The squeaky clean Disney look has swept across the spacious decks of the Queen Mary, claiming in its wake dangling earrings, bright red fingernails, mustaches and probably a few jobs.
Walt Disney Attractions, which has been leasing and managing the retired ocean liner and the nearby Spruce Goose since early last year, recently started enforcing its corporate grooming policy on the staff of the two attractions. Since then about 10 employees have been reprimanded because they did not measure up to the appearance standards carefully detailed in a glossy, 12-page grooming booklet that could have been written by Ozzie and Harriet.
Most of the 1,100 workers at the Spruce Goose and Queen Mary are conforming to the mandatory wholesome look, but some have been sent home for the day and four have been suspended for defying the new standards of what is naughty and what is nice.
"It comes with me. I feel it's a part of my body," stressed Reza Nazertehrani, a senior waiter on the Queen Mary, one of four men who have been suspended for refusing to shave off their mustaches. "I don't want to shave my hair. It's part of my look. If I shaved I might look very strange," added Nazertehrani, who expects to be fired.
"The principle is not that I cannot live without a mustache," explained Rolf Wernli, a Queen Mary banquet captain who would rather lose his job than the hair on his upper lip. "I don't think a company of that size . . . should have the right to treat people in that manner."
Company policy dictates that on the third grooming violation, an employee be suspended for three days without pay, and on the fourth, be dismissed.
The union representing Nazertehrani has filed a labor grievance on his behalf and will do the same for any others who are suspended or fired for defying the appearance code. "I'm willing to put up a fight," said Steve Edney, national director of the United Industrial Workers of the Seafarers International Union of North America, which represents about 500 employees at the two Long Beach attractions.
Conceding that the Disney grooming rules have withstood previous challenges, Edney said the union will argue against the "excesses" of the code. "I do have grave concerns when you say a person has to fit a certain model. We all don't look that way. The good Lord didn't make us like that."
Disney spokesmen say the company is simply bringing to the Queen Mary and Spruce Goose standards that have been in effect for 35 years at all Disney attractions. Walt Disney had a mustache, but what was good for the boss was not necessarily good for the workers in Fantasyland.
"The idea is that Walt Disney created the Disney image based on the entertainment standards, but Walt Disney himself was not a cast member," commented Richard Kerlin, publicity manager for the Queen Mary and Spruce Goose, the huge airplane built by Howard Hughes in the 1940s.
"It's our feeling that the owners have the right to come in and bring with them rules and standards already established for our company," said Bob Roth, publicity manager for Disneyland.
Five male employees of the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim were fired last year for refusing to abide by the ban on facial hair after Disney took over the hotel from the Wrather Corp., the company that formerly managed the Queen Mary and Spruce Goose.
The appearance standards started with the opening of Disneyland in the 1950s, when Walt Disney sought a clean-cut look to distinguish Mickey Mouse territory from the tawdriness of standard amusement parks, which, according to the grooming booklet, were "dirty, hazardous places run by sloppy, rude employees. In fact, most amusement parks had bad reputations and were not considered suitable for the entire family."
Make no mistake, "The Queen Mary isn't an amusement park. It is a themed attraction where families can have fun together," continues the booklet, titled, "The Queen Mary Look."
"Actually, it's the Disney look. It's not the Queen Mary look," sniffed one young Queen Mary worker who said he was "talked to" because his neatly trimmed hair brushed his collar. "The Queen Mary look would have officers wearing mustaches."
After all, he said with a hint of irritation, Disney "came to us. We didn't come to them."
Mustaches and collar-length hair on men are but two of many new grooming no-nos on the Queen Mary.
Women can wear no more than one ring on each hand and one earring per ear. Necklaces, bracelets and anklets are forbidden, as are two-toned hair, heavy makeup, long fingernails and "any extreme look, including shaving the head and eyebrows."
"Sunglasses are a block to interpersonal communications with the Passengers and should be avoided if possible." Underwear is mandatory and employees are "responsible for maintaining an appropriate weight and size so that they do not detract from the Queen Mary experience and do not exceed the range of sizes" for their costumes.
"I understand Disney wants everyone to look the same and look childlike," said a young woman who had been sent home because her fingernails were not short enough. She added that some of her co-workers have concluded that not only does everyone look the same but that "everyone looks dead."
Another woman, who customarily wore six rings, an anklet and dangling earrings, forsook them all. "I had to dye my hair--I had two colors. I had to take off all my jewelry. But other than that, everything was OK," she said. "I was kind of mad about it, but that was part of the job."
Many men did take the razor to their mustaches. Others quit before the new guidelines went into effect, workers said.
"All of a sudden there's a lot of naked lips here, and it's not pretty," said banquet captain Wernli, a 39-year-old native of Switzerland with a strawberry-blond mustache he has had "all my adult life. I shaved once in between and did not like what I saw."
"I'm noticing people's teeth more. And some people, I thought it was a lot better when they were hiding what they were hiding," added Wernli, emphasizing that although a woman can always put on makeup or jewelry when she leaves work, "the mustache is gone."
Wernli, who has worked on the Queen Mary for eight years, has been warned twice about his mustache. He expects to be out of a job soon.
He said he owns some income property and can coast for a while before looking for other work. Nazertehrani, a native Iranian who has worked on the ship since 1977, is not so fortunate. He said he probably will be looking for a job during the post-holiday restaurant slump.