The Tragedy of the Beatnik Beard
The Beatniks, “normal” Americans pre-hippie punching bags were the butt of many a joke and prank in the late 50’s and early 60’s. One of the biggest pranks was the novelty “Beatnik Beard” sold by the Kingman Novelty Corp. It was intended as a humorous lark with its tag line “Dig the beard! Crazy, Man” but the story behind it is tragic.
It was the fifties and the increasingly paranoid FBI Director, J Edgar Hoover was convinced that beatniks were trying to topple America. Attempts to infiltrate the “beatnik underground” failed, mainly because of federal agents inability to grow a believable beard. Hoover was frantic, he ordered the arrest and torture of actor Bob Denver who played television beatnik Maynard G. Krebs to find out the secrets of the beatnik. He failed and a broken Bob Denver spent three years in an insane asylum as a result of the failed torture. Hoover then implemented operation “Bongo Turtleneck” which called for the eradication of beatniks and here’s where the story takes a grim turn. Knowing that his agents couldn’t grow a decent beard and fake beards didn’t cut it, Hoover went out personally and killed unsuspecting beatniks and cut off their bearded chins. He cleaned up the chins and with a little glue his agents had a perfect beatnik disguise. Hoover went rogue for this assignment and until a recently discovered private memo was found no one at the bureau was wise to it. It seems that Hoover took a liking to killing beatniks and the bodies of hundreds of chinless hipsters were found in the Washington DC area. Operation “Bongo Turtleneck” was a failure as it was soon apparent that the beatniks had no intention of attempting to overthrow the government. Hoover was in a bind, he now had hundreds of “real” beatnik beards left that would never be used. He sold them through a third party to the Kingman Novelty Corporation where they sold modestly through the mid 70’s until people woke up and realized that Beatnik Beards really weren’t that funny.