Claudia Deutsch, New York Times scribe

On March 20, 2008, by AMI Staff

Because we are the bravest organization in the history of mankind, the American Mustache Institute has a close familiarity with some of the top reporters and editors in the news media. Of course, it also may have something to do with the fact that some of our administrators have been arrested for harassment after sending threatening letters to various newspapers across the United States.

Regardless, one such reporter with whom we have become familiar is Claudia H. Deutsch, a long-time business scribe for The New York Times and, how would one say this, quite a piece of work..

Claudia Deutsch The native New Yorker, pictured at left holding a favorite head of iceberg lettuce, is known for her 4’2, 90-lb. frame, the ability to fill that girthy build with an 18-ounce pepper-encrusted rib-eye along with a large baked potato, and the way she can be easily swayed to do almost anything by a man with lip fur. To a lesser extent, Deutsch is also notorious for her forward demeanor, intelligence, and overall dogged reporting style, but who cares about that other than her quaking news sources and the liberal intelligencia who venture outside The New York Post?

When she’s not skipping out on work to play squash and tennis with swarthy public relations people, Deutsch is exercising her great sense of social consciousness, focusing much of her reporting efforts on the environmental efforts – or lack thereof – of big business.

In between her reporting and part-time job as a midget wrestler, Deutsch caught up with AMI over cream soda and low-fat wiener schnitzel.

Q: Certainly there were more mustaches per capita in the U.S. in 1978 then there are said soup strainers on Americans’ lips today. Why do you think this is so?
A: Aging “Baby Boomers,” my dear. We’re all in the losing-hair years of life, not the growing ones.

Q: But whereas “Baby Boomers” commonly wore mustaches in the late 1960s and into the 1970s (often accompanied by perms and turtlenecks), you don’t see the 30- or 40-somethings of today regularly touting lip fur. Why do you think that is?
A: They’re still stuck in their teenage rebellion. Daddy – and mommy – electrolysis hurts! – had beards and staches, so they’ll be damned if they will. Same reason so many of the kids of us make-love-not-war folks became masters of the universe. Good thing, too – these hairless wonders will pay for our nursing homes.

Q: As a business reporter, you spend much of your time covering segments of corporate America. It would seem like corporate America has taken a position against facial hair as you rarely see the modern-day C.E.O. with a mustache or beard. Does facial hair represent a less-than-professional appearance?
A: All their companies have been under pressure from the women’s movement to promote more gals. So the guys are keeping a low-facial-hair profile in hopes that they can pass.

Q: What are both the most fascinating and alarming trends in big business today?
A: Clearly, the growing lobbying efforts, led by the Business Roundtable, to remove the tax on oil and substitute a tax on facial hair.

Q: For people who follow media trends, it’s understood there is a tremendous sea change going on in today’s media world. People are flocking online for news, the amateur Blogosphere is exploding, radio is not even on a young person’s radar today with alternatives like the IPod. What is your perspective on all of the change and how do you see it impacting you?
A: We have a secret project going – I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you – that will result in turning ink stained hands into a fashion statement, and ink stained wretches into sex symbols. And we are persuading Harvard and Yale to consider ability to solve the Saturday New York Times crossword puzzle as above SAT scores in admissions decisions.

Q: What would you tell a young aspiring reporter coming out of college today?
A: Don’t invest in your company’s stock.

Q: If you had not gone into journalism, would you be involved in midget wrestling, burlesque, or both?
A: I’m not an either/or kind of gal. I (currently) wrestle midgets – people my height – in burlesque theaters when I’m in between deadlines.

Q: Despite your vertical challenges, you are perceived as a very tough reporter. When you are on the other end of the phone, should public relations flacks be scared, prepared, or aroused?
A: As I said before, I’m not an either/or kind of gal. All of the above, and then some.

Q: You get “pitched” a lot by public relations flacks as they try to get you to write positive stories about their clients or companies. What is the dumbest non-mustache-related pitch you’ve received?
A: The company that recently tried to persuade me that they had instituted telecommuting as part of their sustainability program — completely forgetting that I had done a story on them more than 15 years ago, when they instituted telecommuting as a way to hold onto young women who were leaving to stay home with their kids.

Q: You tried to be a flack once – for about 11 days – that must have been an enriching experience. Is it true you are still in therapy?
A: No. But my clients are still in bankruptcy.

Q: You’re best known for your business reporting but you also write a lot of obituaries too. How did you get into writing obits?
A: I misunderstood when the editors said my writing was deadly.

Q: Who’s the most fascinating person you’ve ever written an obituary about?
A: In my mind I’ve written obituaries for many fascinating people, who quite unfortunately are not yet dead. But a girl can hope, and be prepared.

Q: Do you ever get confused between the stiffs in the coffins and the stiffs in the board rooms?
A: No. The stiffs in the coffin can be counted on to stay dead. The boardroom stiffs are straight out of George Romero.

Q: Speaking of stiffs – brilliant ones at that – you work with Tom Friedman who has a fine mustache. Do you ever want to run your fingers through his Labia Sebucula (Latin for “Lip Sweater)?
A: I’m taking the fifth. I would not want to make the other mustachioed men in my life jealous, nor would I want to raise expectations among other mustachioed fellows.

Q: On the subject of journalistic mustaches – are there any other New York Times mustaches the AMI should have on its radar, and do you think Walter Cronkite retiring killed the mustache in broadcast news? The timing seems to line up appropriately doesn’t it?
A: A lot more of the Gray Lady staches are indeed gray, rather than spunky dark. Clearly an old timer’s conceit. And don’t Geraldo Rivera and John Stossel have mustaches? (Oh lord, am I suggesting that Walter Cronkite’s legacy is Geraldo Rivera? Aye yi yi!

Q: As someone with German roots and who speaks the tongue (and kisses that way too), do you find it surprising, interesting or refreshing to know that the American Mustache Institute is working with the 1964 East German women’s shot-put team on a membership role in the AMI?
A: I have gray roots, not german ones. I do not kiss like a German, I kiss like a Latvian. Grammar, syntaxt, ain’t your strong suit, eh? It is common knowledge that the original idea for the AMI was sparked by a group photo of that 1964 team. So I think it’s surprisingly refreshing that you are acknowledging — and returning to — your roots.

Q: But do you like wiener schnitzel in your lederhosen?
A: Nope — but I’m highly appreciative of wieners in YOUR hosen.

Q: Finally, besides heads of lettuce and half-eaten Rally’s chicken sandwiches, what other non-battery operated devices do you like to carry around in your bag around the streets of New York?
A: You’re spying on me! How did you know that I just ate an entire head of iceberg at my desk! A staple remover to pull down pictures of people I like that have been defaced with a crayoned-on mustache. And a black magic marker so I can mustache some pictures of my own choosing.

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