"American Gangster" by Mike Smith
Retro-Ween by ED Tucker
Halloween Potpourri part 2 -- a Casanegra Halloween. by Terence Nuzum
Halloween & Horrors Overload Pt. II: Beach Theatre Terrorthon and Cult-O-Ween by Andy Lalino
I Went To Cult-O-Ween And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt by Lisa Ciurro
|FILM BIZ 101|
Grow or Die: Art and the Review by Corey Castellano
The Nominees Are .... Passing On .... Movie Notes .... Whatever Happened To--? Chapter 32: Charles Durning by Mike Smith
|Archives of Nolan's Pop Culture Review|
For a child growing up in the '70s, Halloween was a major holiday. It trailed a distant third behind Christmas and your birthday but was still obsessed over for weeks in advance. The approach of October 31 heralded parties at school and around the neighborhood, spooky decorations that spanned blocks, monster movies on television, and it all culminated in a candy bonanza called trick or treating! These were some awesome and politically incorrect times when it was perfectly acceptable to portray broad caricatures of demographic, economic, or religious groups and dress up as things like gypsies, hobos, and witches! It’s amazing and sad in retrospect just how much thunder this once great celebration has lost today.
One of the most crucial rituals of preparation for the big event was the selection of a proper costume, which every young child was certain was directly proportionate to the success of that year’s treat haul! For younger children there was a costume for just about every popular character from companies like Ben Cooper and Collegeville. These costumes usually followed a standard format where it was more important to have a picture of what you were supposed to be on the front of your costume than attempt any form of accurate representation. A typical werewolf costume might be a bright green and yellow one piece bodysuit (got to be easy to spot for those drunk drivers on the way home from Halloween parties!) with a drawing of a menacing wolf man practically leaping off your chest and a cheap plastic mask. Fanboys may remember one of the most bizarre applications of this style, the Jaws shark costume from 1975!
My store of choice for the perfect costume was always the local K-Mart. I can still remember racing to their newly overhauled seasonal isle with my eyes nearly popping from their sockets in anticipation of that year’s selection. The shelves would be lined with uniformly sized cardboard boxes, usually adorned with cartoon personalities that were already several years out of date, and the name of whatever character was contained in this particular package in generic block letters on the side. For the less imaginative youngster, there was always a rack of hanging costumes where you could take in the whole garish outfit in one glance. It didn’t matter if you wanted to be a fairytale favorite, classic monster, popular celebrity, Saturday morning staple, or even an action figure (yes, in the 70’s there were even costumes of the members of the G.I. Joe Adventure Team), it was there!
As we matured, these cookie cutter costumes began to lose their appeal and gradually gave way to more creative endeavors. For an older child, if you were going to dress as Darth Vader for Halloween you had better darn sure be wearing something cooler than a neon blue apron with a drawing of Star Wars characters on it! Many a Saturday afternoon strategy session was held in a neighbor’s garage as we plotted out our ideal costumes and how to make them reality. With some well rationed allowance money, we could usually afford over the head rubber masks and build entire costumes around them from household materials. Really lucky 70’s kids might get to order masks from the legendary Don Post studios out of the back of Famous Monsters magazine (an excellent source for Halloween inspiration). I was never that fortunate but I knew one person with a Don Post gorilla mask that was the envy of the neighborhood!
As Halloween arrived, the hours between the end of school and the coming of darkness were almost unbearable. It was a well known social faux pas that no self respecting trick or teater would dare start before at least twilight (mainly to give adults time to get home from work and load up the candy bowls). As evening fell, we would hits the streets individually or in small groups and eventually build into a sugar starved mob canvassing the block in mass! This was a different time when most people knew all their neighbors and even the occasional tale of a razor blade laced apple wasn’t enough to deter us, it just meant giving your parents a five second head start to check your candy before you started eating it!
In the fall of 1982, I was in my sophomore year of High School and straddling the fence of being too old to go trick or treating. I never got a chance to make that decision on my own though because just a month prior to Halloween was when the great Tylenol scare occurred. For those who don’t remember, this was when some individual or individuals placed cyanide capsules in bottles of Tylenol pain reliever on store shelves and several people died as a result. This led to new phrases like “product tampering” entering the national vocabulary and ushered in a new era of quality control and tamper resistant packaging. This heinous event also caused an immediate rash of copycat style tamperings of all manner of products. By the time Halloween rolled around, paranoia was high and few kids around where I lived were allowed out on the street that year.
Sadly this seemed to be the end of an era as society lost some of its innocents and became more politically correct. As a result, events were devised to provide an alternative from the door to door candy collection that was the heart of the holiday. Halloween somehow became socially unfashionable and fall carnivals and church festivals jumped up to fill the void with more wholesome entertainment. There are still many traditional Halloween activities to be found and a few brave tick or treaters dot the streets but the days of mobs of kids canvassing entire brightly decked neighborhoods for hours have passed into legend.
To those like me that still celebrate this, the most revered of Fanboy holidays, I salute you. Continue to decorate your residences like the Munster’s home, give out the best candy money can buy, play safe and help keep the spirit of this tradition alive for future generations!
- ED -