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  • Writer's pictureJeff Kerr

Dial M for Mustache

I grew my first (and only) mustache for Fred Gorelick. Fred had just cast me as Captain Lesgate, the hired would-be killer, in the 1987 Winston-Salem Little Theater production of Dial M for Murder. I was still (barely) in my twenties and figured it was about time I found out what I would look like with facial hair.

Alas, about a month into the experiment, Fred took me aside and showed me how to make a fake mustache that I would use in the play. One look at the photo and you'll see why.

Dial M for Murder debuted as a play in 1952 on British television. Two years later, the Alfred Hitchcock classic film hit the big screen with a 3-D version. 3-D proved a flop, with one theater manager complaining that the technology had "people staying away in droves." These days, the title alone would likely accomplish the same end. Who under the age of 50 has ever dialed a phone? And who under the age of 30 even knows that phones once had dials, not to mention actual letters in the phone numbers? So, what to call a remake? Tap the App for a Permanent Nap?

Hitchcock's film stars Ray Milland, Robert Cummings, and the ever elegant Grace Kelly. The plot involves Milland blackmailing an old acquaintance into killing his wife, played by Kelly.

Here's a picture of Grace Kelly. If you were married to her, would you want to get rid of her? I didn't think so.

Here is Hitchcock's killer, Charles Swann. Looking at it, I can see why Fred Gorelick asked me to grow a mustache. That guy just reeks evil.

Finally, this is actor John Williams, who played the detective investigating the crime in the film. How stupid was Ray Milland? Did he really think he was going to outwit a guy that looks like Tom Hanks? No way.

Getting back to my participation in the 1987 Winston-Salem Little Theater production, I dug up a newspaper article about the show in which I said that the auditions were "a little strange" because "everybody else knew each other, and they were all hugging and kissing each other." Not once during the entire course of the production did anyone try to kiss me. Not even Fred. I blame the fake mustache.

On opening night, a winter blizzard struck Winston-Salem. If I remember correctly, that show was canceled. With streets still icy the next night, ticket holders followed the lead of the film's 3-D haters and stayed away in droves. One person who did brave the icy streets to attend was the theater critic for the Winston-Salem Journal. All I can recall about his review is that, in describing my performance, the word 'wooden' was used a lot.

The other thing about our play that sticks in my mind is the enormous pair of scissors Fred had me use as a prop. I was supposed to attack my victim from behind and strangle her. She would pivot around to face me and, while gasping her last, find a pair of scissors to drive into my back. While acting out my gruesome death I was supposed to pull a secret cord that would release the spring loaded scissors, allowing them to pop through a slit in the back of my jacket. Which, on opening night, I did. But when I collapsed face first and died, the scissors failed to release. Then, about fifteen seconds later, out they popped. As I lay on the stage, I chose to believe the audience was laughing with me.

I mentioned above that the 1987 mustache I grew was my first and only. Technically, this isn't true, for about fifteen years ago I took another stab at facial hair with a mustache/beard combo. You can judge the results for yourself. I wasn't entirely displeased with the look, but discovered rather quickly that beards itch. And that is why, no matter what Fred Gorelick says, I will go to my grave clean-shaven.

Thanks for reading! Drop me a line anytime at I'll write back!

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