My Hairy Lipped Heroes

Me, my Movember mustache, and my new pals Pepper and Salt

I’m participating in the Movember anti-prostate cancer fundraising campaign currently underway. As you may know, it involves getting clean-shaven on November 1st and letting your ‘stache grow for a month, as a mark of participation in the campaign. I’ve shaved off my goatee and am currently sporting a nascent trucker-style mustache that is hirsute proof that you can take the boy off the Island, but you can’t get the Island out of the boy!

Now I could offer up any number of sound rationales why donating to me (or your favourite Movember participant) is a good idea. But you probably don’t need a logical reason to fund the fight against cancer. Instead, let me offer up (in no particular order) a look at my top ten mustachio-ed men from fact and fiction. If you like what you read, please consider making a donation.


My Hairy Lipped Heroes

10) Salvador Dali – I remember the first time I came across Dali’s Metamorphosis of Narcissus. I thought I had a vivid imagination until I saw how a creative genius could transform one image into another. Dali anecdote: Supposedly his wife would pin a $100 bill inside his jacket when he left the house, because he had a habit of distractedly wandering far from home and would need taxi fare to return. I wouldn’t try to equal his painting or his quirky ‘stache, but I have been known to leave the house with a hundred dollars and come home with an empty wallet and not much recollection of the time between, so we kind of have that in common!

9) Freddie Mercury – Growing up in the ’70s Queen was a constant in the soundtrack of our lives. I vividly remember getting ready for football games in the Kin Park dressing rooms in Cumberland, with We Will Rock You/We are the Champions cranked to 11 and pumping us up for the quasi-gladiatorial contest about to commence, as we strapped on our pads and helmets. Sometimes it worked and we actually won! Mercury also influenced me with the realization that homosexual didn’t equal effeminate, which was quite a revelation for a kid living on Vancouver Island and surrounded by a milieu best described as redneck-lite.

8) Bob Hunter – My first ever ‘A’ as a young student was for an essay I wrote about Greenpeace’s efforts to stop nuclear bomb testing in the Aleutian Islands. Bob was one of the founders of the environmental group and a sterling example of the activist/journalist ethos. I had the immense privilege of meeting and speaking with Mr. Hunter once, when he was a guest on Breakfast Television. Sadly it was near the end of his fight against cancer. Nonetheless, it is a rare gift to be able to meet a personal hero and thank them for the influence they’ve had on your life. Great ‘stache and a great man. Greenpeace anecdote: Worked for them briefly as a door-to-door fundraiser when I first moved to Vancouver. A bad choice for a guy who has always sucked at asking for money. I lasted a week.

7) Jack Layton – Really, Jack needs on introduction or explanation from me. Tireless in his fight for the working majority, sustainable transportation, and a kinder, gentler world, we are poorer without his strong voice in Parliament. Love IS better than anger.

6) Mark Twain – Rightfully famous for Tom and Huck, nonetheless I would rate Innocents Abroad as one of my favorite Twain works. Twain saw the world in all its goofy, hypocritical splendour and set a benchmark in American literature by celebrating the things that were funny, calling out the things that weren’t, and doing so in a voice that’s oft imitated and rarely surpassed. “Substitute  ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

5) Ned Flanders – Ah, stupid, sexy Flanders. I’ve been told one of my ‘tells’ when I’ve had a few (too many) is to start spouting puns and Flan-diddly-ander-isms. I’ve been a huge Simpsons fan from the first time they made an appearance in the Mike and Spike Animation Festival, via the long-cancelled Tracy Ullman show. Ned Flanders is a big reason why. If Rupert Murdoch was more like Flanders and less like Lionel Hutz, his reputation wouldn’t be in tatters. “Hens Love Roosters, Geese Love Ganders, Everyone else loves Ned Flanders!”

4) Kurt Vonnegut – Rightful heir to Twain’s role as the wry conscience of America, Vonnegut’s work has probably influenced my own style of writing as much as any author. If you’ve never gained a taste for his work, maybe because you began by reading his more challenging works such as Breakfast of Champions or Slaughterhouse Five, my recommendation would be to seek out some of his more straightforward stuff. Player Piano is a surprisingly prescient tale of a world run by technocrats unwilling to challenge the tenets of their corporate group-think. Cat’s Cradle ends the world in ice, with a few laughs along the way.  Both are good introductions to his amazing body of work. Vonnegut fun fact: The Grateful Dead’s music publishing arm is named after (spoiler alert) the planet destroying ‘ice-nine’  which plays a pivotal role in Cat’s Cradle.

3) Ernest Hemingway – OK, a slight cheat here, because we tend to remember ‘Papa’ as having a beard, but I’ve linked to a website that shows he was a mustache-only guy at one point. Our world is a much different one from his time and Hemingway’s reputation as a person has suffered for it, but his prose remains a sterling example of a spare, evocative style that eschews frills in favour of simply-stated truths. I recall reading his short story collection The Hills of Kilimanjaro while still in elementary school, too young for the content, but enthralled with its easy-to-comprehend insights into the adult world. “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.” – A Farewell to Arms.

2) The Stranger – Sam Elliott opens and closes The Big Lebowski in fine fashion, sporting a Texas-sized soup strainer on his upper lip. I’ve found it hard not to pronounce L.A. as Loz Angle-eez ever since having seen the film. Like many a Coen Brothers production, it may not resonate on first viewing, but sure grows on you over time. Or not. But let’s give credit where due. If you’re looking for a film that successfully merges such disparate topics as bowling, nihilism, the Jewish faith, and the importance of a nice carpet to pull a room together, there’s the Dude, and no other. “The Dude abides. I don’t know about you, but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there. The Dude. Takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners.”

1) Alistair Smith – There’s no link to provide here, because Alistair isn’t famous, or fictional, or alive anymore. He was one of my best friends growing up and liver cancer took him far too young, in his early 30s. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t regret having not told him how much I would miss him when he was gone, but I was young and stubborn and didn’t have the life skills to deal with my best friend having the gall to up and die on me when we were just getting started on our lives. I will never forget coming home from work and having my then-wife tell me the news. Weeping uncontrollably by myself in our bedroom, Death kicking me in the gut and leaning over to whisper in my ear, “How do you like me so far?” They opened him up, took a look and gave him six months. Alistair lived for another eighteen and in the end it hurt like hell and there wasn’t anything we could do to take that pain away for him. So it goes, to quote Vonnegut. Anyway, ‘Smitty’ rocked a mustache and was a helluva friend for over twenty years. If there’s a heaven, surely it must be a re-creation of our favorite time and place. For Alistair, that would be atop a mountain summit, with an awesome view all around and a cherry old-school Ford Bronco waiting at the trailhead.

If you were the least bit entertained or moved by my list, I hope you will visit this link and make a donation. If for any reason it’s impossible for you to make a donation at this time, I think a wonderful substitute action might be to perform a random act of kindness, or take a moment to make a doctor’s appointment for a routine checkup. I plan to have my prostate checked this month, a long overdue move on my part to be sure!

If you’d prefer to make a donation with a cheque or cash, you can send it to:

Chris Keam
807 East 6th Ave, Ste #E115
Vancouver, BC
V5T 1L9
(or as I like to remember it – Victory 5 Times, 1 Loss feels like 9)

and I will make sure it’s included in the donations.

Thanks for reading and good health to you and yours,

Chris K.

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