Def'n/Etymology of "beard"

I was just talking to co-workers and they said that some hollywood starlet was a “beard”. I asked and got the defn’ that it meant she was a “sham” wife for a gay guy.
-is this term commonly used?
-can it apply to a “sham” husband of a lesbian?
Why “beard”? I can think of 5 words off the top of my head that would describe the situation better than “beard”.

Yes, a beard is any cover, which is how it originated–like a real beard, it covers things up and provides a disguise.

Gay guys are not considered very masculine.
Facial hair is seen as masculine. So, anytime a woman is seen with a man a lot, people assume they are having sex. This will make the guy seem more masculine, (bearded) i.e. straight.
Elaine on Seinfeld was once a “beard” if I recall correctly.

“Any major dude with half a heart surely will tell you, my friend–
Any minor world that breaks apart falls together again…”
-Steely Dan

but a beard is real, even if it is for a disguise. And often times it isn’t. I would think that “mask”, “wig”, or even “merkin” would be better terms.

Hey, no fair asking real question here! Moving this to General Questions.

Saint Eutychus

WOW! I actually scored one from another forum?
OH happy day!

I guess it wasn’t as mundane as I thought.

Something got kicked out of MPSIMS? Wow! What was it, not pointless enough?

Don’t know how common it is, but it doesn’t necessarily refer to a gay man. In BROADWAY DANNY ROSE, it was used to mean someone who escorts your mistress so your wife won’t suspect. Thus your girlfriend can attend the big party with you, but as far as your wife is concerned, she came with someone else.

It probably does derive from the idea of a false beard or disguise.

Sure. Slang can apply to anything you want to apply it to, as long as the meaning is clear.

A WAG, but perhaps the term drives from people using a fake beard to disguise their appearance. In the same manner, people would use a fake mate to disguise their sexual orientation.

Well, maybe this is the time to bring up a question that no dictionary has been helpful with.
In the song “Madeira, M’Dear” (from At the Drop of a Hat) the young maiden wakes up the next morning with–here it comes–A Beard on her earlobe that tickled and said, have some Madeira, M’Dear?
The song is old. The phrase therefore must be older. And it’s probably British.
A beard on the earlobe…any enlightenment?

I haven’t thought of that song in years. Thanks for the reminder!

The “beard on her earlobe” sounds like she just found herself waking up next to her escort from last night (very improper at the time!). And it very nicely extends the internal rhyming of “Madeira, m’dear”.

Bob the Random Expert
“If we don’t have the answer, we’ll make one up.”

AAAAAAAAA! Flanders & Swann! I love it!

Beard refers to any person who is used for social functions to disguise someone else’s sexual affiliation. Maybe from a fake beard?

The beard here had an even more specific meaning: Flanders (or was it Swan? – the one who actually sang the song) had a beard. Since this was written at a time when a man with a beard was a rarity, the characterization made it quite clear who the man in the song was. On stage, Flanders’s (Swan’s?) facial expression also drove the point home with hilarious effect.

It’s too specific to have any connection with the slang term.