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The Mountain Man Cometh


These are hairy times in Hollywood (and in the more urbane jungles) with beards on leading men continuing to sprout like Chiaa Pets. Winter is coming. Following the freaks-it’s warmer that way. Nuzzle up.

When Brad Pitt was spotted sporting a let-it-go beard pretty much all last year, the critics were precise. Bloggers and tabloids cut to the trim, calling it “hobo-y,” “scraggly,” while emphasizing how gray it was, how old it made him look. “Has he lost it?” pondered one. “He can’t think he looks good,” wrote another arbiter of taste, a gossip writer. “He could use a little grooming?” Well, really?

The same went for Jim Carrey, who was also sporting a bushy, full-on beard of recent on the red carpets. “Is he trying to hide a double chin?” blogged another wag. Well, may-be.
And so what if he was? It’s common for actors and directors-and other artistes-to let their freaky flags fly, during their off times, or prepping for a role, or just letting it all hair out.











MAN A LA MOUNTAIN: Robert Redford in “Jeremiah Johnson.”

Dating back to the ’70s, when the prettiest man of the era-Robert Redford-showed how it’s done in burly films such as Jeremiah Johnson, to the present, frequently bearded luminaries have included Al Pacino and Viggo Mortensen, Ewan Macgregor and George Clooney, Steve Carrell and Jude Law, Jeff Daniels and Sean Lennon, among so many others. And in varying degrees, it simply made them appear more rugged, virile, powerful, devil-may-care. And if they already had strong jaw-lines and cheekbones, all the better. They could build a log cabin, fall a tree, not just primp for the paparazzi, as well as Joan and Melissa, who have voiced their disdain for unkempt facial hair.

Real women-not the ones who write trend pieces-no the wiles of the beard, and often nuzzle up to it on their real men. Says one: “As a child, I grew up with images of men like Ernest Hemingway, cowboys, and adventurers always having beards or scruff. My dad, a pro football player had one. I equate it with strength. A clean-shaven, James Bond type, or Christopher Reeves in Superman, seem fey to me. Less time spent grooming means more time pondering how a man can manhandle his woman.”










Pitt, stop! One straight man, an editor in the fashion business, recently decided to grow a full beard, and only shave around the cheekbones and neck-the way to do it best-and the results were unanimous, he  says. He became, not a Manson follower,  but a ladykiller. “After the first ten days, the response from my ladyfriends was all positive. One said I looked ‘Chekovian.’ I have a bit of a moon-face, so it added more definition.”

Of course, some Hollyweirdos have taken it too far. Joaquin Phoenix (“Bellevue du Jour”), the now-pariahed Mel Gibson (“Crazy Amish”), and Randy Quaid (“Certifiable”) all, for their various deep-rooted psychological purposes, might be arrested in any small town (it happened to Bob Dylan), by virtue of their mad-men beards, dropping to their chests, adorned with leaves.









GIBSON MONKEY: Mel, pre-“Sugar Tits” phase.

The boy-band look-trimmed and cultivated to the point of  becoming a topiary poodle lookalike-is verboten. For most men, eventually spotty areas will grow in. Don’t do it, experts advise, if you simply can’t grow a mustache. And it works best on guys already showing some facial structure, defining those features more still. The winter months-when you’re by the fireside with your girl, reading Jack London aloud-are the time to try one on, worn with red union suit, or not. And for what it’s worth, your teeth would look more carnivorous too. Just ask Jack Nicholson, when he’s not wielding an axe.

– Steve Garbarino