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Paul Coates -- Confidential File, February 2, 1959

February 2, 2009 |  2:00 pm


Really, Has Cuba a Barber Strike?

Paul_coates Somebody's got to say it. And it's obvious that even the man's best friend won't tell him.

So I guess, as usual, it's up to me.

I mean about Fidel Castro. He needs a good heart-to-heart talk. And I hope he takes it the way I intend it.

For the past few years, at great personal sacrifice, he's been an outlaw in his society, hiding in the hills, leading the primitive life of outdoor plumbing.

I admire him for the ordeal he's been through.

But the point is, he's out of the hills now.

1959_0202_red_streakHe's back in civilization. And he has access to hot and cold running water.

I don't mean to be indelicate, but a man of his present influence can commandeer soap, for example, Gillette Blue Blades. And adequate masculine deodorants.

So far, all of the news stories I have read out of Havana have tactfully omitted reference to the rebel chieftain's apparent dogmatic disdain for such personal hygiene products.

But every day I see those wire service photos. Like, man, I'm itching. All over.

I confess that I'm personally envious of these beards that they grow. I've always wanted one myself.

In fact, the thought of stroking my chin and finding a full brush there has enchanted me since the day, at 14, when I discovered a dark, 3/4-inch-long hair fighting its way through the fuzz below my lower lip.

1959_0202_books_2But I'm a realist.

Society just doesn't permit me such freedom.

There are only a few people left today who can get away with wearing a beard. Viennese psychiatrists. TV directors. Orthodox priests.

Or, at the very least, men with weak chins.

And while I've never seen Castro's bare chin, I don't think that's his problem.

Get Back to Civilization

He and his victorious band seem to be unaware that they are respected citizens of the Cuban community now.

The triumphant army of the July 26 Movement doesn't seem to realize that with victory go certain responsibilities.

This is the 20th century now -- going on the 21st.

Any man with intentions of being a dominant figure in government today must first learn to conform.

He must wear white dress shirts, not herringbone twill. And his face must be clean, baby-smooth and lotioned.

It's true. Harry Truman wore wild Hawaiian sports shirts.

But take Tom Dewey. All he did was sport a little brush under his nose and it cost him the Presidency of the United States.

I'm not the type of individual who goes around afterward saying, "I told you so."

But just remember, I'm on record with my warning to Fidel

If I can't get away with growing a beard, I don't see why he should be able to.