It was quite a radical thing for me to do. As a kid, and as a teen - and even as a young adult, living under my parents' roof - there were a few very strong rules, including: no facial hair, no tattoos and no motorbikes. Not that I ever wanted a tattoo or a motorbike...
A year away from school students seemed a good opportunity to try an image change without daily, wacky questions about why I did it. I then kept the beard (which received many compliments over the years - which I wasn't used to at all) until it started to go quite grey in 1997, and so I finally shaved it off.
But why am I remembering all this today? Well, as a result of several excellent critiques from friends, I finally bit the bullet and ordered tickets online to see Hugh Jackman in the Australian Arena Spectacular version of "The Boy from Oz". It will be the final performance on Saturday, and the only remaining tickets were the high-end $250 ones, but who cares? I missed the original Todd McKenney stage version of 1998, and have always regretted it, so I became determined not to allow another opportunity slip by. Hang the cost.
However, after my recent Musica Viva and Warbles experiences, my work colleagues have warned me that Mr Jackman - in character as the late Peter Allen - has a reputation for dragging up a hapless male from the audience and embarrassing him all night, so I'm not telling anyone my seat number. Hopefully I'm far enough away from the stage area.
Anyway, I've had to tell the following anecdote a few times this week: way back when the controversial musical "Hair" had its first major revival in 1992, my beard and I were sitting, nonchalant, in the front row. At the start of the show, main star Terry Serio walked out on stage, thanked the audience for coming, warned them that "Hair" has a rather revealing scene before Intermission - which he assumed most of us had turned up to gawk at - and started removing his shirt, belt and trousers.
He said, "What's the matter? Isn't this what you've come here to see? I figure, why not get the nudity over with straight away?"
Then he pulled up his pants and started to rebutton his shirt, saying, "Actually, I can't do it. You know why? Well, you see, Mum's here..."
Suddenly, he pointed at me and proclaimed, "And that beard didn't fool me for a minute!"
Mr Serio then leapt down from the stage, grabbed me by the lapels, lifted me out of my chair, and planted a kiss right on my lips.
My father's only comment, when I later related my hair-raising adventure was, "Did he blow first - to part the feathers?
You know, if ever I get to write up my acting resumé, I guess I can list playing Berger's mother in "Hair". (Just so long as I don't also have to add being Peter Allen's main squeeze as well.) I'll keep you all posted...
PS. Happy birthday, Dad. And I actually got your parcel to arrive on the day! Impressive!