CF Interviews: Jon Chattman, Author of Sweet ‘Stache

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jonandrichpicThis week the Clyde Fitch Report inaugurates another new feature: weekly interviews with interesting folks. Curiously, the first interviewee is named Jon Chattman. He is a writer who, with another writer named Rich Tarantino, published a hair-raising tract last year called The Book of Bert: High Class Stars with Some High-Class ‘Stache. Now a new and improved version of the book, called Sweet ‘Stashe: 50 Badass Moustaches and the Faces Who Sport Them, is out and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to cover it.

Chattman, who has penned pop culture pieces for the Huffington Post and founded what is the newest addition to the Clyde Fitch Report blogroll, TheCheapPop.com, is something of a walking contradiction, sounding serious when he’s ostensibly tongue-in-cheek and tongue-in-cheek when he’s ostensibly serious.

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Or these paragraphs, taken from the publicity materials:

From politicians (William H. Taft) and ball players (Keith Hernandez) to pop stars (Lionel Richie) and actors (Jason Lee), this book – profiled in the June 1 National Enquirer – profiles fifty famous faces with wit and humor.

“Your dad has plenty of ties and golf clubs, give him a gift that honors a fad that never goes out of style,” Chattman explained.

Adding to that, Tarantino noted, “A mustache is not just some hair under your nose anymore, it’s a way of life and this book proves that. ‘Sweet Stache’ will do for facial fuzz what ‘The Wizard of Oz’ did for flying monkeys.’

I suppose this is all an appropriate tonal balance for a book in which a ‘Stashe-o-Meter allows the reader to separate the wheezy from the chafed moustache, in which lists with such titles as “Top Five Moustaches More Famous Than the Men Themselves” takes care to include both Sinbad and Mr. Potato Head.

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sweetstacheClyde Fitch Report: So, how did you and Rich decide to structure this book? Why 50 badass moustaches when there must be 100 or 500 of the most famous ones to celebrate?

Jon Chattman: I can tell you that we were originally going to set out to do 100 moustache profiles, but after a lot of debate we thought 50 was also good because it would be shorter but would allow us to still get all the the moustache icons and unappreciated moustaches. Sam Elliott never gets his due and he doesn’t need a movie to wear a moustache. Or take a shower with a moustache. Off-camera, he’s got a moustache! Now, everyone’s going to think of Tom Selleck or Wilford Brimley when you talk about badass moustaches, but Sam Elliott’s moustache brings joy to a lot of people.

CFR: I’m presuming that with this, er, methodology, you guys laughed a lot writing this book.

JC: The two of us played a lot games of one-upping each other, I mean, moustaches can be silly; I have deep respect for anyone who walks out of the house with one.

When I have one, I think all eyes are on me, especially when I’m changing at the gym or walking down the street. Moustaches get a bad rep: automatically you think 1970s porn star, Tom Selleck, or creepy looking dude coming right at you. Moustaches are a lifestyle choice. I’m a little happy that someone like Brad Pitt is growing a moustache. I don’t know if it’s a PR stunt, but I do think it’ll help bring moustaches back. All pretty guys have to dirty themselves up. George Clooney, for example. I think a moustache would look good on Rosemary Clooney.

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CFR: Wow, ok, nice. Changing the subject, do you have compassion for the more facially wispy among us?

Donald FaisonJC: Well, I’m not going to give props for a goatee: If you grow it, you can’t show it, you have to commit to one or the other — a hunk of chunk on the chin or a moustache, any style you want. Also, a goatee is fine but I don’t think they need any more PR than they already have. A guy like Donald Faison — his moustache is pretty weak, he should just stop. I’ve seen pictures of him in which sometimes he looks better than in others, but mostly he looks like a 12-year-old boy trying too hard. If you have the ability to grow it and you’re embarrassed, you might as well shave it off. Frank Zappa had that soul-patch thing going on and it worked for him — just know your limitations.

CFR: Can you explain why you didn’t venture into the forbidden zone — women and moustaches?

JC: Frida Kahlo’s in the book — she purposely was proud of her moustache — she didn’t have to put it in her paintings. She just had a little man in her, and that’s nota sexual reference. I run my own website, TheCheapPop.com, and I think there is enough snark in the world, and the whole book is just kind of laughing with, not at, people. For the most part, I think that moustaches are enough of a character on men that we didn’t have to go and delve into women. I believe the equivalent for a man’s moustache, by the way, in terms of how it’s perceived, is a woman mullet. I call that a Momlet: a woman with a borderline mullet from the 80s who just never learned.

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CFR: Not looking for sales in Pennsylvania, I see. Let me ask you, will there be another book, maybe a book on sideburns or beards?

JC: I think beards are have been more acceptable over the long term. Moustaches, not so much. Everyone sported a moustache for a long time — it was something that, in the 1980s, was more accepted; in the ’90s it kind of leveled off; and in the ’00s, if it wasn’t for Jason Lee and Borat and old standbys like Geraldo and Tom Selleck, we wouldn’t have moustaches at all. Moustaches needed a book of their own for the respect factor. I know how it is: I have a moustache right now. Moustaches support a lot of men’s faces. Beards don’t have that stigma.

CFR: Weren’t politicians told not to wear beards, though — to avoid the subliminal suggestion that a beard connotes hiding something?

JC: It depends on the beard. There are neatly trimmed beards and there are ZZ Top beards, which is pretty gross, to be honest with you. Frank Beard, one of the ZZ Top guys, has a moustache.

CFR: I can’t buy this kind of material.

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JC: Anyway, as someone who wore the pork-chop sideburns in the ’90s, there could be optional sequels. Sideburns can be ridiculous — more so than moustaches. Most men , don’t take time to groom their sideburns. They look outcasts from the Orthodox community.

CFR: How do you care for moustache?

JC: I let it grow and when it gets all over the place, I take scissors and a razor. Last weekend, I went to a barber shop and had my moustache groomed. Grown men shaving your moustache! Something about it — I thought it would be a little humiliating, but it was great.

CFR: You have condition it, too.

JC: My wife always yells at me: “Can’t you condition it?” But on principle, I’m a fan of the rugged moustache. Brad Pitt has a nice moustache, but it’s perfectly groomed. Then you have guys like Sam Elliott and David Crosby who are, like, “I don’t give a shit, my moustache is just going to be out there.” That the approach I’ve been taking.

CFR: Is having a moustache improving your sex life?

JC: It’s doing me absolutely no favors.

CFR: So you can blame it on the book.

JC: I’m only married five years! My wife is extremely supportive of the book but she hates my moustache. She’d rather me go the way of the self-adhesive moustache.

CFR: When will you shave it off?

JC: I don’t know. I’ll probably keep it until I want to have sex again. Maybe I can compromise with my wife and go for the pencil-thin moustache. It’s like a bobby pin glued to your face.

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