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Streets of gold

Who is that stashed man?
By CAITLIN CURRAN  |  September 5, 2007

VIDEO: Caitlin Curran on her night out with Goldenstash

The mustache seems to be making a comeback — in the popular imagination if not on upper lips. In August, Radar magazine’s Web site ranked the world’s wealthiest mustachioed men. “The mustache has never been more out of favor,” they lamented, supplying a list of high-earning facial-hair heroes, such as Ted Turner and ’80s-era Nintendo icons Mario and Luigi.

On August 26, Britain’s Sunday Telegraph wrote about the American Mustache Institute’s uphill crusade to  “restore well-tended facial hair to the noble status it enjoyed in the Seventies.” On the Institute’s own Web site, the AMI counsels men to “Stand up for yourself and let your mustache grow.”

Around Boston, one mysterious, epidemic figure boldly sports a prominent handlebar mustache as if it were his entire raison d’etre. Goldenstash, the Hanna Barbera–esque cartoon creation of a local street artist, has been popping up everywhere — most prolifically on the walls and street signs of Allston and Cambridge, though he’s been spotted downtown, and in Jamaica Plain.

Goldenstash most often decorates street signs and light poles where he’s depicted, on a sticker, as a black-and-white clip-art head— resembling a pimped-out Fred from Scooby-Doo  — with a coruscating gilded ’stache and matching gold chain, emblazoned with the letters “GS.” Other times, his mustachioed profile’s shown rampant across a wallpaper-like grid of shrunken Goldenstashes, gift-wrapping the city’s utility boxes.

Sometimes, Goldenstash is shown full-figure and suited, seducing an adoring, scantily-clad female, or shirtless and reclining above the slogan READ MORE BOOKS. Occasionally, the icon is represented in absentia. A sticker plastered on a red Phoenix news-box shows only two long-haired beauties, with one saying via speak-bubble: “Sure! I’ll make out with you, but I’ll be thinking of Goldenstash.”

The Goldenstash presence also has a “ ’stash-only” incarnation — a well-placed golden mustache added to billboard figures or pre-existing street art. And following the Great Embarrassing Mooninite Mix-Up of 2007, Boston light poles became festooned with stickers featuring the words RELAX IT’S JUST A STICKER and a black Mooninite who had, naturally, a gold mustache.

He says he isn’t, but kinda is
So who is this comically seductive, unapologetically womanizing figure?

“I really want to make it clear that I’m not Goldenstash,” explains the local street artist and Goldenstash mastermind, who, for obvious reasons, wishes to remain anonymous.

We’d first corresponded by e‑mail. The first message I received read: “Thank you for your interest in Goldenstash. I will have one of my representatives contact you soon.” Next, said “representative” called me, which lead to a face-to-face at a Central Square coffee shop on a recent sweltering Saturday.

The artist is in his mid 20s, works in the restaurant/nightclub industry, and speaks about his street art with the contained excitement of someone who’s relatively new to it. He’s no student of the highway-underpass school of spray-can art. His first foray into the realm of illegal artistry occurred a mere year and a half ago, when a budding interest in Victorian art led him to paint floral designs and stickers of dragons in muted greens and reds. Realizing the similarity between this and the works of Pixnit, a local street artist who favors floral stencils, he sought inspiration from beloved Saturday-morning cartoons of his childhood, and created Goldenstash. Now, his medium of choice is wheatpaste, a transparent liquid adhesive used to glue paper to almost any surface, though he also makes stickers.

“I’m living vicariously through [Goldenstash],” the artist says, citing a gallimaufry of personality traits and messages that he associates with the character.

Goldenstash’s full name is Chad Gildenstachen, the artist explains. “It’s very manifold, the iconography of Goldenstash. He’s this swinger sort of hepcat who went to Harvard in the ’70s and then joined a bunch of Freemason guilds. So now he quite literally has lots of gold.”

Goldenstash also possesses laid-back symbolism, the artist says. “Goldenstash is the moment when you can do no wrong, and everything is going in the right direction. He’s a reminder to take risks and not take yourself so seriously. Everyone’s having a good time in my artwork.”

“It’s fun,” says Kerry Simon, owner of the street-art-minded clothing shop Proletariat in Harvard Square. “He’s really doing his own thing. I was totally confused by it at first. I thought it was an advertisement, or a band. Then I talked to people about it, and figured out that it wasn’t [either of those]. Now I have a lot of respect for it.”

On hairy patrol
Boston’s street artists toil away in cluttered apartments and makeshift studios crafting their artwork (“I have to get really stoned, and spend a few hours cutting and pasting,” says Goldenstash’s creator), before fearlessly venturing into dark city streets to leave their mark, which may remain for mere hours or linger for years. I tagged along with Goldenstash’s creator on one such mission.

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