By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Last Thursday, 35 mustachioed men assembled with friends and family for the annual Stache Bash in the downstairs basement of Fontana's, a Chinatown bar on Eldridge and Broome. Months of assiduous facial hair growing was to culminate in the Stache Bash's signature contest, the crowning of Sweetest Stache 2005.
"It's not for the ladies, it's not for the money. It's for the stache, and the kids," said one impressively virile contestantmustache alias,"Scratch n Sniff." In the history of charity fundraisers the Mustaches for Kids program is one of the oddest, a volunteer program founded in Los Angeles in 1999 that has raised over $100,000 nationwide, recruiting menand womento grow mustaches and collect donations from friends and family. Proceeds in years past have always gone to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, but this year, after the Katrina disaster, New York City Chapter earmarked their contributions for the Children's Hospital of New Orleans.
After a quick mustache poem recited by former Sweetest Stache winner and the night's MC, Andy Selsberg, the competition commenced with a parade of staches. Contestant 9 modeled a debonair eyepatch to match the comely brunette bush perched below an aquiline nose; Number 18, an aloof Victorian detective type with plaid pants and a cap, performed a slow turn with a studied nonchalance, tumbler of whiskey in hand. Number 20 preferred a more forward approach, rubbing his stache against the mike, as if the audience could hear his badge of holy manhood come through in surround sound.
"My mustache's favorite movie is Wyatt Earp," piped up Contestant 4. Favorite book to read to mustaches included "Sherlock Holmes and the Search for the Secret Stache, and even the "little Stash that Could." "If my mustache had a license," said one wee, overcompensating mustache, "it would drive three women at the same time!" "If my mustache had a favorite color," said another, "it would be corduroy." Number 18 had nicknamed his mustache Fritz.
After narrowing the competition down to 15, the tactile round began, with the judges testing for depth, breadth, and complexity, yanking gently on a few hairs with tweezers, one woman judge even rubbing the occasional stache against her cheek. This was followed by the Beer Foam Retention portion of the contest. "A lot of great growers fall here," warily warned the MC. "Wipe? Why did you wipe??!!!," he berated one foolish grower, who had thoughtlessly brushed his shirt jacket over his mouth after drinking. A robust Charlie Chaplin took to the stage, coming up from his plastic cup of shaken beer with a full foam crown. "AMAZING!," the MC applauded.
The questions grew more difficult when it got down to the final three: Chaplin, a petite fellow who seemed dwarfed by his hefty handlebar, and a skanky stacher in plaid sportscoat and aviators. "If you mustache could cook," queried the MC, "what would its signature dish be?"
The competition ended in a mustache danceoff. "We must see your mustache dance!" "No other body parts! Only the mustache will dance!" he cried, growing quite belligerent. The skanky stacher had the finest moves, but it was Chaplin who won, clearly based on his unmatched foam-retention skills. With the victory crown atop his head and Sweetest Stashe 2005 wrapped around his body, he did not speak, but merely circled the stage triumphantly and then joined his fellow mustachers below, in the last few hours before their girlfriends made them shave the appalling things off.