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Heyl: Wolf must face hairy situation

The situation’s strong anti-shaving component is impossible to ignore.

Pennsylvania’s first facially hirsute leader in eight decades has an opportunity to help Pittsburgh land a unique historical attraction focused on facial hair.

Will Gov.-elect Tom Wolf, who has sported a beard since 1976, support a proposed International Mustache Hall of Fame in the Steel City?

Wolf was elected Nov. 4, just five days after the Pittsburgh-based American Mustache Institute, an advocacy group for those with upper lips hidden by hair, made a major announcement: It would begin accepting nominations for the Hall of Fame’s initial inductees through Nov. 30.

(The inaugural class will be announced on Feb. 11. That’s the birthday of Burt Reynolds, whom the institute correctly described as “one of the greatest mustached Americans in history.”)

In its infancy, the Hall of Fame will be based online at MustacheHall.com. But institute President Adam-Paul Causgrove of Mt. Washington has begun scouting physical locations around town for the facility.

Placed in the Downtown Cultural District, perhaps somewhere between the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and the Toonseum, the Hall of Fame potentially could be a significant tourist draw. But the project likely won’t take off without backing from Wolf, who, as difficult as this might be to believe, will be the state’s first governor with facial hair since the Great Depression.

The most recent one was Gifford Pinchot, a Republican conservationist who dutifully served Pennsylvania with a bushy, unkempt stache for two terms: from 1923 to 1927, then from 1931 to 1935.

With the state facing a projected $1.8 billion budget shortfall, Wolf transition team spokesman Jeff Sheridan said Thursday that the governor-elect did not support the use of tax dollars for the Hall of Fame. But “he does enjoy a good beard or mustache, so any candidates for cabinet positions who sport them certainly will be considered,” Sheridan said.

That didn’t deter Causgrove, who said he believes the mustache institute’s decision to relocate from St. Louis to Pittsburgh in 2013 probably prompted Wolf to believe he could reverse the unconscionable trend of 80 years of clean-shaven governors.

“While we are certain Governor-elect Wolf had many reasons to throw his name in the hat, it’s clear that the institute’s move was the deciding factor that emboldened Mr. Wolf to seek this position of leadership,” Causgrove said.

He remains optimistic he’ll eventually be able to pitch the Hall of Fame proposal to Wolf.

“We look forward to many robust, lager-fueled conversations with Mr. Wolf and working towards realizing the full economic potential — our economists predict in the $5-to-$1 trillion range — of the hall,” he said.

For such enormous potential to be realized, the state’s precarious financial condition first needs to improve dramatically.

Should that occur, some financing for the Mustatche Hall eventually might follicle into place.

Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or [email protected].


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