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Oldsmar mayor fights to save it, not shave it

In a battle that probably won't rival the fight over the demolition of the Soreno Hotel in St. Petersburg, Oldsmar Mayor Jerry Provenzano is attempting to rally preservationists to save his famous mustache.

Provenzano's handlebar mustache is being raffled off by a group trying to raise $60,000 to build Friendship Playground at R.

E. Olds Park. The idea of the raffle is to sell tickets for the opportunity to shave the mayor.

But Provenzano is attached to his mustache, in more ways than one.

So on Saturday he will play host to a cocktail party thrown by something called the "Save the 'Stache Coalition." The goal of the coalition: buy up the raffle tickets, thus preventing the destruction of the mustache.

They want to save it, not shave it.

If someone from the coalition wins the raffle, then Provenzano gets to keep what he has called "my most treasured possession." Should that happen, he promised he would then "give that Lou Gehrig speech: "Today, I'm the luckiest man on the face of the earth.' "

Some people might question the value of saving what is essentially just a clump of facial hair, even one that when stretched out measures 8 inches from tip to tip.

They might ask, "Is the mustache historic?" As a matter of fact, it has been around for 16 years, longer than Oldsmar's City Hall or Post Office.

Is it architecturally significant? Its distinctive look inspired the architect in charge of planning the playground to design a slide with a similar shape.

Is it in good condition? Provenzano says he spends 10 minutes every morning getting it into shape _ first brushing it, then using styling gel and a blow dryer to create the curling ends.

Actually, the point of the "Save the 'Stache" movement is not so much to preserve the mayor's upper lip as it is to raise more money for the playground.

Tickets for the raffle are $1. The drawing is March 5. Should the coalition lose, the person holding the winning ticket gets to take a razor to the mayor during the Oldsmar Family Fest on March 28.

The playground is to be built in April using volunteer labor and donated money and tools.