Ed. Note – We sent Brian Cullen to cover an event where Axe’s new skin care product line, AXEFace, premiered. It featured appearances from NFL linebacker Von Miller and actress Adrianne Palicki. What follows is the rambling, incoherent psychobabble we received regarding the event. In defense of Mr. Cullen’s writing, it should be noted that there were free adult refreshments.
The tattooed man throttled my face.
Is the throttled the right word to use there? I don’t know, dammit! I don’t have time to be eloquent! There are meaty paws jabbing me in the face with all manner of creams and lotions! In any other scenario this wouldn’t be wholly unpleasant. But given the circumstances, this felt like something from Zero Dark Thirty.
I should back up a bit:
Meteors came screaming through the sky. Rothgrowl stared at his kin. Growla was somber, but accepting. Their young child, Li’l Chomps, was scared. But their time was done. Rothgrowl went to embrace his family, but he couldn’t — for he was a T-Rex, and their tiny arms precluded even the simplest displays of affection.
Whoops! Too far. Let’s move it forward just a little bit:
“I call it the Printing Press!” exclaimed Gu–
Not yet. Keeeeeep going
I crammed my fat, bearded face full of candied bacon–
Ah! There we are.
So, yes, I was at an Axe event the other day (the men’s grooming products, not, like, the things you use to kill Uruk-Hai) and they had an open bar and this delightful snack mix with candied bacon. It was delicious, but kind of disgraceful. Have you ever eaten so many hors d’oeuvres that the wait staff keeps interrupting your conversation because you’re the easiest way they can unload a tray of sliders? That was discouraging for a number of reasons. But it was also kind of a wacky evening. See, they were introducing their new line of facial care products called “AXEFace,” and I have been expressly forbidden from noting how it sounds like an Andrew W.K. album or that orc in World of Warcraft who betrays your party. I digress.
The evening kicked off when Denver Broncos’ linebacker Von Miller showed up in order to have his “trademark goatee” shaved off his face by a professional stylist. They laid him down, and that’s when I saw NFL linebacker Von Miller get his face shorn. Everyone stopped what they were doing and crowded around him. Knowing their audience all too well, the coordinators suspended bar service for the 10 minutes or so that the shaving occurred. Like, people were crowding around, snapping photos, and what have you. Music stopped. It actually had kind of a Wicker Man vibe to it (the old one, not the Nic Cage one).
So of course, I decided to try it myself, because I am a glutton for punishment and also most foods.
Until a few days ago, I had a big, bushy beard. I mean, I maintained it, insofar that my cheeks and that fat waddle thing under my chin was clean shaven, but otherwise I didn’t trim at all. So, after a few free cocktails, and under pressure from my editor who enjoys seeing me in compromising situations, I submitted to receiving a free shave at the hands of a professional.
And it was my own personal Vietnam.
That should catch us up.
When I sat down in the barber’s chair, there were a few things that should have tipped me off right away:
1) I had to sign a waiver
I didn’t read the language, because I just assumed it was like “we’re gonna shave your fat, stupid face. And if we cut you, you can’t sue us. You’re gonna die young and nobody actually loves you!” (I’m paraphrasing.)
2) I wasn’t facing the mirror
You know, usually you face the mirror and can see what’s going. This time, after signing the waiver, they just had me facing out, looking at the world.
“Hi, world!” I said
“You’re so fat and hairy that you look like an appetizer from Applebee’s!” the world sneered back.
Heavens! How uncouth!
3) Everyone shut up for a second — is that Adrianne Palicki?
Holy crow! Tyra from Friday Night Lights just strolled in! And either the DJ started playing “Dream Weaver” or my terrified amygdala is pumping me full of stress hormones. Is this hallucination meant to calm me enough to endure a shave?
[Full disclosure: Palicki's brother writes for this site, but Brian assures us he'd be crushing on her regardless. Great, now the Man Cave spring picnic is going to be awkward --Ed.]
If this is indeed reality, she’s lovely in real life. I mean, she’s lovely on the big screen, too, but she’s really very striking in real li–
“Lay him down!”
I’m forcibly reclined. Paws, on my face. Poking. Prodding.
“Can I ask you about your shaving habits?” asks some lady.
“PFC Brian Cullen! 123-45-6789!”
“…Sir, I assure you that no military would accept you, certainly not as ‘first class.’ And the odds of your identification numbers being a sequential series is probably 10 million to one. Are you crying?”
Even I didn’t know. They turned up the spotlights and I could not see a single thing. The heat of these damn things probably evaporated whatever tears were on my face.
Or maybe, it was the angelic light of Adrianne Palicki. Did you know she’s playing Lady Jaye in the new G.I. Joe: Retaliation? Sigh.
Back to reality. My barber dragged the razor beefily across my face. “Damn, man. How often do you have to change your razor?” he says.
Like anyone keeps track of that malarkey. So I made something up: “700 years.”
“Your beard is very coarse.”
Is that an insult? I don’t know what barber insults are like. I spit back: “Your widow’s peak doesn’t have enough borage oil! Do you even condition with omega-3s?”
He appears perplexed.
Just then, a woman I don’t know comes over and gives him some orders. “Turn his head. Shave his face. Wipe the blade down again.”
I open my eyes to look — GAH! THE LIGHT! The only thing I see is my barber’s arm. It is covered in tattoos.
Tattoos of crying babies.
This is not literary license. A beefy man covered in crying baby tattoos held me down and dragged a blade across my face.
I am but a Civil War patient undergoing battlefield surgery — liquored up and withstanding only the most primitive of medical procedures. Shoot the whiskey. Bite down on that bullet. Think of beautiful things, Brian. The opera that Andy Dufresne play in The Shawshank Redemption. Art. The poems of Shel Silverstein. Candied bacon. Adrianne Palicki.
Once we got to the “moustache” portion of my face the barber asked me to frown. This was not difficult. For several minutes, my face had been locked in a permanent, silent scream, like that dumb German jerk who picked the wrong grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Scrape. Scrape. Scrape. Ssssssscrrrrrrraaaaaaappppppppe.
Splashy splash splash splash.
The unbearable silence.
It went on for years. And then…it was over. I sat up, dazed. I looked around, adjusting my eyes to the dim, nightclub-style light. But lo, the partiers had made their exit. All that remained were a few well-wishers, and the wait staff.
But my face was clean shaven. And, despite the Saw-level of fear, it looked pretty damn good. And felt alright, too. At least I didn’t have to lift a damn finger to shave myself. So that was a plus.
And so, I headed out, a little cleaner, with a bag full of Axe swag and a belly full of mac & cheese pockets with Sriracha mayo. Would I do it again? Eh, it depends. I’m sure it wouldn’t have been so horrifying without the spotlights and the supervisor directing my barber on what to do. Plus, for all I know, I’m probably on some Bulgarian Axe website right now. But hey, it’s not every day you get to hobnob at an open bar with tasty eats, getting a free professional shave.
But if you do, my advice is to focus on your happy place. For most of you, this will be Adrianne Palicki. But for me, it will always be candied bacon.
Brian has a history of wandering off-topic in the face of jaw-dropping beauty with Topanganza! Our Predictions for ‘Girl Meets World’. He also wandered cluelessly around press events before in Party like a Has-Bro.