Ghosts of Halloween Past
When we enter late October I am often reminded of the years gone by when this time of year would have seen me slaving over a hand made costume or screen accurate accessories. Halloween is a strange holiday. It’s a fun, exciting time that is also incredibly difficult to enjoy. You have to be invited to the right parties, have the right group of friends with you and most importantly of all, make the effort to look the part.
Halloween is a strange holiday in Britain. In the 30 odd years that I have been alive it has been subject to highs and lows. During the 80’s Halloween experienced something of a boost and revival with the success of the E.T. movie, leading to kids all over the world dressing up in home made costumes and trick or treating around the houses, though in Wales we asked for cash, not candy, as was our want.
The 90’s saw a downturn in the popularity of the Halloween event. Kids seemed to no longer care for the tradition and many a year passed without a single knock on the door asking for cold hard cash. Then something unexpected happened, the holiday started to become a lot more popular with grown ups in the 00’s. The purchase of the ASDA supermarket chain by the American company Wal-Mart meant that Supermarkets throughout the UK were now stocked with all the American apparel associated with the colourful holiday.
Before this buy-out you had to make a special trip to a costume shop just to pick up a rubber nose or an eye patch, but now you could buy any number of fun costumes during your weekly shop! However I went a different way.
Going to Halloween parties during the 00’s was a chance for me to show off my creative side and “become” the character. Not for me the store bought werewolf costume or vampire cloak, ohhhh no! I was going to method act this son of a bitch.
My first adult Halloween party occurred in 2002, a time when the whole world was talking about just one thing. Star Wars: Episode 2: Attack of the Clones! Well, when I say the whole world, I mean mainly me and a few friends. Baring some passing resemblance to the actor chosen to play the now grown up Anakin Skywalker, I fashioned myself a set of Jedi clothes that were truly worthy of the movies themselves. Seriously, these Jedi clothes were the shit! I even made the long, dark brown robes that Anakin wears in the movie to complete the look. Along with my lightsabers and Padawan braid (glued to my real hair), I was ready to rock out to some John Williams join the dark side.
However my team was not complete. In order to get the full Star Wars effect, I had 3 friends dress up as Clones era Obi-Wan, Phantom Menace’s Darth Maul and New Hope’s Princess Leah. Yeah, we may have been mixing our movies a little, but when you see those 4 people walk into a party, you know you’re in for a good time. Though my costume took me weeks to make and I spent a small fortune getting my hair properly dyed and styled in the “Anakin” way, I was none the less somewhat humiliated (someone thought I was a frickin’ Klingon…), shown up and over shadowed by my friend who had come as Darth Maul. With his £3.50 makeup kit and black costume that didn’t quite meet in the middle due to his expanding gut, he looked like the some sort of slightly overweight demon with a red stick.
After a few drinks had been consumed and stories of the Kessel run had been exchanged, we started to get into our characters a bit too much. It started off rather harmlessly when I tried to get out of paying for a drink by using a Jedi mind trick (didn’t work).
There was only one way this evening could end. A 3 man lightsabers battle to the death outside the bar. As Anakin, Obi-Wan and Darth Maul were drunkenly duelling to the death on the side of a public road, a bus full of old people pulled up next to us. What they thought was going on I have no idea. Maybe they thought that this was some sort of street performance art or maybe they thought the cracks between reality and Hell had opened up, spilling forth a red and black faced, horned demon. Or maybe they just thought they had forgotten to take their meds today. It was an epic fight that ended with me slicing off one of Darth Maul’s horns, a trophy that I still have to this day!
Sadly we all lost the 1st place best costume prize to a “witch” in a black, plastic bin bag.
The following year I would not make the same mistake. I had spent many weeks on my costume and had spent more money than I probably should have. This year I would take a different route. I would go as a well known character that didn’t have such a fancy costume and need for expense, but still managed to retain a high level of visual impact.
There could only be one character of course, Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer!
The costume was a cinch. I picked up a cheap, second hand, long, black leather coat from a charity shop for £15 and added that to a red shirt and black jeans which I already owned. The only stumbling block to this costume was of course the hair. Not wanting to really bleach my hair white just for the sake of one evening, I picked up a can of white hair spray that more than did the job. Yes, it does feel like you have put a tube of superglue on your head, but it easily washes out and visually looked quite accurate.
So with my a black coat, white hair and a cigarette dangling from my mouth I headed towards the party to meet my friend who had decided to jump on my bandwagon and go as Angel. But what he didn’t tell me was that he had decided to go as the vamped out version of Angel instead. So when I turned up at the party, instead of seeing a brooding, over gelled, leather wearing regular guy (as we had discussed), I was confronted with what can only be described as an over gelled toilet paper monster.
In an effort to achieve the expensive prosthetics associated with the Angel character in the TV series, my friend had added some latex glue to toilet paper and stuck it around his face at various angles in an attempt to look more vampirey. He failed in this endeavour and looked more Cro-Magnon than vampire, but we made the best of it.
Even before the Twilight fad, vampires had been massively popular with chicks and at this point in history there were no cooler vampires than Spike and Angel, and by God we made the most of that fact! Hooking up with two girls, we spent the night laughing, drinking and generally being bad ass vamps. Heading back to my friends house with the vampire cheerleaders in tow, I made a decision; I decided to stay in character all night. Now that might sound a bit odd, but I’m pretty sure the cute red-head I was with didn’t really want to spend the night with a medical administrator who still lived with his parents. No, she wanted to spend it with William the Bloody, scourge of the Buffy-Verse and all round badass.
As there was only one bedroom available, my friend and the girl he hooked up with took it while Spike and the redhead settled down on the floor of the lounge, resting on a makeshift bed of cushions and blankets. Much face sucking and biting followed. We spent the night doing naughty vampire things, and when I say “we spent the night”, I MEAN “we spent the WHOLE damn night”. Redheads have an enormous amount of stamina and energy and even as an immortal vampire, after 7 hours I don’t mind admitting that I was starting to get a little bit weary.
As the sun slowly started to creep up over the curtains I started to panic. I had to get home before the world woke up and saw me. Trying to catch a bus home or walking through the streets dressed like some bleached, dead eyed Goth wasn’t going to win me any fans in the local community. Plus I was pretty sure your wasn’t supposed to keep this white hair spray in for more than 12 hours, a time limit that had long since past. I stumbled to the bathroom half drunk and half exhausted from the night’s activities. Evil stared back at me from the mirror. I had taken my characters role too serious and had actually become a vampire! Daniel Day Lewis looks like a Sci-Fi Channel Movie extra compared to me! The alcohol, cigarettes and strenuous physical activity I had undertaken did not make for the best impression first thing at 6am. I stumbled back into the lounge and saw Red lying next to a pillow that had no small amount of white hair spray rubbed on it.
I quickly made my excuses, much to her annoyance and left to walk the 2 miles back home on the old railway tracks. As strange as it may sound now, I did actually feel the need to get home before the sun came up. I only passed one or two earlier risers out walking their dogs. For some reason they thought better than to question me on my appearance.
The following year was the big one. I had learned my lessons from my previous efforts and had come up with the perfect costume. It was going to be visually impressive, require some expense (but not much) and most importantly of all, would look kick ass cool!
Yes, I was going to the Halloween party as Neo from the Matrix.
I decided if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right! I dyed my hair black, which came as a hell of a shock to the system. I looked part Neo, part Elvis and part Fonzie. But no matter, the costume and sunglasses would really sell it. Once again I made my own costume that was better than anything you could buy in the stores. Top of the range Oakley sunglasses topped off the look and combined with my uncanny Keanu Reeves impression, I was sure that I was onto a winner and that I would be the toast of the party and allow me to have my pick of the ladies.
Once again however fate was going to spit in my eye and make me look stupid. Upon hearing of my plans for the Halloween party, my friend decided once again that since he was incapable of figuring out his own costume, he would join me and go as a character from the same movie. Since the only other male character of note in the Matrix if Morpheus… Well, you can see where this is going.
Usually the only black people you ever see in South Wales were the ones that had just finished a shift down the coal mines. My friend however was out to end that dated view on race relations. Purchasing a tub of brown skin makeup and a bald cap, he Al-Jolson-ed the living crap out of himself and emerged one hour later a bonafide gentleman of colour. Thinking that people would of course see through his race riot bating costume, I played along with it and even provided him with the armless Morpheus style sunglasses he needed to complete his look.
We arrived at the party and I waited for the adulation and attention of all the women who would no doubt want to get a piece of this hot Keanu action. It as not as forthcoming as I would have thought. Instead I got a steady stream of women coming up to me and asking me “who that nice looking black man” was. So convincing was his appearance in the low light of the club that I was reduced to pimping Morpheus out to women with “black man fantasies”. Though sadly for them, unless my friend was very forward thinking in his costume application, it would have come as something of a shock to the women when they ventured south of the border and found a pasty skinned Welshman.
That was the last time I ever really made any effort for Halloween. No matter what I do or how hard I try, I always seem to get overshadowed by people in a cheap store bought costume or by someone with shoe polish or toilet paper on his god damn face!