The obituaries of Charlton Heston concur: here was an example of life following art. As Moses and Ben Hur, El Cid and George Taylor, he played men who stood for dignity and freedom, and whether or not you agree that civil rights and gun rights are morally equivalent, he stuck his neck out for both. Then, when the scourge of Alzheimer’s confronted him, he faced it as he had faced the Egyptians and the gorillas, with great bravery.
But in one small area, his heroism slipped. Unflinching in his defence of African-Americans and gun-owners, Heston was never quite brave enough to acknowledge his own baldness. He set his granite jaw and battered nose against injustice, but from his own genetic inheritance, he cowered beneath a succession of increasingly preposterous toupees, of the sort that even Frankie Howerd might have spurned as unbecoming. As Chuck wielded his trusty flintlock, his wig looked like something he’d just shot.
As someone whose time in the barber’s chair becomes more cursory with each successive visit, I know that few men welcome baldness. But why do so many still persist in fighting it, and make themselves look even more ridiculous than they would in their natural state? As with boob jobs and facelifts, wigs rarely go unnoticed, especially by the many websites dedicated to seeking them out. And if we know someone wears a wig, we assume that person is insecure, or vain, or in denial about the aging process – surely a worse sin than baldness (or, for that matter, sagging breasts or jowls).
Wigs are about more than baldness – they are about honesty and dignity, or the lack of them. Everyone knows that Bruce Forsyth wears a (bad) hairpiece, but few raise the subject in his company. The man is 80 years old now – is it really so shameful to be bald? Maybe not, but if he were to ditch his syrup now, he would be admitting that he’s been fibbing for the last three decades or so. Increasing numbers – Sean Connery, Patrick Stewart and Bruce Willis, for example – are proud of their slaphead status. But others, and I’m sure you know the names, still cower beneath the weave. Come on, guys, when even Heston’s namesake Bobby abandoned his combover, surely the game was up.
There are obvious parallels with homosexuality. I’m sure there are some people in the public eye who have never bothered to come out because everyone knows anyway, and any big announcement would be an embarrassing anticlimax. But wig-wearers don’t need to say anything. They just need to ditch their hairy friends once and for all, and allow their scalps to shine out and proud. Do it, slapheads. Go to the only place where Charlton Heston feared to tread.