Just As I Thought

Politically Hairy

Councilman’s look changes with budget pledge to grow beard.

A little over a year ago I wrote about the then-candidate for San Jose city council from my district, Pierluigi Oliverio. I compared him to the male model style mayor Gavin Newsom, who leapt to fame as America’s Hottest Mayor. Oliverio is certainly San Jose’s hottest councilman (and I have to say, having met him and his staff a few times, he knows how to pick hunky guys and beautiful women as aides).
Of course, I voted for him because I believed that he would do his part to change the status quo and bring a less jaded, professional politician-style outlook, which he has to some extent. But the reality is that he is a good looking guy and this means that his looks become part of the story, thus:

Councilman’s look changes with budget pledge to grow beard
By Scott Herhold
Mercury News

Anyone who’s followed the career of San Jose Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio knows he’s not a conventional politician. He roiled labor unions when he suggested that private contractors could clean up the Rose Garden. He’s unafraid to be on the losing end of big votes. And he’s gotten attention for posting his dating profile on the Web (“candlelight, dancing, skinny-dipping, thunderstorms”).

Now he’s embarked on a visible experiment in one of the most public arenas of all: facial hair. And this may be a moment where the rest of us can help the first-term councilman from Willow Glen.

Since Mayor Chuck Reed delivered his State of the City speech in mid-January, Oliverio has let his beard grow, vowing he wasn’t going to shave until the budget was balanced.

If he were a hockey player, he might simply let it go, perhaps trimming it around the edges for comfort. But being Oliverio means having a little bit of fun. And so his look has evolved in the past couple of months – from Don Johnson to Abe Lincoln to what he calls his Cinequest Alternative Look – something that brings to mind an Amish cowboy.

“It’s been fun,” said Oliverio, a youthful multi-tasker who says he plans to take off his goatee this week because the mayor is making good budget decisions. “Certainly it’s a lot easier to get ready for things.”

This is where the rest of us should get involved. So I’m sponsoring this column’s first online contest: If you go to http://www.mercurynews.com/scottherhold, you can vote on the Pierluigi look you think best. After all, this is a guy who would like to find his mate. Maybe we can help him.

Let me explain your choices. First, you’ve got the cleanshaven Oliverio, the guy whose mug hangs on the first floor of City Hall: a semi-angular look that’s not at all bad, showing his Italian origins.

Next up is the Don Johnson: Oliverio’s beard comes in dark, and there’s something dashing about a 3-day-old growth.

After that is the “Serpico” look, which is the full-on beard and mustache. Again, certainly a contender.

The last two, like Oliverio himself, depart from convention. On Presidents’ Day, he switched to the Abe Lincoln look, shaving off his mustache. but leaving a solid fringe of hair around his chin. Then, a couple of weeks ago, he went to the Modified Amish, trimming the fringe into long sideburns but leaving the goatee.

With his current look, Oliverio recently appeared before a group of Del Mar High School students who were complimentary. “I looked pretty hip,” said the councilman, who doesn’t suffer from false modesty.

Oliverio’s aide, Denelle Fedor, a fan of facial hair, has urged him to grow the beard. “It makes people smile,” she said. “With everything going on, it’s sometimes hard to stay in a good mood. It’s fun.”

But I would be less than a conscientious reporter if I didn’t tell you that the Abe Lincoln and the Modified Amish Cowboy have critics.

Kris Cunningham, now an aide to Supervisor Blanca Alvarado but once a candidate for the District 6 council seat, says she was talking with Alvarado recently about the Oliverio look.

“She said, ‘I think Pierluigi’s beard makes him look more handsome,’ ” Cunningham said. “I told her, ‘I think it makes him look like Abe Lincoln, which is good politically, but bad aesthetically.’ “

Here’s your chance to weigh in yourself. I’ll be reporting back on the results. As a dutiful council member, Oliverio will pay attention. Will he adopt the popular choice? Sorry, no guarantees.

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