 19th Street, 255-3741), advised me that a tonsorial transformation of this kind was no small undertaking. “Lots of my hipper clients are growing their hair. Give it a whirl, come back in six weeks,” he said. “Your head’s a bit big and there’s quite a bit of gray–but hey, at least you’ve got thick hair.”

Everything was going fine until about the fourth or fifth week, when, as my tresses increased in volume, I started hearing “Good morning, madam” a few too many times. This was an insightful period, a crystal-clear view of what it’s like to be a woman, albeit a not very attractive one. When I pointed out that I was a bloke, public servants would, without exception, go from dismissive-indifferent to obsequious-grotesquely apologetic. As if mistaking a man for a woman was the ultimate insult, on a par with, for example, calling a man a “pig fucker.”

I racked my brains and eventually came up with the perfect and rather obvious antidote to my dilemma: a mustache. Charles B. had had one and, according to the fashion press, 70’s facial hair was about to make a comeback. But not a prissy little manicured mustache; I wanted a Great Barrier Reef of shaggy, untamed manliness.

Fortunately, my decision to grow a Burt Reynolds-ish mustache coincided with a vacation, which, as we guys (and some of you ladies) know, is the perfect time to experiment with facial hair. Unfortunately, my hormones weren’t raging with the Bronsonesque frenzy necessary to generate much density, and I returned from my two-week vacation looking as if my top lip were covered in mold. This did not bother me; what drove me bonkers was the endless idiotic commentary from acquaintances and well-wishers.

The British call it “passing remarks” (as opposed to passing gas); e.g., colleague at urinal: “Growing a mustache, I see.” Me (smiling maniacally, but with mounting irritation): “Yes, I certainly am.”

By late June it had all come together, the hair and the ‘stache, but the reviews were soggy, to say the least: e.g., “You look like Rock Hudson in McMillan and Wife .” Then, one fateful night, I was crossing Eighth Street–admittedly I was wearing a floral shirt and flared pants–and two young guys in a whomped-up BMW stopped to pass a remark. “Hey, Sonny Bono!” they yelled in unison, and then hung on to each other while shrieking with mirth.

I rushed home and snipped it off. I don’t have anything against old Sonny; in fact, he always seemed rather nice. It was the magnificently patronizing tone with which the remark was lobbed in my direction–as if I was some pathetic look-alike (God forbid) who would be thrilled to hear the comparison, no matter how sarcastically it had been delivered.

And how come they didn’t know I was supposed to look like Charles Bronson?

I’m once more clean-shaven, and with a shorter haircut. Mr. Prieto snipped my locks after saying I looked “too puffy, and too poofy.” He did, however, avoid reverting to my previous military cut by leaving the top longer, thus endowing me with a manageable soupçon of butch unruliness ($125, plus hair-washing tip.) The general consensus is that I look better than ever. Johno du Plessis, Select magazine’s U.S. editor and backhanded-compliment dispenser, hailed it as a “hitherto unimaginable improvement.”

The moral of the story: Make yourself look like a gargoyle every once in a while. It’s a great way of keeping the spotlight on you –and when you finally de-gargoyle yourself, you will be the happy recipient of a whole new wave of attention and appreciation.

Take a walk down 42nd Street–try not to get too emotional as you mourn the vanquishing of the sleaze that gave the area its character and sizzle–turn south on Eighth Avenue, rush into Arnold Hatters at No. 620 and buy yourself a Kangol mesh bin hat (style No. 3449).

Arnold’s is the Kangol center of the universe, purveying no less than 30 styles (from $15 to $50). The mesh bin is a miracle of ventilated summer millinery which looks perfect on all boys, but only on girls with tiny heads and long, dead-straight hair (in navy or black, $38).

Don’t rush off after making your purchase; enjoy the old-school 42nd Street ambience. This friendly, family-run emporium of style has serviced the diverse needs of this lovely neighborhood– i.e., businessmen, tourists, johns and pimps–for four generations, and the densely packed window displays are far more riveting than anything at the Chelsea galleries.

When guesting in the Hamptons, it’s vital that you bring your own Cascade. Old-guard Hamptonites are rashly switching to environmentally friendly household products, thereby putting their own lives and the lives of their guests at risk. From Quogue to Montauk, brittle, pushy hostesses are deluding themselves that they are “ladies of the canyon”; they are trying to get back to the garden by using biodegradable dishwashing liquids with never a thought for the health ramifications.

I personally witnessed Gina Nanni, Bridgehampton hostess, wife of writer and former Warhol acolyte Glenn O’Brien and co-owner of the P.R. firm Company Agenda, using a hopelessly ineffectual “green” product made by Seventh Generation. With no chlorine, no phosphates and no dyes, the soap made Ms. Nanni’s dishes look virtually unwashed. “Just because I’m in P.R. doesn’t mean I don’t care about the environment,” she said.

But what about botulism? Coffee stains, congealed guacamole and country gravy remained on Ms. Nanni’s dishes, which only become virtual petri dishes of bacterial growth during the hot and steamy drying process.

If you find yourself in this predicament, do what I did: Steal down in the night, empty the treacherous hippie product down the sink and pour your Cascade into the offending bottle. If anyone catches you, pretend to be sleepwalking and strike some distracting attitudes as you make your way back to your room.

There’s nothing wrong with clawing your way to the top, or the middle. Just make sure your nails are in good shape. Philosophy makes a new nail hardener called Gift Horse which contains nonycosine E, a substance used to strengthen horses’ hooves. In a cunning amalgamation of philanthropy and nail care, Philosophy will donate all of the proceeds to the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. So will ibeauty.com or philosophy.com. The fancy equestrian packaging makes it a fab $20 gift.

Re: Sonny Bono. Each and Them, a dead stock store at 216 Lafayette Street, sells unworn, sleazy 70’s glazed-cotton geezer jackets–V.I.P., Le Tigre and Members Only. And, girls, they have them in little boys’ sizes. For $39 you can buy yourself a cropped blouson drenched with genuine geezer chic. Choose from classic 70’s colors: gray, wine or powder blue. WARNING: Don’t take your dog into this store. The resident cat clawed my Liberace’s eyeball and we spent the afternoon at the vet.