January 19, 2013

"I don’t think we should talk about Lincoln’s underwear..."

"It’s not appropriate for someone so iconic. Even in the bedroom, Lincoln is never shown in his pajamas. He’s in his shirt and pants."

Joanna Johnston, movie costume designer.

***

"But even the President of the United States/Sometimes must have to stand naked."

Bob Dylan.

***

"How many Bob Dylan songs have the word 'naked' and how many of them can you name?" I challenge Meade with a Bob Dylan test, as I tend to do when I've done a search at bobdylan.com (as I did for the "It's Alright Ma" quote, above).

Meade immediately says "even the President of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked," then none of the others — not even "You see somebody naked and you say who is that man?" — and makes 2 wrong guesses:
MEADE: "'Mr. Tambourine Man'... just to dance beneath the naked sky..."

ME: "That's 'diamond sky.'"

MEADE: "The one where the farmer is chasing him out of his house."

ME: "'Motorpsycho Nightmare?' No."
In "Motorpsycho Nightmare," Bob Dylan is just trying to get some sleep — no sign that he's sleeping naked — when Rita — "Lookin’ just like Tony Perkins" (i.e., the murderer in "Psycho") importunes him to take a shower. He's freaked out: "Oh, no! no! I’ve been through this [movie] before." Afraid of getting knifed to death, but unwilling to run off unless her father (the farmer) throws him out (because he promised the farmer he'd milk the cows in the morning), his sees his only option as saying "something to strike him very weird." What he says is: "I like Fidel Castro and his beard."



Beards. Fidel Castro made a beard as off limits to an American president — in spite of Lincoln — as Hitler made the mustache. And here I want to go back to that "Becoming Adolf" article by Rich Cohen that were were talking about a couple days ago:
[Y]ou could not wear any kind of mustache after [WWII], because, running from Hitler, you might run into Stalin. Hitler plus Stalin ended the career of the mustache in Western political life. Before the war, all kinds of American presidents wore a mustache and/or beard. You had John Quincy Adams, with his muttonchops...



You had Abe Lincoln, whose facial hair...



... like his politics, was the opposite of Hitler's: beard full, lip bare. You had James Garfield, who had the sort of vast rabbinical beard into which whole pages of legislation could vanish.



You had Rutherford B. Hayes...



Grover Cleveland...



... and Teddy Roosevelt, whose asthma and elephant gun were just a frame for his mustache.



You had William Howard Taft — the man wore a Walrus!



After the war, the few American politicians who still wore a mustache were those who had made their name before Hitler and so had been grandfathered in. Like Thomas Dewey.



Dewey was Eliot Spitzer. He was a prosecutor in New York in the 1930s (and later governor), the only guy with the guts to take on the Mob. For Dewey, the rise of Hitler was a fashion disaster. Because Dewey wore a neat little mustache. Dewey ran for president twice — losing to F.D.R., losing to Truman. In my opinion, without the mustache, the headline in the Chicago Daily Tribune (Dewey Defeats Truman) turns true. One of the few prominent American politicians to wear facial hair in recent memory is Al Gore, who grew a Grizzly Adams beard after he lost to George Bush, in 2000. The appearance of this beard was taken to mean either (1) Gore would never again run for office, or (2) Gore had gone completely mental.



The decision to grow a mustache or a beard is all by itself reason to keep a man away from the nuclear trigger.
Are we going to decide who deserves out trust based on they look? Come on, Abe. Lose the beard. Okay.

Pick one:

45 comments:

chickelit said...

President Obama seems to struggle to keep his upper lip shaven: link. He probably shaves it twice a day.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Dennis Miller affectionately refers to former Ambassador John Bolton as "The Nuclear Walrus." I love his bushy [or Bush-y] moustache.

rhhardin said...

Beards are for cold winter wind. If there's a warm spell coming up, you shave it off.

edutcher said...

I doubt Abe wore PJs. A nightshirt, probably, but no PJs.

And, yes, let's lose the chin whiskers and trust Norman Bates.

Which hasn't worked well the last 5 years.

chickelit said...

Looking forward to Althouse's alphabetic march across the histories of nations. Perhaps Brazil would be a timely stop for a national conversation on shaving, deforestation, and species extinction.

rehajm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sam L. said...

There are a number of AF missile launch officers with mustaches (not the female ones, I trust); I had one for a while.

DADvocate said...

You had William Howard Taft — the man wore a Walrus!

At about 6' tall and weighing as much as 340 lbs, Taft was a walrus.

ironrailsironweights said...

Former UN ambassador and current Fox News commentator John Bolton has a mustache. While it doesn't create a Hitler or Stalin image, it does make Bolton look like the sort of character who hangs around playgrounds in a windowless van and offers children money to help him find a lost puppy.

Tim Bishop, the Congressman for my district, has a beard. He's a former college administrator, which seems a more beard-friendly occupation, and apparently old habits die hard.

Peter

Palladian said...

Rutherford Hayes, all in my brain! Lately things just don't seem the same...

William said...

The facial hair of earlier generations was not a fashion statement so much as a response to the primitive state of earlier razors. Gillette Blue Blades lasted one or, tops, two shaves. The risk of a nick was extremely high. And safety razors were a huge improvement on the previous straight razor. You really had to go a barber and soak your face in a hot towel to get a close shave back then...Nowadays the unshaven look, like the t-shirt and jeans look, are a status symbol. You really have to be high up in the corporate world to come to work unshaven and in jeans. Peasants can't do it.

rhhardin said...

I suppose that beards are electrifiable, if you have a glass or rubber rod. It can't just be cats.

ironrailsironweights said...

Nowadays the unshaven look, like the t-shirt and jeans look, are a status symbol.

I would gladly sell my soul and burn in hell for all eternity if the unshaven look becomes a fashion statement among women.

While we're on the topic, a small but increasing number of women are no longer satisfied with "merely" being hairless. They are doing something that is so horrifying the mere thought makes me want to vomit.

Peter

Paddy O said...

This weeks Parks and Recreation had a stripper Lincoln show up for a bachelorette party.

LYNNDH said...

Since I have a full beard and tash, I am in favor of them. Of course being 66 and coming from the 60's when beards were ok (for some)I may be biased. Ann, I also wear shorts in the summer.

BrianE said...

It's like the old adage-- Those that can grow a beard do--those that can't become politicians. or something like that.

LYNNDH said...

Since I have a full beard and tash, I am in favor of them. Of course being 66 and coming from the 60's when beards were ok (for some)I may be biased. Ann, I also wear shorts in the summer.

bagoh20 said...

I just recently shaved off my beard which I've sported most of my adult life, although it's always been very short. I kept it mostly to avoid having to shave every day, but now the level of gray has exceeded maximum allowances listed in my owner manual.

I still have my mustache which, I have never shaved since it first grew in back in the 70s. I did shave completely clean one time back then as an erotic interlude with a girlfriend who got very excited by the process. It was worth it. I wish that still worked.

virgil xenophon said...

Question: Will this nation ever again elect a bald-headed man no matter how qualified? (Corey Booker take note!)

Bob_R said...

The latest episode of Parks & Recreation had a male stripper dressed as Abe Lincoln at Leslie's bachelorette party. (This will be completely understandable to those who watch the show, incomprehensible to those who don't.)

LarryK said...

Songs where Dylan is naked: I Shall Be Free, which starts

Well I took me a woman late last night
I was three fourths drunk and she looked alright
'Til she started peeling off her onion gook, took off her wig and said 'how do I look?'
I was high flying
Bear naked
Out the window

EMD said...

Watched Laurel and Hardy last night.

I think Hitler wanted to be a skinny Oliver Hardy.

William said...

I wonder what relationships women form with their bikini waxer. I exchange pleasantries with my barber, but comments about the weather wouldn't seem appropriate while undergoing a process so intimate as a bikini wax. It must be difficult to make small talk in such a situation. I bet hot lesbo sex happens more often than one might think.

Inga said...

Going to see Lincoln today, I hope it's worth the hype. At any rate lunch with my family will be great, barring any stray beard hairs in my soup.

Mary Beth said...

Lincoln grew a beard (possibly) because of a letter from a girl saying it would improve his looks.

Howard said...

I love this post. It blends in the best of Crack MC and the style of Trooper, minus the you know.

Quaestor said...

Taft was a walrus.

According to a high school teacher of mine Taft had a custom-made bathtub installed in the White House. I haven't thought of this factoid in decades; now I can't get the image of a naked William Howard Taft out of my mind.

Quaestor said...

Besides facial hair, general build has a lot to do with who we find acceptable as a possible POTUS. For example most people would not support a presidential bid by Gov. Christie, and not because of party affiliation but because of his girth. The same goes for height, Dukakis may have been the last viable "short guy" candidate.

None of us would credit phrenology, but we all seem to practice a kind of whole-body physiognomy these days. We look down on the fat, and admire the lean. The fat man or woman must be a lazy, stupid hillbilly -- the lean and well-groomed are intelligent, forthright, and progressive. Taft with his girth and his moustache wouldn't stand a snowball's change in hell today, his brilliant performance as a jurist notwithstanding. The same goes for TR, who despite being among the most physically active of all presidents, just didn't have the look.

Nobody would publicly admit to voting against someone because of his skin color, but many would be quick to disparage a candidate because of his weight. I wonder if a fat black guy running for president would pose a difficult problem for modern ethics.

Baron Zemo said...

Actually there is some pretty good evidence that Dewey was corrupt. He certainly framed Lucky Luciano for something he didn't do by suborning perjury and there was some shennigans regarding campaign funds and the Mob in his second Presidential run against Truman.

Baron Zemo said...

There would be no real problem with a fat person running for President.

But don't take that as an endorsement of Chris Christie.

He is the Rex Ryan of politics.

jr565 said...

I just noticed the resemblance between Nick Gillespie and a beardless Lincoln.

ricpic said...

Amazing how many of the beautiful people like the demonic torturer, Castro. Dylan, Dylan worshippers: they're all "in the know," as are all communist lovers of the people, that's what must make it okay to overlook torture , yes, that must be it.

jr565 said...

Castro may have made bears off limits for those running for president for right wingers, but for left wingers?
What about Che? Didnt he make moustache and long hair cool?
In an age where a community activist who follows Alinsky becomes president and guy who was part of 60's agitprop in the form of a propaganda film that demonized vietnam vets based on fake testimony becoming the sec of state, maybe beards will make a comeback?

I wonder, off topic, if any president could get away with wearing a monocle.

Baron Zemo said...
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Alex said...

It's amazing how sunken in Lincoln's cheeks were.

Baron Zemo said...

Dylan also got wet for Hurricane Carter and Joey Gallo.

I mean the dude even banged Joan Baez!

He is a moron of the first water.

rhhardin said...

Doberman whiskers.

jr565 said...

Baron Zemo wrote:
I mean the dude even banged Joan Baez!

He is a moron of the first water.

Now now. I'd probably have banged Joan Baez. She wasn't that bad as youngun physically.

Baron Zemo said...

Dude.

She is a carpet muncher.

Not that there is anything wrong with that but I doubt she would be into it you know what I mean?

Baron Zemo said...

I mean I bet you would much rather go for Grace Slick!

Baron Zemo said...

Or if you want some patculi on your coolie you would share a doobie with Melanie!

Baron Zemo said...

Or if you wanted an English tart who spoke Broken English then give
Marianne Faithfull a shout!

Baron Zemo said...

Or maybe you shouldn't live in the past. Just sayn'

The sixties have been over for a long, long time.

Chuck said...

The photo of John Quincy Adams; if I am not mistaken, that may be the first-ever photograph of an American president.

My recollection is that Quincy was the first to sit for a photo. He did it in the 1840's, after he had left office and when photography was in its commercial infancy.

Clyde said...
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