Looks like we’ll have good weather for Halloween this year. At least here in south-eastern Michigan where we should manage to hit the low 70’s before the end of the day. My memory of Halloweens long since past from my childhood consisted mainly of cold and damp occasions. There was more than one bit of annoyance at a costume diminished by the presence of rain gear, “But MOM!! Vampires don’t NEED umbrellas!!!” As a kid this holiday was second only to Christmas for me and I would spend considerable time coming up with costume ideas once I was old enough to do so on my own.
The first Halloween I have any vague recollection of I went as a cat in a homemade costume that my Mother assembled by hand for me. It was from one of those packages of sewing patterns you could buy at the store and it consisted mainly of a jumpsuit type outfit with a hood that had cat ears on it, mittens for paws a long stuffed tail that dragged on the ground behind you in exactly the way that real cat tails don’t. The face area was open and a little eyeliner made for a reasonable cat nose with whiskers. For some reason I remember this outfit as being pink, though I’d like to believe deep down in my heart that my mother wasn’t so cruel as to dress her youngest son in a pink cat outfit no matter how small and adorable I happened to be at the time. I think I must have been around the age of five or six at the time. I can’t recall much more beyond that, but I can remember how thrilling it was getting dressed up as something I thought would be cool to actually be and getting free candy just for walking around and shouting at the top of my lungs which was something I enjoyed doing anyway.
Let’s see, what else can I remember dressing up as. I did the vampire thing for a couple of years. Your traditional Dracula style vampire like in the Saturday afternoon horror shows on TV. Being blond made that a bit of a challenge, but an old brunette wig my mother had took care of that problem. Some greasepaint, faux jewelry, fake blood and some creative use of old clothing resulted in a halfway decent Dracula.
Did the zombie thing a couple of times when at a loss for anything else to go as. This was especially cool when I was a teenager who wanted to become a special effects makeup artist in Hollywood for awhile. Read up on how to use latex rubber to do makeup effects and used some to make fake bullet holes and gashes and attach nails and shards of fake glass to my face then apply standard clown white with black greasepaint around the eyes and a little blue eye shadow on the cheeks for a hallow look. A little blushing gel squeezed out as trails of blood from the wounds looked much better when it dried than the cheap fake blood sold at the stores.
Did Groucho Marx a couple of years after discovering his old films and did a halfway decent job at it. I believe I won at least one costume contest in school for my take on Groucho.
Worst costume ever? I tried to go as “Mr. Bill” one year. I was a big fan of this SNL segment and I figured it was perfect for me as I had blond hair already so a little face paint would be all I’d need to transform myself. Mom tried to help out by taking a sweatshirt and some felt and making me a shirt that had Mr. Bill’s face on it and the words “Oh Noooo! It’s the Mr. Bill Show!” around the face. Blue greasepaint around the eyes, red on the nose and around the mouth and I looked nothing like Mr. Bill at all, but rather like a very piss-poor attempt at a clown. Absolutely no one had a clue who the hell I was supposed to be even WITH the shirt basically screaming it in their faces. I think I was 13 or 14 that year and it was the first year I started to get the aren’t-you-a-little-old-to-be-trick-or-treating question, which I can understand because it didn’t look like I put much thought into my costume. It sucked. Hard.
Second worst was the year I tried to go as a mad scientist. Got a lab coat and tried to dye my hair blue using food coloring, but being blond it came out as a weirdly darkish green color that had a blue tint in bright light. Also tried to get it to stand on end with lots of hair spray which didn’t quite work as I have baby-fine hair so it ended up looking like I just woke up. Wore standard slacks and a white button-down shirt with a tie that had been cut off halfway up, a stethoscope with a bell on the end you’re supposed to apply to the patient and a name card that read “Doctor I. M. Mad.” Yeah, it wasn’t a terribly good costume either.
Best costume ever? I would say probably my take on “Death” with red glowing eyes. Did that one my junior year of high school which was the last year I attended Pontiac Central before we moved out to Orion Township. This costume was also probably the cheapest and easiest to make. I’ve already talked about how I made that costume a year ago in this blog entry so I won’t go into it again, but it was hella-cool. I’d still like to do that one again, but I’d want to make a custom hood for the outfit that had big eye-shaped lenses for the glowing lights to really make the effect work. I’ll have to become a lot more talented before I’ll pull that one off.
Never did a clown for Halloween, though. Not that it matters, Mom got me to do the clown thing later for parades and such.
Ultimately I’d have to say that coming up with a costume for Halloween was half the fun. I don’t think our family ever used much in the way of the cheap store-bought costumes for kids that were popular at the time. You know the whole I wanna be Spider Man so they sell you a cheap plastic mask strapped to your face with an elastic band and a vinyl jumper that kinda looked like Spider Man’s costume, but had all the style and fit of a regulation hospital gown? I think I may have whined myself into one or two of those costumes when I was really young, but most of the time we made do with what we had around the house or could pick up from the thrift shops. That and a little professional level greasepaint from a local theatrical shop and a lot of imagination.
OK, I’ve prattled on for a bit now. So tell me what your best and worst costume ideas were? Feel free to write about it on your own blogs and then ping this entry if you wanna blabber on at length like I just did.