SOMERS, N.Y. - Joe Mazzella loved his mustache so much he was willing to spend a good chunk of his time in Catholic high school sitting in detention rather than give it up.
In fact, the Somers man was so attached to it that he once turned his nose up at five grand—in cash!—offered by fellow commodity traders at his old gig, Goldman Sachs, who were desperate to see what he looked like clean-shaven.
Soup strainer. Crumb catcher. Lip ferret. Face lace. Bro-merang. There are literally hundreds of humorous ways to describe the beloved ‘stache.
Facial hair trends have come and gone over the last 43 years, but the Bronx native remained resolute. He caved only once—and that was when his late mother had begged him to remove it for his senior class photo.
“Except for my sis and dad, no one’s seen me without one,” admits Mazzella, who, after retiring, went on to teach about financial risk at universities around the country.
It appears that only a really, really good cause—like making life a little easier for harried essential workers—could dragoon the dad of three daughters into submitting to the dreaded defuzzing.
Mazzella and his oldest child, Nicole, recently launched a GoFundMe site, Trim and Shave for the Brave, hoping to bring more awareness to the plight of “all of those brave enough to work in the line of fire throughout this pandemic.”
On Memorial Day, Mazzella had to grin and bear it while family members gleefully pruned his upper lip and a Halston Media photographer captured the “historic” event from a safe distance.
Here’s the catch: He only had one half shorn.
Why? Because a man with half a mustache—or a woman with one eyebrow—draws attention. If they go whole hog right off the bat, who’s going to know?
Besides, Mazzella said, it’s much funnier looking and everyone can use a good chuckle right about now.
Once Trim and Shave for the Brave nears its goal of $50,000, Mazzella promises to jettison the other half and start growing it again for another fundraiser down the road. So far, he’s raised more than $10,000.
He coaches St. John the Evangelist’s CYO basketball team in Mahopac. The fifth-graders and their parents donated $250, commenting: “We love Coach Joe!”
The Mazzellas hope to rake in enough to purchase lots of gift cards from local restaurants and other small businesses such as dry cleaners and ride services. The cards will be given to frontline workers.
The funds could also be used to rent out food trucks that could be parked near hospitals and other facilities for exhausted workers to grab a quick bite before heading home.
Donors of $200 or more receive a snazzy cloth face mask designed and made by Nicole. It is black with a white handlebar mustache and the logo #trimandshaveforthebrave.
Mazzella would like donors to take selfies with the masks on and send them back to Nicole, who will be put them together in a collage to be framed and given to various hospitals.
Pointing to the success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, a fundraiser for Lou Gehrig’s disease research that went viral on social media in 2014, Mazzella hopes to inspire other regular Joes and Josephines to shave their mustaches, beards, hair and eyebrows.
Mazzella can’t say enough about the sacrifices frontline workers are making. He calls them “the very best people on the planet.” He knows they are doing their very best—at great personal peril—to take care of COVID-19 victims.
Mazzella, former owner of the Somers 202 restaurant in Granite Springs, said he has been “heartbroken” over the loss of a dear friend and mentor to the disease. He was his accountant and had taught him everything he knows about the tax preparation business.
The self-professed “hugger” also misses seeing his old-school Italian dad in person. He’s staying away from him for the health reasons and phone calls are just not cutting it emotionally for either party.
Fortunately, Mazzella has been able to apply the same kind of doggedness he displayed protecting his prized ‘stache to his new cause and the family has been able to hang onto their sense of humor during these dark and dismal times.
It showed in the skit his wife, Margaret, and their daughters Nicole, Joanna and Marissa put together for the official shearing.
In a dress rehearsal, the “Barbershop Quartet” emerged from the shrubbery wielding hedge clippers and an outsized plastic comb as Mazzella feigned wide-eyed terror. The hair-a-cide, accomplished with a real electrical clipper, took only a few seconds.
While they had dear old dad in their clutches, they took to his scalp as well, practically giving him a buzz cut.
“They went off on me! I haven’t had hair this short since I was at a christening…and it was mine,” he said, still in shock at the impromptu follicle frenzy by the ersatz Philistines.
While he didn’t exactly feel like Sampson did after Delilah stole his locks and sapped his strength, Mazzella did feel like “putting a hat on.”
He thought something was fishy based on how much hair cascaded from his head, but didn’t have a clue what they were up to until they handed him a mirror.
“I just kept thinking: ‘Why did I do this? Why did I do this?’ ”
“But, you know what, it was for the right reason.”
Honestly, in the end, none of this was about the bristles.
“The mustache is irrelevant. I’m irrelevant,” Mazzella said.
“Through this fundraiser, not only do we recognize the brave men and women working through this time of hardship, but we also give back to our communities by supporting our local businesses.”
To donate, visit gofundme.com/f/trim-and-shave-for-the-brave.
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