Event comes to N.O. for first time
The competition was hot and hairy at the House of Blues on Saturday afternoon as the National Beard and Moustache Championship came to New Orleans for the first time.
Jeff Langum rode the hirsute highway all the way from Pennsylvania to take top overall honors and $1,000 for a wild, natural beard that spread out from his face like a scraggly rising sun.
The fourth annual national competition, sponsored by Just For Men hair products, featured dozens of men competing for gold, silver and bronze medals in 17 categories ranging from the English Moustache to the Dali, the Musketeer, the Garibaldi, the Imperial Partial Beard and others.
An overall winner was then selected from the gold medal winners by crowd acclamation.
Nate “Chops” Johnson was in the final four, a mere razor’s edge from that $1,000, but he was happy enough with the gold medal he took in the Sideburns category.
Johnson got the gold for pelt-like, eye-catching sideburns that flowed halfway down his chest and which took two years to grow.
Johnson, who works in the film-animation business in Los Angeles, looked every bit the 19th century barber by way of the steampunk express, and said the victory was extra-sweet for him since he’d taken the silver medal in Las Vegas last year — and the bronze the year before when the event was held in Pennsylvania.
The locals-heavy afternoon crowd was chock-full of hairy men representing various subcultures and traditions. And yet, the bearded lady was not to be seen.
Hefty hayseeds from East Texas worked down-home Amish beard stylings as men in lederhosen and leprechaun outfits tried to sway the judges with impish goatees and gravity-defying, curl-tipped moustaches.
They were joined by would-be duck dynasts, wannabe czars, bowlegged cowboys — a diversity whose visual spectacle evoked everyone from Greg Allman to Charles Manson to Rutherford B. Hayes.
The judges panel featured Miss New Orleans 2013, Jacqueline Delery, local men’s-product businessman Aidan Gill and a couple of local media luminaries.
A preliminary round of judging was held Friday night at the Sheraton on Canal Street.
When contestants paraded to the House of Blues on Saturday morning from the Sheraton, the club had plenty of beer on tap for the hair of the dog that needed biting after a night on the town.
The judges were required to take an oath before the finals competition kicked off, swearing that they would judge the contestants “without bias or prejudice.”
Still, a few contestants tried to move the panel with extra-follicular activities.
Justin Vitti snapped a mousetrap on his tongue, in the “Natural Moustache” category. He came in fourth place.
Others appealed to local loyalties with LSU Tiger jerseys, but the judges were unmoved.
Ross Steidel came all the way from Maui to take second place in the Hungarian Moustache category — which he won last year in Las Vegas.
Steidel, a craft-cocktail caterer back home, said the competition in New Orleans was extra-stiff this year, despite a noticeable absence of Germans, America’s archrivals on the international hair-growth circuit. He was having a great time in New Orleans — “a classic and classy town rooted in the past,” he said.
Steidel attributed the Germans’ absence to the upcoming international beard and moustache competition being held in Germany later this year. The international competition will be in Portland, Oregon, in 2014.
Keith Aubrich won in the Dali moustache category — and honored the namesake moustache with a surrealistic costume that evoked Salvador Dali, and his famous melting clock painting.
The tips of his moustache were molded into clock hands.
Aubrich, the three-time freestyle moustache world champion — among a raft of other facial-hair awards he’s won — said this was his first visit to New Orleans and that he’d been pleased to discover the vegetarian jambalaya at Bennachin Restaurant on Royal Street.
The morning parade, he said, had been a wild success. “Lots and lots of mugging for the cameras,” Aubrich said.