baby Yoda, Monkey Men and more!
Yeah, yeah, yeah...everybody's doing a Halloween article this time of year. But what do you want me to do? Should I write an article about my favorite WW2 films? Not likely, since the last time I saw one of those was the now retro classic "Saving Private Ryan" and all I remember was that very stupid/determined soldier going back to pick up his recently severed arm (I guess that was pretty awesome).
So with that gory flash of memory, let's get down to my favorite memories of the orange and black spectacle we call: Halloween!
My earliest memory of this night of Ghosts and Witches also involves my first costume and my somewhat eventful birth. I was born in 1982, which in Star Wars chronology is 2 years after "Empire" and 1 year before "Jedi".
When I was born I came out all purple and wrinkly. With a certain odd-colored, wrinkly Jedi master still on their minds my parents decided to defer the use of my birth name for the first few years of my life. So from age 0-3 I was known only as "Yoda".
When the time came for my first trick or treating adventure how do you think my parents chose to dress me? In a Yoda costume, of course! Now I am a little surprised that there was still a Yoda costume in stores in 1985-86, but I guess the "Droids" and "Ewoks" cartoons were still keeping the Star Wars mythos alive and lucrative at that point. You know how people say, "But this was no ordinary (fill in the blank)"? Well, this was the ORDINARY Yoda costume, store bought and pure plastic.
Naturally it had the scratchy plastic face mask that would cut you every time you put it on and it was only held on your face by a weak thread of elastic, but no one could deny that you were supposed to be Yoda.
Then there was the brown/green plastic vinyl body suit with a big cartoon drawing of the little green Jedi in the center. I actually felt like a life-sized Star Wars action figure. Remember how they had those cheap vinyl coats you slipped over their permanently sculpted hard plastic ones? Basically, I was wearing one of those.
I always felt ripped off by this plastic not-so-fantastic outfit. I mean they had been calling me Yoda for 3 or 4 years now, couldn't they have bought me a little bath robe and painted my face green? You had plenty of time to plan this folks.
Oh well, they made up for it later. Plus, my friend, Scott was wearing a plastic Garfield version of my outfit, so in comparison I at least had the cooler theme of the two. Then there was my Jehovah's Witness friend, Jonathan who didn't get to celebrate Halloween at all-poor chap.
As I said, my Mom did eventually get pretty heavy into sewing and costume making, she even made outfits for my friends. One year she made me a very faithful, spandex Superman outfit (back when my physique allowed for it) and my friend was a Tiger.
Not Tigger, a Tiger. The next year she put together a Pinocchio outfit, long nose and all. I can still remember the smell, it was like sweet rubber cement. Kind of weird, I know.
Going to buy the rubber Pinnochio nose brings back more nostalgia. The store itself reminded me of the later seasons of the Facts of Life TV show when Cloris Leachman and George Clooney showed up.
Remember how the girls opened up that random odds and ends store? That's what this place was like. It had those glass bricks with neon lights and everything seemed like it was covered in glitter. Oh and Abba Zabba candy bars.
That was the first time I ever saw those long forgotten taffy and peanut butter sweets, with their bright yellow and black checkered package. I've never actually eaten one, but they seemed so mysterious.
Speaking of candy, how about the scariest candy bowl I ever experienced? This was probably the year after the Pinocchio outfit, but I don't remember what I was wearing. Anyhoo, I was visiting my friend's neighborhood this year and we went to his neighbor's open garage in search of the goods, candy goods! As we climbed the concrete incline there it was, the candy bowl, sitting on a card table guarded by-SNAKES!
"Why did it have to be snakes?" It was a very Indiana Jones moment to be sure, as a plastic Cobra hovered above the bowl menacingly. My friend, the athlete, went first and just as he put his hand in the bowl the Cobra's head snapped at him!
I couldn't believe it! It was scary enough to have a fake snake near the bowl, but now you had one that was trained to kill? It was basically an early version of those motion sensor bowls they have now with the hands.
Eventually my friend's athletic skill allowed him to grab a pack of Bottle Caps, but I wasn't so bold. I played it safe and made due with my fun-size Caramello bar. Snakes, bah!
The most surreal Halloween memory comes from our elementary schools annual tradition: The Halloween Parade. All the students were gathered on the blacktop by class and were marched in a circle in front of their peers.
Why was this so surreal you ask? Well what would you call when Freddy Kruger and a Care Bear are walking next to Smurfette and a generic Army Man as a Ghostbuster and Leonardo point and laugh at how stupid they look? It was a crazy scene, man.
But it got less crazy as time went on, when the school banned masks, fake knives and blood make-up. What was the point? Now all I could hope to see was a kid in an old tiger costume, oh wait-that was me! Lame.
Later on my neighborhood HOA (before that became a dirty word) held a costume contest one year and it became the scene of my greatest shame. I had always prided myself on my costumes, at least the time that my poor Mother put into making them, so when I set my sights on the almighty dollar instead of personal satisfaction I felt pretty bad.
I was 10 years old and had recently gotten into comics and trading cards, which meant I needed cash. Candy was fine, but cash was in demand. So when my friend called and told me that the association was going to have a costume contest at the clubhouse with a cash prize, I quickly raided my closet. My real costume wasn't ready yet (more about that later) so I just threw on a baggy shirt, put my jeans on backwards and flipped my baseball hat around to become: a RAPPER! Not even a Zombie Rapper, just a regular Rapper.
Showing up at the contest I was sure that the kid in the Wolverine costume was going to sweep it or at least the girl dressed as Pippi Longstocking outfit. It turns out I was half right.
For my part, when they called my name I did more than just stand there I actually went into a little white boy rap:
I'm the Rapper P and I'm here to say
I wish I could eat candy every-day
Halloween is cool, it's okay
That is all I have to say, yay?
Word to your mother!
Our local postman/HOA president must have been a closet Public Enemy or Run DMC fan, because he proudly announced, "And second place goes to (my name here) as A RAPPER!" And then handed me 5 bucks! I wasn't even trying and I won a prize, but at least I wasn't in the first place postion. I really would have felt like a Schmuck then.
Pippi Longstocking won the $10.00 grand prize, but she deserved it. I mean she had wire hangers poking her in the side of the head to make her pigtails stick out. She probably had to spend the 10 bucks on a tetanus shot.
But I redeemed myself on Halloween night of that year as I filled a pillowcase with Sweet, Sweet, CAN(dy)! My Mum stepped aside this particular Halloween and let my childhood friend, Christina's Mom take over the sewing duties.
This was the year of Disney's masterpiece "Beauty and the Beast" so guess who ended up dressed in fur and face paint. (Technically the movie came out in 1991, but it was still all the rage in '92) It was a pretty fun idea actually, to have a partner in your trick or treating adventure with matching costumes, I would never have thought of it. Our costumes were all handmade and Christina's yellow dress was perfect, right down to the gloves.
I had brown face paint, a Tina Turner wig and even wore a cat nose/mouth facial appliance to complete the look. The jacket was pretty neat too, the lapels were yellow to match Christina's dress. We even learned the famous ballroom dance by watching the video over and over again, eventually performing it at a talent show.
In my adult years (if you want to call them that) I went on to play the Beast at Disneyland. Well, only for one day, really. That costume is so heavy and awkward, I was begging to get back into the lightweight Goofy costume by lunchtime. I'm with Gaston, KILL THE BEAST!
I'd like to end the memories on a scary note, with my most terrifying Halloween moment. Church Halloween parties can be awesome or awful, in my case it was both. Aside from the gymnasium filled with costumed folk bobbing for apples, the most sought after activity of the evening was the Haunted House walk through!
The normally serene blue carpeted halls of the church building were now a dark corridor of suspense and fear as myself and 5 other victims were led ominously into a darkened room. Inside there was a faint glow of light and test tubes could be heard bubbling as dry ice smoke billowed on the floor.
Suddenly a younger but more demented looking version of Doc Brown from Back To the Future jumped out from behind his lab table cackling with glee, "It's alive, it's alive!" and pointing to the corner of the room. From those dark shadows a figure slowly began to take shape, it was wrapped in gauze and it moaned, it was a MUMMY! Quickly we scurried off to the true moment of terror awaiting us in the next room.
It was still dark and heavy drapes hung from the ceiling, blocking our view of what was ahead. All that could be seen were a few faint flashes of light. Moving ever closer toward the rhythmic pulsing of the light we were finally in view of the face of terror, it was a-MONKEY MAN!
Half man, half monkey he bounced up and down like a maniac in front of the strobe. We got the feeling that within the split second that the strobe gave way to darkness he would pounce and peel our skin like a ripe banana, so we ran! Run Away! Run Away!
Never has an image been so ingrained in my mind as that one hairy beast. But such is the terror of the Monkey Man.
I hope you have all had childhood Halloween memories just as eventful and fun as mine (except for the Monkey Man, I wouldn't wish that on anyone) and that this article helped remind you of some long forgotten adventure. Happy Haunting.