As the dull roar of sadness about the passing of the late, great Walter Cronkite wanes, the administration and faculty of American Mustache Institute wish to provide a perspective about our late hero, and sometime colleague (read a film review he conducted with John Waters for AMI), through which many outside the Mustached American community never saw him.
Most of Mr. Cronkite's tale is a familiar yarn to the American public. He was a true journalist in every sense of the word, best known as anchorman for the "CBS Evening News" for 19 years between 1962-81. During the heyday of CBS News in the 1960s and 1970s, he was often cited in viewer opinion polls as "the most trusted man in America" because of his professional experience and kindly demeanor, and of course, his mustache.
He reported on a wide range of events that set the tone for American culture from 1937-1981 - the bombing in World War II, the Nuremberg trials, the Vietnam War, the death of JFK, Watergate, the Iran Hostage Crisis, and landmark moments in the U.S. space program.
But Mr. Cronkite -- a man whom I grew to admire through our friendship and shared passion for the labia sebucula (Latin for "lip sweater) -- was also a proud man of Mustached American descent. And because of his presence on the CBS News set in the 1960s, most male and female anchors across America wore mustaches throughout the 1970s.
He was the first, and sadly one of the last, of a rare species known as "Mustachiopithicus" or "Cronkite Man." Mustachiopithicus was a breed of humans who walked the earth, holding down the integral role of telling Americans about the news and not, as it is today, making news in the most craven manner. But clearly, like the dinosaurs or moderate politicians -- Mustchiopithicus was not a breed fit for long-term survival.
The dark times -- times that many in America have failed to report upon -- in essence curtailed what was a thriving breed.
You see, as Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency of the United States, on February 10, 1981, one of his first legislative actions was to re-institute the Federal Mustache Tax Amendment (FMTA), a little known rider to the 1965 National Voting Rights Act that taxed Mustached Americans which you can read about in detail on the American Mustache Institute's history page.
The Reagan version of FMTA, however, had even nastier, more discriminatory fangs then that of it's predecessor which was killed by former President Gerald Ford.
The new FMTA would include a "don't ask don't tell" rider that was adopted by all U.S. military personnel, causing thousands of military women and men to spend more time covering their mustaches than defending freedom. It also added a corporate tariff on mustaches, having an immediate affect on companies across the U.S., as the mustached corporate executive disappeared from the landscape while their pandering sycophants followed their CEOs' lead.
And as the FMTA came back into law, there was no coincidence about the timing of Mr. Cronkite's retirement.
Walt, as his friends called him, left our airwaves for good on March 6, 1981 - mere days after Reagan brought the hateful, discriminatory FMTA back to life -- ultimately being replaced by the clean-shaven Dan Rather.
His retirement caused a chain reaction among mustached anchormen, who began mysteriously dying or simply disappearing from the television landscape without its species anchor -- Cronkite -- or Mustachiopithicus.
What remained were the likes of famed mustached newsman Geraldo Rivera, Pat O'Brien, who at the time was with CBS in its sports division, and John Stossel, now an ABC reporter. These were just three of the few mustached newsmen who survived the near extinction of the mustached broadcaster.
So as Mr. Cronkite leaves this earth at the age of 92, having lived an eventful and impactful life, we say farewell to a hero, a colleague, and a dear friend.
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