Q: How important is a dictator's mustache?

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A: From Hitler to Mussolini to Saddam, dictators have long relied on their facial topiary to give the illusion of having stiff upper lips. But be careful about offering them any grooming advice. In 1923, for example, Hitler's friend Ernst Hanfstaengl encouraged the future Fuhrer to grow his mustache across the entire length of his lip. Perhaps unaccustomed to receiving a little friendly advice, Hitler tried to have Hanfstaengl killed. Critics of Stalin's "˜stache fared even worse. In a poem intended only for a small circle of friends, Osip Mandelstam compared Stalin's mustache to a cockroach. Not the best move, if Mandelstam intended to be a future poet (or to be a future anything for that matter). Stalin had him repeatedly arrested and sent to deadly Soviet work camps "“ and he died, probably in 1939 in one of these gulags. As for Stalin, he decided to keep his "cockroach" mustache, but ironically decided to exterminate millions anytime he deemed them pests.

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September 15, 2006 - 10:35am
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