Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Beard Me!

Beard Me!
The Outs
Ellen Jo Roberts
December 2010

chad & me, stinson beach self portrait at arm's length

Beards are for hippies, beatniks, bikers, artists, academics, forest rangers, Santa Claus and the Amish.
They’ve been worn by presidents, paupers, hipsters, truck drivers and those practicing an orthodox religion.
A beard signifies masculinity, widsom, fearlessness, prestige, poverty, filthiness.
It keeps faces warm on ski slopes and on hockey rinks. It’s a handy place to stash snacks and smokes for later. A friend informed me a beard even comes in handy for Arizona problems like removing tiny prickly pear cactus thorns from your hand.
“All the great gods had beards,” said Cottonwood artist Rex Peters who has worn a beard since age 18.
“I’ve only shaved it off 3 or 4 times, but not in the past 10 years.”
“Why did you shave it off?” I asked. “To see what I looked like,” came the simple reply,
“In the mid-‘90s it was very long. I shaved it off one day, and walked into the Spirit Room where I’d been working a long time. I walked in and no one recognized me. Until I laughed.”
Peters first began his bearded lifestyle when he was young in order to look more mature,
“So I could buy beer.”

rex sipping punch

Many religions espouse facial hair, including Sikhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Jesus is always depicted with a beard. The Rastafari grow long dreadlocks and beards as part of their beliefs, following the Bible’s Leviticus verse 21:5 "They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in the flesh." In various times Catholicism has both allowed and prohibited facial hair. Hasidic Jews consider the beard to channel holy energy from heaven. Eastern Orthodox priests are identified by their facial hair. In ancient India the beard was valued as a commodity, and punishment for crimes could include its removal. In modern Amish and Hutterite cultures, young men remain smooth-faced until marriage, after which they cultivate beards they keep for the rest of their lives.

Beards were the dominant style for most world cultures up until the 1700s. In the United States their popularity bounced back in the mid-1800s as an emblem of courage, and leadership skills. Abraham Lincoln was the first bearded American president, and nearly every president to follow into the 20th century wore facial hair. Since William Howard Taft, however, all presidents have been beardless. Not even a well-groomed set of Mutton Chops! 20th century advertising and the advent of the disposable razor made a clean cut smooth-faced look the accepted norm. Politicians and industry leaders wore their hair short, and the faces shorn. Beards were usually limited to professors, the aged and certain Eastern Orthodox priests up until counterculture movements began in late ‘50s. Long hair on the head and face represented a new disdain for earlier social norms. Musicals like “Hair” sang praises to the long, fleecy, greasy, shiny, flaxen and waxen.

chad's room, dekalb, il. autumn 1993

When I first met my husband in college, he was a handsome clean-shaven lad of 21. Soon after and for most of our married life he’s been a furry-faced freak. It’s part of his identity, this big thick beard.
“When I was younger and more attractive,” he said, “and I was mountain biking with long hair and bare legs, growing a beard was a way to ward off unwelcome advances from the same sex.” Mistaken for a long-haired shapely-legged girl, his only defense was to grow a beard to indicate his manliness.

chad 1992 or '93

Every once in a while I wish he’d shave it off. I beg, plead, cajole. I argue that if I were a boy and could grow a beard I’d certainly mix it up now and then, for variety’s sake. A Fu Manchu one season , Chops the next. A big 1970s porn ‘stache. A goatee is always a classic. A dark smoky 5 O’Clock Shadow. Get creative.
“Why are you so attached to that beard?” I asked with escalating frustration.
He stroked his Billy Goat’s gruff a moment and replied, thoughtfully, “Because it’s attached to me.”
“How can I argue with that logic?” I laughed.
About 10 years ago he did shave it for me, as a birthday present. Seeing his fresh face, which had been long hidden, affected me in naughty ways. “Hubba hubba, it’s like I got a whole new husband!” I squealed. After about a year or so he let it grow back. Razors are expensive, and shaving daily is a commitment.

sexy chad

“The single most manly, and great thing a man can do. To have a beard is to be a true man. If you have a beard, show it off proudly, and enjoy the satisfaction of the envy in the eyes of people around you who don't have beards”.- urbandictionary.com

"The hair of the chin showed him to be a man" -St Clement of Alexandria

Do chicks dig dudes with beards?
I cannot vouch for other parts of the country, but in the crunchy wilds of Arizona, the survey says yes, with women responding to the inherent masculinity of facial hair. Many explain they don’t want their man to be better manicured than themselves.
Janyel Pitman, lovely mango-scented vintage-VW-driving hippie chick of the Flagstaff KOA, feels strongly about this issue. “I love beards! Hairy, burly, long gnarly mountain man beards. In fact I am usually only attracted to a man if he has one. There is something so comforting about them like a flannel shirt. When I see one, to me it says ‘I am a MAN. I'm too busy doing things outdoors, in the woods, on a bike, in my bus, on a tractor, to bother with something like shaving’. I love to tangle my fingers in them, and pull on ‘em, and see a toothy smile from under them. I love them!”

Artful tonsorial design can appeal to all who are attracted to men. The bristly “Bear” archetype is very a very popular subset of gay male, recognized by their burly build and hirsuite face. A beard can also provide a disguise from true identity. Another definition of the word refers to an opposite sex friend who frequently accompanies a homosexual, disguising their sexual preference under the guise of a heterosexual partnership. In more repressed times, beards disguised many a Hollywood leading man.
Conversely, modern day movie stars are rarely seen with facial hair, unless they are a). on hiatus, b). playing lead in a stranded-on-a-desert-island film, or c). Joaquin Phoenix staging an elaborate publicity hoax.

The World Beard and Moustache Championships, the premier event in the “international sport of bearding”, brings the owners of the world’s most elaborate facial hair together every two years to be judged by a panel of distinguished experts. The best of the best are chosen in a variety of categories ranging from the most delicate of moustaches to the elaborate anything-goes freestyle full beard.
The roots of this contest trace back to a celebration held the small German village of Höfen-Enz in the early 1990s. Competitors at the inaugural event represented several beard clubs concentrated in the Black Forest. Having invented the events and defined the categories, Germany long dominated the sport. In 2009, however, when the competition took place in Alaska, an upstart squad of Americans established the USA as the new facial hair world superpower!
The next world championship will take place in Trondheim, Norway in 2011, sponsored by the Norwegian Moustache Club. Start growing your masterpiece now.

don from jerome's gold king mine

While I am a fan of fuzzy faces, many are not. Some men just don’t look good in a beard, or have trouble growing them evenly. Mormonism decries facial hair. Many native tribes of North America are not predisposed to heavy beard growth. In our post 9-11 world, a beard in the airport rouses suspicion and earns you a second glance from the T.S.A. Many women prefer a clean look. A beard hides a lot of face. They can scratch and tickle. They catch food particles, milkshake, and snot from blown noses. They can look messy, wiry, and overgrown. Psycho killers often have crazy eyes and crazier beards.
“Barba” is the Spanish word for beard, and the Latin root for words like barbaric, and barbarian.
Jerome artist David Wilder generally sports a vintage western style on his winking smiling face,
“My chin whiskers are a compromise between hating to shave,” which he calls a “barbaric practice’ (pun intended I’m sure), “and not wanting to look too much look like an axe murderer. But that's just me.”

For more information:

Ellen Jo Roberts lives in Clarkdale Arizona with a bunch of hairy creatures.
Read all about it at ellenjo.com

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Biggest Little Town in Arizona: Cottonwood's Wild & Woolly Past

"Biggest Little Town in the State of Arizona
Cottonwood’s Wild & Woolly Past"
The Noise, November 2010- The Outs

Ellen Jo Roberts

jail trail shadows and light

According to many old timers, Cottonwood was a tiny hamlet in 1960, no bigger than the palm of your hand. Truth is, the historic terrain of Cottonwood Arizona is wide reaching, and broad—as varied as its lush mix of rare riparian landscape, and sun-baked high desert chaparral. Rather than seek out the exponential ways the town has expanded since it was incorporated 50 years ago, let's discuss the common threads running through time into the present day. To me this is always the most interesting: the surviving old mixed in with the new.

The Beginning

The settlement was founded around 1879 along the Verde River, a silty ribbon running through the valley providing steady water for farm and ranch land. For a time the area was known simply as “Verde”, a stop along the trail between army camps Fort Verde and Fort Whipple, and between Flagstaff and Jerome. Just as Flagstaff was named for a Ponderosa Pine stripped bare to become a flagpole, Cottonwood was also named for an arboreal landmark. Cowboys running cattle between Oak Creek and Camp Verde frequently made camp along a stretch of river featuring a circle of 16 large Cottonwood trees. Referred to as “The Cottonwoods”, the name was made official when the post office was established in 1885. One of the early settlers, Charles Willard, is now known as The Father of Cottonwood. Much land is still owned by his descendents, and a main traffic artery, Willard Street, links Old Town with newer areas of the city. Evidence of the city’s bucolic pastoral origins still exist at every corner of the map, with historic ranches and farms still in operation, and open space nature conserved as city parks, state parks, and the Verde River Greenway. Cottonwood produce fed Jerome and Clarkdale, and soon businesses began to spring up to service other needs as well.

dead horse ranch state park- verde river

By 1925 there was not another town in the U.S. that could boast so many business houses for a population of 1,000. Cottonwood was known as ‘the Biggest Little Town in the State of Arizona’!”
-Karen Leff, local historian and storyteller, owner of the Cottonwood Hotel

vintage sheps -vintage camera

The Bootlegging
“Old Town” is the original Cottonwood, a short stretch of Main Street business district and storefronts. In its modern 21st Century incarnation, Old Town sustains a variety of exceptional restaurants, cafes, shops, galleries, taverns, and wine tasting rooms. It’s completely adorable, very lively… almost harkening back to a wild time during the 1910s and ‘20s when Old Town was the nerve center of a jumpin’ bootlegging industry.

Joe Hall, Cottonwood pool room owner, was bound under $1,000 bond for trial in federal court on charges arising out of a raid on his home last Saturday when 150 gallons of whiskey were found in his basement and another 50 gallons together with 100 gallons of wine were taken from a nearby garage.”
- Prescott Journal, August 2nd 1929

Built in 1924, Joe Hall’s house still stands in 2010, an unimposing little stucco bungalow at the corner of Cactus and Pinal Streets. The yard is generally full of children and dogs now, so it’s amusing to think the place was once chock stocked with jugs of “joy juice”.

joe hall home at pinal and cactus

A system of tunnels (many filled in by Cottonwood Public Works over the years, but many still in existence) linked Joe Hall’s home to his pool hall at 1004 N. Main. Hall was linked to Al Capone, who allegedly spent a night in the Old Town Jail. Two large fires swept through Old Town during the bootlegging era. The first fire happened in 1917, followed by a larger blaze in 1925. Both were caused by exploding stills and flammable booze from Joe Hall’s whiskey business.

old town cottonwood- old jail

With the repeal of Prohibition, bootlegging and booze brewing went out of vogue and Cottonwood returned to its rural peace and quiet. Because it was a “free town”, unlike neighboring mining company towns, Clemenceau and Clarkdale, there was a certain lawlessness, but also more acceptance of different ideas, entrepreneurialism, and ethnicities that were persecuted elsewhere.

Hollywood in Cottonwood

The Old Town Palace Theater, built in 1923 and formerly called the “Rialto”, was the United States’ “Oldest Operating Single Screen Theater” until it was burnt by fire in 1998. Rescued by the Jurisins of “Jerome Palace” (aka “The Haunted Hamburger”), and neighboring “Nic’s” fame, the structure was saved and reopened in 2005 as the Tavern Grille. Remnants of the movie theater forever captured in the scorched bare concrete walls may be spotted by keen eyed diners.

chevy rental car in old town

The mid-century popularity of western movies brought California film crews to Arizona’s picturesque Verde Valley. Most of these features and rushes were shot in Sedona, but Old Town Cottonwood played “stand in” for town scenes in many of these films. “Desert Fury”, a 1947 film starring Burt Lancaster, shows up now and again, on late night TV, and screened in local halls. I’ve seen it more than once. It’s kinda’ silly, and I sure don’t even remember the plot. Burt Lancaster spends an awful lot of time driving back and forth on 89A, in ways that we locals all know don’t add up to him getting anywhere. The female lead calls everyone “baby”, and smokes using a long skinny cigarette holder. Our favorite part: a car crash filmed at an old bridge that no longer exists in lower Clarkdale. Right into the Verde River with that big giant American post-war car.


Our Lady of Something or Other

“Stay Away Joe” was a 1968 Elvis vehicle, filmed in Sedona, and Cottonwood during 1967, before he gave up his acting career for his comeback to music. Legend has it that Elvis was so enchanted with this area he planned to relocate here from Memphis. (Of course that never happened, but one must wonder what the result would be had he stayed.)

In typically wacky Elvis movie style, Presley plays a Navajo (!) named Joe Lightcloud, and Burgess Meredith plays his pappy. There was some go-go dancing, some bull wrangling, and a whole lotta singing and smooching.

Old Town Cottonwood once again was called into duty, playing the role of “town”.

bing's-old town cottonwood, az

Elvis signed autographs outside the Cottonwood Hotel, after filming a scene on Main Street. The Cottonwood Hotel played hostelry to many a star filming on location, including Mae West, and John Wayne. Since 1917 the hotel has been Cottonwood’s oldest and longest standing business with the same name.

Cottonwood Inc.

Cottonwood remained unincorporated until 1960. The town’s 1,600 residents were mobilized to act after Clarkdale (incorporated in 1957) tried to annex Old Town Cottonwood. Incorporation was initially voted down in 1958, but proponents maintained that it could improve property values, provide better police, fire, and sanitation services, control growth, and increase tax benefits. In November of 1960, Cottonwood Arizona was incorporated, with 476 favorable petitions, just 9 over the required 66% of property taxpayers and residents, becoming Arizona’s 58th incorporated community.

This year’s 3rd annual “Walkin’ on Main” street-fest will pay tribute to Cottonwood’s 50th anniversary of incorporation. From 11:00am- 6:00pm on Saturday November 13th, Old Town’s Main Street Historic 89A will be blocked from traffic, and filled with art, vintage automobiles, open-air vendors, and live entertainment. Wine and olive oil tasting will highlight some of the new industry taking hold in the Verde Valley. In lieu of basement brewed whiskey, Cottonwood is now making its mark as part of the Verde Valley Wine Trail.

True to its roots, “The Biggest Little Town in Arizona” spins its 131 years of history into a modern community full of big city amenities.

Cheers to many more years of success, neighbor!

old town welcome!

For more information:

History, photos and a self-guided walking tour of Old Town Cottonwood

City of Cottonwood’s website

Ellen Jo Roberts has lived in the Verde Valley since 1997, and now she has a sudden urge for some bootleg local-brewed whiskey. Roberts shares a historic brick bungalow with Bike Daddy Chad, and an assortment of other ornery critters.Read all about it at www.ellenjo.com