Saturday, October 06, 2007

Ben Cooper & Me

Back in the '70's, when I was still a tow-headed little ragamuffin, my mother (having yet had all the joy of life sucked out of her by raising my brother and me) was one of those annoying "hands-on" parents who always had to be doing stuff for her children. A lot of that stuff was artsy-craftsy stuff, like making elaborate and unique homemade Hallowe'en costumes that would be the envy of all the neighborhood children come Trick or Treat time. Unfortunately, her first born son was the exact opposite of elaborate and unique... I was all about the cheap and the mass-produced. I put up with the homemade nonsense for a time. A very short time. In fact I put up with it for all of one year... when I was two years old I put my foot down and demanded plasticky goodness. Preferably plasticky licensed goodness.

From the moment that I discovered that you could actually buy a Hallowe'en costume pre-made and machine-folded into it's own cellophane-windowed cardboard box a new holiday tradition was born. A tradition involving tears, frustration, indecision and ultimate compromise. A tradition just like every other holiday tradition. My yearly costume shopping ritual usually started on the very first day that department stores set up their Hallowe'en displays. Back in the 1970's this was sometimes as early as Oct. 1st! My mother would drag me to K-Mart where I would find a costume that was cool, but maybe there was something cooler down the street at Woolworth's. There usually was something pretty cool at Woolworth's but I kind of had a feeling that maybe Roses had something just as cool, if not cooler. Roses probably did, but then what about Nichols? What about that other Roses across town? What about that K-Mart the next town over? Did they have the same costumes that our K-Mart had or did they get the really special stuff that our K-Mart was too snake-infested to warrant receiving? (Our K-Mart was snake-infested, but that's another story for another time) The costume buying shenanigans mostly would come to an end during our third visit to the K-Mart at which time my mother would grab the nearest Disney princess costume, shake loose the garter snake wrapped around the box and scream loud enough for shopper's in the non-serpent riddled K-Mart the next town over to hear- "Decide what you want right this minute or you're going as Tinkerbell and you're damn well gonna like it!" My mother could be cruel for an artsy-craftsy hippie-type....

All of that was just a long-winded and not very interesting way to introduce you to today's post... a complete and in-depth pictorial history of my Trick or Treat costumes from age 2 to age 8. Sit back, relax and let yourself be overwhelmed by the memories of obstructed views, the scent of cheap plastic mixed with evaporating sweat and the thrilling tingle of pain caused by blisters formed on the tip of your tongue by constantly forcing it through that tiny little mouth-slit. I know I'm not the only one who did that...

Year Two:

"Hey! That ain't Casper!"

No it's not Casper, but even though it's just a generic ghostie who doesn't have his own TV show, coloring books or Crazy Eights card game this costume is pretty awesome for a two-year-old! Look at that evil, bloated albino frog-face... it scares me even today!

Year Three:

"You da caveman, Fred!" "No! You da caveman!"

This has to be a Mom choice. A last minute "Buy a costume right now or I will have to leave you here and pick up a new kid on the way home" act of costume-buying desperation. Not that I have anything at all against Fat Freddie Flintstone, but he was never that high on my cartoon character hit list and I can't imagine picking him over all the other Hanna-Barbera Hallowe'en wonder that must have filled the costume aisles back in the 1970's. On a side note- if you look closely at the picture above you'll realize that this picture had to have been taken during a costume dry-run and not on the actual day, because I am wearing footie pajamas underneath that leopardsaurus skin. Definitely not recommended Trick or Treating garb.

Year Four:

"What the f-!?!"

Mickey Mouse? Mickey Mouse!?! Was I drunk?

The only interesting thing about this picture is the Jack O'Lantern head on that suit rack scarecrow. It was one of a set of four pumpkins that were actually intended for grocery store Hallowe'en displays. The name of the candy company formed the 'mouth' of the Jack O'Lantern. I think it says Bunte or something similar.

Year Five:

"Does whatever a spider can..."

Now there's a cool costume, finally! I was obviously taking firmer control of my costumed fate by this point in my life. My virgin Trick or Treating brother on the other hand...

... Ha, ha! He's a bunny rabbit! A chubby little bunny rabbit! That'll learn ya to steal away half my parents' affections.

Year Six:

"I find your lack of photography skills... disturbing."

Dude, what can you say about Darth Vader? Every single kid in America was Darth Vader that Hallowe'en and it was a magnificent and beautiful thing! And even with the blue and red stripey sleeves I am still working some major Dark Side mojo in this picture. I not only nearly ruined the film with my evil brain waves, but I managed to direct all of the camera's attention on to me and me alone... leaving my poor little farmer brother with about as much screen time as Bossk!

Year Seven:


Coolest Costume Ever! And yes, it is an even worse representation of the King of the Monsters than the Saturday morning cartoon version, but none of that matters. I know that the mask bears more resemblance to a Sleestak than a kaiju, but I don't care. I know that the drawing on the front of the costume looks more BEM than Toho, but what of such worldly concerns? This was a flippin' Godzilla costume, y'all! I loved this costume so much that I wore it for several days leading up to Hallowe'en night. On the evening before Hallowe'en I was wearing it while stomping Matchbox cars in my driveway when I accidentally stepped on the hem of the leg and tore the pants part of the costume free of the shirt part. My mother told me to just wear the top with a regular pair of pants, but she might as well have just shot me in the mouth with a sawed-off 12-gauge for as much as I recoiled at the suggestion. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do to mend flimsy plastic material that's meant for one use only. The most we could do was to safety pin the top of the costume to the bottom and hope for the best. That's why I'm crouching down in the picture... I'm valiantly trying to keep my pants up. This is a battle that I would loose several times that night.

Year Eight:

"Show me the Shogun!"

Second Coolest Costume Ever! And... sniff, sniff... the last costume ever, because next year...

Year Nine:

"The Dark Ages cometh!"

... I decided that I was too cool to Trick or Treat. Or if I'm going to be more accurate... this was the year that all my peers decided that they were too cool to go Trick or Treating and dragged me down with them. Stupid, stupid peers! So that year my brother had to go it alone as Chewbacca. Even worse... once free of my guiding influence my brother would soon fall back under my mother's sway and the last few years of his Trick or Treating life would be spent in homemade costumes. Feh!

Diving into the family photo albums was a lot of fun, so at some point in the coming month I'll present a pictorial history of my childhood Jack O'Lanterns. And maybe I'll even name them. What the hey, why not. Until then I leave you with this-

Special Non-Hallowe'en, But Still Creepy As All Heck Bonus Photo:

"Speaking of Zuni fetish dolls..."

What the hell is going on with me there?


Max the drunken severed head said...

Fun photo assembly, there, PP!

The commentary was priceless. My grandmother was the artsy-crafty type, and I loved the stuff she made, but store-bought costumes captured my heart when I was little.

Later, Imagineering made me want to be a little Jack Pierce.

Sparkle Plenty said...

Funny from stem to stern--the preamble is great.
1) GODZILLA COSTUME!? Am green with envy. And I thought my Cleopatra with fake snake costume was cool. Nuh-UH.
2) Oooooh, your poor hapless bro.
3) I once saw a gila monster striding towards me in an aisle of a Grants dept. store. If I'd been older, I would have quickly set up a tiny village and taken photos. I was little. I fled.
4) That last photo of you is truly haunting...and while you're blond and choir-boylike in a Village of the Damned way, the photo also reminds me somehow of Trilogy of Terror. Aieeeeee.

Shawn Robare said...

That is pretty darn awesome and I am so envious that you've got such a great set of Halloween costume pictures. My dad was a shutterbug, but only on Christmas and on trips to Disney.

Rozum said...

What a great, and funny post. How many of us had that same Spider-Man costume (and in the same living room)? I also wish my costumed childhood had been completely documented, and it may have been, but I've not uncovered any pictures yet, and have been to daunted by the task of going through all of the carousels of slides that are at my parents house to find the Halloween shots.

Nice stuff.

Erick Monsterama2000 said...

Those old store bought costumes are great. I agree, the Godzilla and Mazinga are the coolest.

Reggaexx said...

You've really piqued my curiousity with the K-Mart full of snakes... please tell us more!!

Steven A. said...

rozum, old family pics are a hoot to go through... you should just grab a box of slides and dive in! Who knows what kind of blog-fodder you may dig up...

reggaexx, there's not much of a story behind Snakes In A K-Mart other than this... the K-Mart was built in a field that was apparently the favorite hanging out spot of the local snake population and they didn't seem to see any need in running off just because somebody set down a department store on top of their dens. You'd occasionally find a little garter snake or black snake curled up behind a row of coffee makers or taking a snooze in Ladies Casuals. It wasn't until I had friends who worked there that I learned that the basement and back rooms were crawling with the things. They thinned out in later years, but I heard that they still made themselves known to the shoppers at the farm and tractor store that took over the building when K-Mart moved out. That's gone now as well, so I imagine they have the run of the place to themselves.

Todd Franklin said...

I'm afraid my parents didn't take any photos of us on Halloween or at least I haven't found any yet. It was great looking at your snapshots!

Kirk D. said...

An excellent post indeed! My thoughts...

The box fan in the fake Casper pic is just like the one I grew up with. (wonderful avocado green metal casing) I'm just as thrilled to see it in non-filthy condition as I am the costume.

I like how you are off center for the first four pics, then on the first year that this composition would make sense you're dead middle and your brother gets chopped in favor of a blurry curtain. classic!
(great lol Bossk reference btw)

I see that your poor brother got the hand-me down Spidey suit (along with a mask with the inside covered with your two year old saliva no doubt)He should never forgive you.

I like how the mug rack wall progressed from a pumpkinhead scarecrow to a skeleton with dangling appendages. Good move.

Steven A. said...

It's a shame you can't get a better look at the kitchen floor in that 'ghost' pic... it's every bit as avocado as the fan. And great catch on that 'phantom brother' thing! I guess my mother included him in so many pictures before he was even born that she was bored with him by the time he showed up. I'll have to point that out to him.

Dangly legged skeleton and his dangly legged scarecrow brother are still around and they really deserve a post of their own this year...