Halloween has always been a favorite holiday of mine, and I’ve had a wide variety of experiences on that day. We always made our own costumes. Mom was very creative and loved doing crafts. One year I was a television. I wore a cardboard box that was painted and had the front “screen” open to show my face. There were dials on the front and a curtain hung below so you couldn’t see my feet. I was the start of the show. Another year, I was the headless horseman. This time, it was a cardboard box that I wore around my waist with the horseman’s legs made of construction paper hanging down and a hobby horse head attached to the front. I wore a shirt with the collar on top of my head and the shoulders held out with a stick. I carried a carved pumpkin for my head, and my feet were the horse’s feet. Other years I wore my father’s sailor uniform from WWII and my grandfather’s infantry uniform from WWI.
My mom and dad were also fond of dressing up. One year my parents were invited to a Halloween party for adults. Mom went dressed as a beatnik with a long platinum wig, a beret, wearing tight black pants with long false eyelashes and long cigarette holder. Apparently, she flirted with all of the men there. Because she wasn’t wearing her glasses, a lot of them didn’t recognize her, and Dad was embarrassed and furious when they got home. Another time she dressed as a Native American, though at that time she referred to it as an Indian. She sat cross legged on the front lawn with a plaid blanket around her shoulders, a feather headband with an arrow going through her head. I was mortified, but she thought it was a hoot. We lived on a hill with two sets of stairs going up to the front porch. It was a long climb, and many kids didn’t bother. When they did though, they commented on the “Indian” we had on our front lawn. As they got a little closer, mom stuck her hand up and said “Ugh, how!” They ran off screaming and must have spread the word since there were fewer kids than usual that year.
My freshman year of high school, some of the kids made a little effort to befriend me. I later found out it was out of sympathy for my disability and not out of any true friendship. But at the time, I enjoyed being invited to a couple of parties. I was having fun at the Halloween party that fall until Mom and Dad came to pick me up dressed as that beatnik and Superman. Dad was the City Editor at the local paper at the time and a columnist. He had gotten the superman suit when he was roasted that year. You know the whole Clark Kent comparison. The kids at the party lost it when they entered the house, but I was embarrassed. It became a source of relentless teasing from those same kids in the weeks to come, and I wasn’t invited to any more parties.
When I met Paul Cavanaugh, I discovered that he also loved Halloween and was fond of dressing up. Our first Halloween together, we dropped a bunch of acid and threw a party. One of our friends had just bought a new guitar and invited Paul to play it. Before long we noticed that, because he was playing without a pick, and playing hard, his fingers were bleeding … all over the finish of that new guitar. We decided to go for a walk to get away from the scene for a while and sometime during that walk, we decided to go back to the house, find the half empty paint cans that were left in one of the closets and paint LSD on the main street going through town. When we opened up the first can, there was a hard film on top. Paul decided, while holding it upside down, to bang on the bottom. The paint came out in a big puddle in the middle of the road. We heard a car coming, so we ran to the sidewalk and tried to act nonchalant as we slowly walked along. The car was going fast, hit that puddle with a huge “Sploosh” and fishtailed back and forth before turning around in the gas station a block away and slowly cruising by us. We were laughing so hard; we could hardly stand up. As we leaned against each other for support, we realized that it was a police car. We tried to stop laughing, but that realization and the acid we were peaking on, made us laugh even harder. We were certain that we were going to be arrested, but the cops just kept driving. We decided that we must have been invisible, so we went back for more paint and successfully wrote LSD on the road.
When our kids arrived, we got creative with their costumes and always helped them make them. Our oldest son at around eight months old was a “rug rat” on his first Halloween. Of course, there were the usual witches, ghosts, gypsies and superheroes, and it was always fun. Then Paul and I moved to Albany, NY in 1982 and started going to wild costume parties. Paul got a kick of wanting to wear a business suit every year. One year he was the “nun of your business” while I was the night sky. Another year, he was “E.T. – extra testicle, the businessman with more balls.” I even sewed a tennis ball inside of layers of nylon stockings onto the outside of his pants.
He carried a briefcase with the biggest screw he could find inside so he could take it out and “screw” people. That year I was a nuclear family wearing a grotesque hat with multiple heads coming out of it, an extra arm sewn to my back and other deformities. Another year I was a “Japanese Beatle” wearing a kimono, my hair in a bun with chopsticks sticking out and an old hamster cage with the top and bottom removed and photos of each of the Beatles on each of the four sides resting on my shoulders. That year, Paul was “The Stoned Ranger.” He wore a badge and a cowboy hat and had a bandolier across his chest holding joints instead of bullets. Like I said, we loved Halloween.
After we had separated and Paul had passed on, I came up with the idea of hosting a Masquerade Open Mic. It started out in my home. I often threw big music parties and liked doing it on Halloween. That first year, I was looking for something a little different. It was quite a success. I dressed as Bob Dylan. We always had a great variety of musicians with very few doubles, though we did have two Dolly Partons at the same party and Cyndi Lauper made an appearance at two different parties. When I moved to Petersburgh, I hosted one of these but soon realized that the house was too small for indoor parties, so I went in search of a venue who might be interested in this unusual Halloween event. The first couple were at the Low Beat, then I moved it to The Rustic Barn where I dressed as Amy Winehouse. The first couple of these events that were held in the bars, my current partner carved dead musican pumpkins. The first was Elvis, and the second was Jim Morrison. Over the years, I’ve also been John Lennon, Billie Holiday, Diana Ross, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Donovan. I already have my character chosen for next year although I often change my mind at the last minute. I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see.