Did you know Spotlight PA is a nonprofit? Learn more about our nonpartisan journalism »
Skip to main content
Main content

Seven questions for the best mullet in Pennsylvania

Plus, meet the human defectors of the lanternfly war.


August 26, 2022
Inside this edition: Big league chew; Metaverse, Pa.; bat save; beef chiefs; lanternfly sympathizers; and number one with a mullet.

If you've ever seen a roadside barn in Pennsylvania bearing the words "Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco," there's a good chance you were looking at the handiwork of Harley Warrick, who hand-painted many of the ads. 

Best guess: How many of the signs did Warrick estimate he'd made in Pennsylvania and other states throughout his career? Hint: It's a lot. 

(Keep scrolling for the answer, but don't miss all the good stuff in between. Like what you read? Forward this email to a friend.)

» One thing worth knowing: The race to hone the reality-bending tools of the metaverse runs through Pennsylvania, per NBC News. 

» One thing worth sharing: Jessica Grace live-tweeted the removal of a "GD bat" from her Pittsburgh house and, dare I say, it moved me. 

» One thing worth trying: Chicago Italian beef is having a moment thanks to The Bear. Western Pennsylvania would like a word, via TribLIVE.

» One thing worth reading: The New York Times talked to some of the human defectors in the Great Lanternfly War.

» One thing worth seeing: When people talk about a warehouse boom in Pennsylvania, this is what they mean, via @JoshuaPVaughn.

» COVID-19 UPDATE: Your guide to finding resources on cases, vaccines, and tests

» Your license plate frame is enough reason for police in Pa. to pull you over, state appellate court confirms

» Wolf administration explores using federal aid to help stretch Pa.’s limited monkeypox vaccine supply

» Why people in State College and rural north-central Pa. don’t have easy access to in-person abortion services

» Commonwealth Court orders Pa.’s health department to release information on medical marijuana program

» New report on racial bias in Pa. State Police traffic stops delayed by data problems, officials say

» Major shift in medical malpractice rules in Pa. could help victims, but opponents fear the cost

Thank you to the hundreds of dedicated Spotlight PA members — old and new! — for helping us reach our match goal during our Week of Giving last week.

We deeply appreciate your generosity, which will enable us to continue producing not only this newsletter but nonpartisan accountability journalism for all of Pennsylvania. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

If you missed the campaign but still want to support Spotlight PA's vital work, you can make a tax-deductible gift here.

With gratitude,
Colin Deppen, PA Local editor

Chris Cifelli in the USA Mullet Championships' Official 2022 Calendar. (Photos by George R. Johnson Photography, courtesy of Chris Cifelli)

Next month is September, and the mullet of the month belongs to Delco. 

Chris Cifelli of Wallingford and his nationally ranked mane are September's eye candy in the USA Mullet Championships' Official 2022 Calendar.

Yes, the championship is real and earned a wave of national press coverage for its youth division winners last week.

And Cifelli — whose mullet was top 20 in last year's contest, making him the only finalist from Pennsylvania — is going back for more this round. 

We had questions for Chris about mullets and the mullet-verse: a surprisingly diverse subculture that keeps tiptoeing into the mainstream.

Our conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

PA Local: I'd like to start this conversation by noting that I had a rat tail, which I insisted on calling a pony tail, well into grade school.

Cifelli: I have also rocked a rat tail, even into early adulthood. 

PA Local: Nice. But I chickened out and gave mine up in the fourth grade, and you very much leaned in. Why? 

Cifelli: Honestly, I'm just a fan of absurdity. And the mullet adds a touch of levity to things. There's also a level of self-confidence it brings, because you have to have that "I don't really care what people think" attitude.

PA Local: Have people ever been weird about it? Do you ever perceive your mullet being perceived by strangers? 

Cifelli: I try not to think about it. People say things to me like, "Every time you walk into the pool, you know you're there." And the bigger it is the more people notice it, good or bad. But I don't do it for them. I do it for me. Some people also just have a problem with men having long hair.

PA Local: You're a barber. How many mullet styles can you name? 

Cifelli: There's a ton: Tennessee Waterfall, the Achy-Breaky-No-Mistakey, you got your Alabama Mudflap. The possibilities are endless. This year the competition is asking us to nickname our mullets, too.

PA Local: Ooh. What's your nickname then? 

Cifelli: Because I'm in the Philadelphia area and lived in the city for a while, I was calling it the Freedom Flap. 

PA Local: Magnificent. Can you reverse a mullet: business in the back and party in the front? 

Cifelli: That's actually how mine started and once the back got long enough I flipped it.

PA Local: I keep reading about the mullet's pop culture resurgence (h/t Rihanna). As a mullet-haver of national repute, what do you think?

Cifelli: I think it's resurgent. I'm also apt to say it's never gone anywhere. 

PA Local: Why do you think people keep talking about mullets and media outlets, like this one, keep writing about them?

Cifelli: I think with how much seriousness has gone on the last few years, it's become a catalyst for levity, for something happy. And it's always going to be there and pop up kind of when the general public needs it most.

PA Local: Like Batman... 

Cifelli: Right.

Find info on the 2022 USA Mullet Championships here and check back for voting updates. The femullet, teen, and kids divisions have already closed. 

Colin Deppen, PA Local editor

This week's shoutout goes to Milan Zhu, an eighth grader in Jersey City who reached out after our recent piece on the spotted lanternfly war

The teen scientist suspects bristle-like structures on the bug explain why it's so good at avoiding the bottom of your shoe. 

Armed with the theory, she devised a foolproof attack plan, via NBC4.

Reminder: Danny DeVito Day, a real holiday, is only 83 days away. Reader @lora_explores found a tribute to the Jersey native in an abandoned stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Send us your photos or art, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

Harley Warrick estimated he'd painted or repainted "Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco" signs on 20,000 barns during his decades-long career. 

"The first thousand were a little rough, and after that you got the hang of it," Warrick said in 1997, via Clark DeLeon's Pennsylvania Curiosities.

The Ohio native's stamp on the American landscape earned him accolades and a Washington Post obituary.

The antique signs, meanwhile, were still earning some barn owners royalty payments as of 2019, the Post-Gazette reported. 

Congress made the ads national historic landmarks in 1974. 

Thanks for reading PA Local! We'll see you back here next week. But first ... send us your feedback. What did you like? What didn't you like? What do you want to see more of? 

Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.

Copyright © Spotlight PA / The Philadelphia Inquirer, All rights reserved.

Spotlight PA
228 Walnut St., #11728
Harrisburg, PA 17108-1728


You're receiving this email because you subscribed to PA Post, which has combined with Spotlight PA to create Pennsylvania's largest statewide newsroom dedicated to accountability journalism.

This email was sent to: <<Email Address>>

You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.