Herman Cain will never be elected President of the United States. It’s not his 9-9-9 pitch or his politics, it’s his mustache. Has anyone really noticed that thin crawl of hair on his upper lip? It raises the question: Who, in 2011 would elect a man to the highest office who has a mustache when no one since William Howard Taft has had one? Is it really a no-no?

It’s not clothes that make the man, it’s the mustache. Would Hitler have been as scary, or mean, or risen to such power without his mustache? Would Stalin? Would Groucho Marx have been as funny without that signature lip brush, even if it was greasepaint? Would Dewey have beaten Harry Truman in 1948, if he had shaved his famous mustache?

The fact that you, dear reader, can even consider these questions nails your age. So let’s look at it from a teen point of view. Inquiring minds on the net are asking: Would girls lose it over Justin Beiber in a lip rug? Would it hurt or help Taylor Lautner of “Twilight” fame? Do you even know who they are?

My brother Jug grew one right out of high school back in the 30s because Clark Gable started the rage, and men everywhere started growing one. He had it all his life and was buried looking like Clark Gable.

Outside of the oily Zachary Scott, who threatened Joan Crawford in “Mildred Pierce,” the fad didn’t catch on. Cary Grant and Spencer Tracy rarely wore one. I doubt you’ll see a flurry of them sprouting on big screen stars anytime soon.

I bring this to you because these are a few questions being bandied about on the Internet these days, in a swirl of interest in the advent of “Movember,” a movement started in Melbourne, Australia, to raise interest and money in the search for a cure for prostate cancer.

All participants are encouraged to grow mustaches to draw attention to the cause. It seems to be catching on in Europe and here in the U.S. and high time. This is serious business to be sure, but it unpacks a whole box of funny thoughts.

In the political arena, one only has to imagine what would happen if all the Republican candidates supported “Movember.” Imagine Mitt Romney in a pencil-thin lipper like Cain’s. He would look like an Omaha, Neb., car salesman circa 1950. Rick Perry? That’s all it would take to portray him as the dude in velvet brocade vest, diamond pinky ring and string bow tie, holding a deck of cards in a western saloon. “Interested in a game of poker, pardner?”

Our own Angus King had a nice trim one. Governor Baldacci in lip hair would have looked like Fredo in “The Godfather.” Not a good idea. Governor Paul LePage? Perhaps in the “Chester A. Arthur” special. You can Google it.

In researching this piece, I was stunned at how many types of mustaches there are: The Fu Manchu, a classic beloved by baseball players. The Horseshoe: again a ballplayer favorite and the signature of Hulk Hogan. The Western Wrangler favored by cowboy actor Sam Elliott. The Walrus, heavily favored by actor Wilfred Brimley who got rich with the diabetes commercials. The “Tom Selleck,” a thick top lip cover now fully linked to private eyes. Ernest Hemingway favored the same.

Of course I’m considering joining the Movember movement to support the fight against the dreaded prostate disease. I’ve lost several friends to the demon, and I stand with others my age at the end of the sidewalk where the threat of such things has discernible features.

So I’m going through all of the above to select the one that is right for me. I use paper cut outs and hold them up to my face. The Charlie Chaplin won’t work, and the Salvador Dali is seriously wrong. I like the tiny Gandhi mustache, but I’d have to shave my head. I think I’ll go for the Robert Redford “Butch Cassidy” look. Does it come in gray, do you think?

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

 


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