I love Halloween, even more than Christmas; not that I don’t like getting gifts or celebrating the birth of Christ with family. Although Halloween and the day after both have their roots in religion (All Hallows Eve, Day of the Dead, Druid beliefs and traditions to name a few), it’s the combination of those roots with a more modern horror, fun and wackiness twist that make it special.
As a kid, I was lucky enough to be in a neighborhood full of families where almost everyone went trick or treating. As soon as the sun went down about a hundred kids would be out knocking on doors and ringing doorbells. Only the most curmudgeon of neighbors would turn out their lights and not give out candy. We had some great houses to visit; one house gave out McDonald’s gift certificates, another whole candy bars, not the cheap penny jawbreakers or bazooka gum that was harder than the jawbreakers. This was a time before plastic grocery bags were widely used. My mom let us use pillow cases; yes durable, ever fillable pillow cases. After hitting up our neighborhood, the one or two conjoined blocks and possibly my grandparent’s neighborhood nearby, my siblings and I would each have a sack full of candy and stuff that would make even the best dentist shudder. Our cases full of sweet delights would often be dirty on the bottom because they were so full that they dragged the ground. Way to rock Mom, although she probably got tired of one of us puking every year from over indulgence. And as we got older, mom would let my older siblings take us further out to other neighborhoods and we could fill two whopping pillow sacks full of goodies. It still seemed to disappear fast though; at least until I was old enough to realize my parents were eating some of it from each of us.
Some of our neighbors had haunted houses and almost everyone had jack o’lanterns out on their porches. My personal favorite was the house that had seven or eight teen siblings. They’d do the old witch routine urging you to feel the spaghetti guts and grape eyeballs. And when you’d leave their haunted garage, one of the older boys, dressed as a werewolf, would jump off the roof and land on a couple mattresses in their front yard. A little “redneck” perhaps, but effective; it made kids cry. I know the first time it happened I screamed and peed in my pants a little bit.
Costumes were simpler then too; a lot of gypsies, tramps and thieves as Cher would sing. Throw in some clowns and princesses and you had a party. I do remember one standout costume in middle school. One little red haired freckle faced boy did Dolly Parton, complete with the blond wig and Nerf ball boobs. It was shades to come of my favorite holiday as an adult.
I still love costumes and revel in Halloween happiness. I more than welcome the opportunity to dress up and be someone else for a few hours. In the past I’ve been a wide range of people and things: Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, Octomom, a Pirate (twice, one a la “sexy” and one buccaneer), Marie Antoinette, the Fly, Evita/Eva Peron, Glinda the Good Witch (as part of a group Wizard of Oz), Amy Winehouse (last year’s) and a Flying Nun (my male companion was a priest, naughty, naughty we were).
Sure you can cosplay anytime or make a trip to any “Con” expo, but it’ll cost you some cash and what if you can’t get away from work? I’m not degrading any conventions, they’re fantastic for people who appreciate the genres they support. It’s just that there’s something magical about All Hallows Eve. There’s an all-encompassing variety and something for everyone. For kids it’s the mad dash for candy or the more family friendly “trunk or treat”. For teens there are some truly scary haunted houses. For adults it’s “Hookerween”, drag queens and real haunted house tours.
In the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis, at an annual “adult” Halloween street party, they regularly draw around ten thousand people. And participants don’t just “Halloween it”. I’ve seen costumes that rival the best on Broadway. The costume contest usually has around a hundred participants. There are classic horror vampires, werewolves and ghosts. Dirty adult fantasies include Catholic school girls, Playboy bunnies, and any female cop, construction worker or nurse. And not just the ladies; I’ve seen demons with realistic ahem, equipment, that ejaculated silly string, flashers and some hot male superheroes. Then there’s always the current topic costumes like a Chilean miner who stepped out of a rescue capsule, Sarah Palin (both men and women), and a gal from Avatar wearing a loincloth and um, body paint, I think. I just know that people next to the costume contest stage were salivating, she won first place and no one had a clue who she was on daily basis and didn’t care. And Elvis is always in the building, or neighborhood. The party has even expanded to family friendly daytime events with kids and dog parades and costume contests.
Currently I am collecting pieces and creating this year’s Halloween fashionista extravaganza. I am fortunate enough to work at a year round party and costume shop (Johnnie Brock’s Dungeon and Party Warehouse) that goes bat shit crazy at Halloween. To me it is the retail/creative equivalent of crack; I can’t quit it and I really don’t want to. I have already gathered some pieces I can’t make but can embellish, including an eight foot bullwhip. But I’m not going to be a lion trainer, it’s something more current and relevant to this blog. I’m working on a whole creative Steampunk theme including my costume and a series of books. One of my book characters is talented with the whip. It starts as a symbol of her oppression but ends up as a piece of her salvation and revenge. I’ll update with another blog on my progress in learning how to crack it. The whip also reminds me of my love of Indiana Jones. I’m thrilled that it’s been rereleased in IMAX and I can’t wait to see it again. I still have the one of the authentic replica fedoras from the early 1980’s. It reminds me of the spirit of Halloween; you can be anyone you want with the right accessories.
I’ll post complete pics and blogs about the creative process later but feel free to “Like” my page “The Countess” on Facebook for updates and snippets of what’s to come. I hope for the first book to be published later this Fall.