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Pushing a different head

By Terry Joseph
October 26, 2002

We have all seen signs like the one outside Club Ambassador, prohibiting vests, short pants, slippers and hats; each item outlawed separately on the premise that its wearer fits a violence-prone profile.

On a personal level, these warnings historically held little significance, as my longest glances at such signage invariably occurred at times outside of Carnival, when the wearing of any type of headgear (my only temptation among the prohibited items) was simply not a consideration.

Admonitions about wearing short pants often made me laugh outright, since our police uniforms of not too long ago would have barred the very lawmen from entering such events.

Today, cultural activist Domingo Moreno, who last wore full-length trousers sometime back in the 1980's, would be similarly frowned upon.

Given an apparently uncontrollable female response to the mere sight of my legs, a sense of social responsibility guides me away from wearing short pants in public but having recently acquired a Panama hat, I boldly sported the piece to a recent back-in-time fete at Club Ambassador.

The bouncers were quite pleasant in advising that I could not enter wearing a hat, although none among them seemed able to explain the rationale behind this prohibition.

"Boss, all I know is they say 'no hats' and is my job to tell people they can't go in with any cap and hat and t'ing," said the lead scanner-person.

"But isn't this a dance?" I asked, musing on images of the best male dancers the world has seen in films, at live performances or on television specials, invariably men with hats. Spanning five decades, From Fred Astaire through Gregory Hines and most recently Usher; these globally celebrated dancing males not only wore hats but used them extensively as props in their choreography.

There was, not too long ago, a rock band called Men Without Hats, but in a back-in-time dance setting, one would imagine their work might never come to our attention, the preference being vintage hits from the likes of Michael Jackson or The Village People.

Well, as I remember it, MJ has been a hatted person from his boyhood and The Village People, a six-man group, integrated an absolutely elaborate Native American Indian war bonnet into their varied headgear choices.

Nor did the other Village persons wear ordinary stuff. They seemed to go out of their way to present eccentric adornments, complimenting the Indian bustle-dancer by sporting GI gear, biker-helmet, policeman cap, a cowboy "broadbrim" and construction worker hard-hat.

And when it comes to music from home, it must be safe to assume Sparrow and Kitchener, both men who wore hats, got some measure of respect from the DJs that night, as might any calypsonian from the art's Golden Era.

Hard as it may be to imagine, perhaps it was the kind of back-in-time party that gets by without any reference to hatted entertainers of the 1970's and 1980's, airing nary a peep from Boy George, Chuck Mangione, Parliament, George Benson or The Mighty Terror.

Could be they had themselves quite a jam and never even missed Elton John or Marvin Gaye, Santana, Len "Boogsie" Sharpe and Brigo; holding a period party that didn't need Third World, Kool & The Gang, Herbie Hancock or LTD.

Because it would be irrational to provide patrons with musical messages and subliminal injections of imagery from so many men in hats, then turnaround and refuse entry to this reporter for no other reason but the wearing of headgear.

If it be that Club Ambassador management has taken a blanket position about men wearing hats, thinking the fashion conducive to hiding weapons under tha' hood, then scrutinising the headband and crown should solve the problem.

In any event, women with unchecked coiffure or worse, wigs, could hold a lot more deadly potential than a basic Panama hat. And to split hairs: how would a toupee be classified?

But this is Trinidad, where no rule is applied carte blanche. Even if the hat example fits, still you can pull strings. Indeed, up came soca singer Ronnie Mc Intosh that same night, wearing his trademark black fedora.

At first, the Club Ambassador bouncers advised him of the regulation, then swiftly capitulated, when he explained in "precise" terms exactly who he is and that the hat is known to be part of his persona.

Standing now at the railing of the upper level carpark and taking in this variation of the doorman's earlier stance, it was hard to miss the pleading look from one of the scanner people. He knew I had witnessed the episode in its fullness. Now he wore a face painted in blushing penitence: "Well, yuh see how de ting does go," it seemed to say, "if yuh want to come again is okay, I feel."

But far be it from me to recklessly flaunt a proprietor's regulation, no matter how puerile its purpose or whimsical the application thereof. Turning the ignition key to begin the journey home, it struck me I had lost nothing and might, in fact, have been elevated to the league of gentlemen.

Were other long-standing members of the league inclined to sample the fete at Club Ambassador that night, Winston Churchill's bowler, Abraham Lincoln's stovepipe or the skullcap worn by Pope John Paul II would have rendered them ineligible.

Except, of course, they carried proof of participation in the annual Soca Monarch competition.

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