I had recently purchased one of those kawaii vinyl tchotchkes that are all the rage these days. I was persuaded to buy it for one specific reason.
It was of The Joker. From the 1960s “Batman” TV series.
And he had a mustache.
To me, this detail was of the utmost importance, a nerdy “secret handshake” that I immediately realized I shared with the producer of said tchotchke.
As I brought the item to the counter, the cashier, a Hispanic man in his early 50s, regarded it with a reverent, knowing nod.
For this was no ordinary Joker. This was the Cesar Romero Joker. And, famously, the only Joker with a mustache.
The story went that Romero refused to shave off his facial hair to play the Clown Prince Of Crime; the actor’s mustache being so distinct a trademark. So if they wanted Romero as The Joker…the makeup department was going to have to apply white makeup over his whiskers.
And so they did.
The 1966 “Batman” show being essentially played for laughs (though not to my ultra-serious 6-year-old mind), it wasn’t a big deal at all. It only added to the “camp,” another nod to the absurdity of the concept of a “Bat-Man” in the first place.
But I also always felt that keeping the mustache under the clown-white only made Romero’s Joker look crazier. I realize that the late Heath Ledger’s version of the character is considered the “new” standard (well, we’ll see how well Jared Leto’s is remembered) , but if you see this guy coming at you with, say, a mallet or brightly-colored ticking gift box…