Sunday, October 30, 2011


'Tis the season boils and ghouls! That most wonderful and magical time is upon us: All Hallows Eve, Samhain, HALLOWEEN! Whatever name you celebrate by its the one day of the year that's as awesome as me.

When we were kids, Halloween was the night that you got to turn the tables on the adults. Previous restrictions were renounced; you were allowed to binge and become deliriously intoxicated on sugar and chocolate, to roam the streets. At night. Incognito. You had the power, the control, reversing the roles on The Authority Figures by being given license to openly threaten them, holding them hostage with the simple Ultimatum of "Trick...or Treat", your actions and identity protected by a fiendish albeit ill-fitting guise.

Even though you were restricted to your own neighborhood, on that night, creeping along the dimly lit streets once the sun went down, the once familiar houses took on an ominous vibe. Every hedgerow potentially concealed a waiting lunatic bearing a machete, and eerie music, shrieks, and moans wafted on the chill October wind from hidden speakers. Flickering Jack O'Lanterns and crudely stuffed Scarecrows took up residence on creaking darkened porches, both warning off and daring you to approach. Wait....did that one just move?

Yup, Halloween was the one night that everyone was entitled to One Good Scare.

But then something happened. As each year passed the world...softened. Leaning tombstones were replaced with wacky smily Broom-Hilda witches who had clumsily crashed their broomstick into the ground, the Dracula in the window was cross-eyed and fangless, and shuffling bloody zombie costumes gave way to cute and fuzzy lion cubs and Pooh Bears. Casper had usurped The Pumpkin King's crown and The Monster Mash was his theme song.

So every October I wage war on Ray Parker Jr.

As a traditionalist, it is my my duty to ensure this new generation gets their one good scare. I get absolute delight watching the bravado young Jedi's and Fairy Princesses display as they skip away from the safe brightly lit neighboring homes crumble to uncertainty and then transform to absolute dread as they tentatively inch towards my Halloween House to the darkly dulcet strains of Tubular Bells. A bloody axe and severed limbs strewn across the lawn, bats swoop and skeletons drop unexpectedly, skulls cackle and that tattered lump on the porch may just actually be me sitting very very still until you lean in for a closer look. Sure every now and then there are tears, but for the most part the kids love it once they get past their initial fright, and their screams turn to the delighted giggles of one who has faced their fears and survived. Their parents, on the other hand, seem less than impressed.

What do they know, for them Halloween is just an excuse to dress up in something slutty and get drunk. At my house we call that a Tuesday.

I still wait for October 31st every year with the same giddy excitement an inmate has the night before a conjugal visit. When I was a kid I loved that for an entire month the world I lived within my mind spilled out onto the streets and stores and I was surrounded by comforting imagery and old friends. Ghosts and vampires peered from shop and residential windows, their baleful red eyes mischieviously looking out at me, imploringly, like children waiting for the rain to subside. All 13 TV channels aired 31 glorious days of back to back Creature Features and Slasher Cinema, hosted by the likes of Zacherle and Vampira. I was home.

I was enthralled by these glorious gory macabre monster movie offerings, even though they were heavily edited for television. I was well versed in all things horror, from the classics like "Night of the Living Dead" to the not so classic but awesomely named "Satan's School For Girls".  Mutant cannibalistic hillbillies to mutant cannibalistic worms, I thought I'd seen it all.

That all changed the Night He Came Home--- 1981,  John Carpenter's "Halloween" made its inaugural television broadcast.

My parents were across the road at a Halloween wine and cheese party where apparently everyone had forgotten to bring the cheese.  My brother and I were trick or treating with the kids from across the street, Steve and Donny, the 4 of us dressed as KISS. I had called dibs on Gene 'The Demon' Simmons, and my brother was supposed to go as Peter Criss, but at the 11th hour he demanded we switch as he had decided that The Cat motif was 'too gay'. Because ya know, putting on wigs and makeup and slipping into leather vests wasn't already gayer than Rip Taylor with a dick in each hand.

The plan was to reconvene back at my house under the supervision of my brother and we would all watch "Halloween" together, however Donny was not one for self restraint and ate all of his candy as it was doled out, resulting in him having to be taken home by his brother to vomit profusely and slip into a bloated diabetic coma. My brother decided that babysitting his 10 year old brother was also 'too gay' and went with Steve and Donny, promising to kill me in my sleep if I told my parents of his abandonment.

This was perfect! I'd get to enjoy the movie in peace without having to listen to my brother wheeze and pick caramel out of his braces. I looked at the caked on white and black makeup in the mirror and suddenly felt cheap, but I didn't have time to wash it off. I changed into my Darth Vader PJs, and hastily sorted my evenings haul unceremoniously dumped from its pillowcase housing, keeping in mind an unpleasant incident from the previous Halloween involving an Allan's Halloween Kiss and a filling (Molasses wrapped in wax, the ultimate Charlie Brown rock). I ran to each room in the house, turning off all the lights, the only illumination coming from the tv in the basement. Alone in a darkened room, a carefully selected assortment of snacks laid before me, the conditions were perfect. I settled in.

10 minutes into the movie I regretted being alone.
20 minutes in I really really regretted turning all the lights out, but was too terrified to get up and fumble in the dark, fearing that as I reached for the lightswitch my hand might connect with some...thing.
30 minutes in I realized being in the basement was a bad call, as I knew without looking that the door to the spooky laundry room at my back was slightly ajar. Every time I looked over my shoulder I could swear it was slightly more open than the last time I looked.

Had I locked the front door when I came home?

My snacks went untouched, my guts full with fear. I had never been more terrified in my entire life, and I loved it! I prayed it would end soon, but at the same time I didn't want it to be over. But by the time the movie came to its "oh fuck me" conclusion I couldn't take any more. I sat there in the dark knowing that if I turned around He would be right there, so I stared straight ahead and held my breath.

Suddenly there came a tapping, as of one gently rapping, rapping at the basement window. I let out a sharp piercing squeal like a castrated pig and looked up to see my brothers leering moon-pie visage framed in the darkened window. I'd never been happier to see that fat bastard.

I waited for him to come in and turn on the lights, and then I rushed to tell him all about the movie. He could tell from my excitement that it was something that I had really liked, so his knee-jerk reaction was to crush my joy by calling me an idiot and telling me to "wash that shit off your face before I smack it off", and not to come into his room no matter what.

The now iconic Theme from Halloween echoed in my mind as I scrubbed off Peter Criss' whiskers. For once my brother was right, The Cat motif was pretty gay. When I came out of the bathroom my brother's bedroom door was already closed, my parents still not home from their soiree. I was still shit scared as I crawled into bed, but I had the defense of my Star Wars sheets pulled up to my nose. I stared intently into  the corners of my tiny room, trying to pierce the darkness of the shadows, keeping one eye focussed at all times on the closed closet door, making sure it remained that way. Minutes passed, and as my adrenaline subsided I started to become drowsy.

My eyes snapped open, fully awake. What was that? What the living hell was that? Was that...breathing? Heavy motherfucking breathing? In my room? Yes, in my room. Fuck. Where was it coming from? Oh god.

I wanted to sit up, but I couldn't, so I lay there paralyzed with fear. More time passed, what seemed like an hour but probably only 5 minutes. The slow heavy breathing had stopped. Had I imagined it? I was going to make a break for the hallway just in case. I slowly swung my legs over the side of my bed, mentally willing the springs not to creak. I paused just as I was about to leap. Something was wrong. The bed bucked violently once, launching me onto the floor, and suddenly my ankle was grabbed in a vice like grip by a hand reaching from the nightmare world beneath my bed!

I had thankfully emptied my bladder prior to retiring for the evening. The prolonged scream that decimated my larynx was drowned out by the roar of evil mirth that emanated from under my boxspring. I stood there, dumbly blinking the tears out of my panicked eyes, not finding the words as my brother wriggled out from his hiding place, his own tears rolling down his overly round cheeks. The only word I could muster was "Why?"

Why had a guy his size painfully wedged himself into a tiny uncomfortable claustrophobic space and patiently waited nearly half an hour for the sole purpose of terrorizing his little brother?

"How?" may have been an equally appropriate question.

In response he gave me a Charlie Horse and waddled off to bed.

I thought of the end of the movie I had endured and smiled a vengeful smile. There is always room for a sequel.

Family is forever, and EVERYONE is entitled to One Good Scare.


Monday, October 17, 2011


I was lucky enough to catch one of the first showings of the underground workshop production of Evil Dead 1 & 2 the Musical in 2003. This was very independent, a year prior to its off Broadway run in New York, it hadn't become known and trendy yet, which added to its sleazy charm. It was shown in the dingy basement of a theater in "The City", the seating a mish mash of folding, card, patio, and kitchen chairs.  I was also lucky enough to sit in the front row, aptly named the Wet Zone, and got covered head to toe in the artificial grue and gore spraying from severed limbs and spinning chainsaw teeth. Its no different than the glee one derives from sitting in the front of the Zumba Flume water log ride. Except its red. Very, very red. And it doesn't wash out of cotton. And after this ride people on the street back away from you.

Prior to the show I noticed a very unassuming gentleman sitting by himself at a card table off to the side of the stage. I was sure I recognized him, and being the affable gent that I am I approached him. As I got closer I realized it was none other than Tom Sullivan, the man responsible for the make-up and visual effects of the Evil Dead Trilogy. I knew this for 2 reasons: 1) I am a huge geek, and in direct correlation to this, 2) I had met him a couple of years earlier at a convention. With a swig of my beer and a goofy grin I introduced myself, and stupidly reminded him we had met previously. He offered me a seat and then surprised me by remembering specifics of our previous conversation. Apparently I'd made him laugh. As he did not relate what specifically had caused this I became slightly self-conscious. 

Then he asked me if I remembered the first time I'd seen Evil Dead. 
And I did, because I saw it for the first time twice. 

The first first time I saw it by myself, on videotape. It was 1982, maybe 83, March Break, both my parents were working, and my brother was out somewhere being an asshole. My mother is tightly religious and did not approve of my obviously satanic interest in all things horror, and therefore I was forbidden to watch anything other than Bela and Boris on the Saturday Creature Features, and this was allowed begrudgingly. 

My father on the other hand, was thrilled that I wasn't playing with Barbies and was interested in normal boy things. Pops called me at home at lunch hour where I was probably pouring over the pages of a Famous Monsters Magazine, or doing some goofy kid stuff like designing my own Frankenstein's Monster using a Bic Four Color Retractable Ballpoint Pen, a legal sized pad of lined paper, and the latest obituaries. He directed me to go into the bottom drawer of his dresser and watch the videos that were hidden under his grossly oversized gitch. 

I was nervous. First off, I wasn't thrilled about the prospect of rooting around in the old mans not-so-tighty-not-so-whities. Secondly, these unmarked cassettes had the dirty look about them of Something Taboo. This panicked me. 

I popped the first tape in with some trepidation and waited for the FBI Warning to fade to black, a pillow clenched tightly to my chest. Let it be porn, don't let it be porn, no let it be porn, oh god...I was conflicted. When the title of The Evil Dead shimmered onto the grainy screen I exhaled violently, not realizing I had been holding my breath the entire time. All thoughts of random acts of celluloid coitus amongst housewives and tradesmen were quickly, albeit temporarily, dismissed. This was the Holy Grail for horrorhounds across the globe, only read about in the pages of Fangoria, banned in Europe as a Video Nasty, pimped by Stephen King! 

I watched it alone, curtains drawn to ward off the harsh light of The Day, and laughed and gasped at how over the top it was, dizzied by the swooping camera. But I loved every second of it and grinned until my teeth hurt. 

The second film was The Exorcist. I found myself chuckling at Pazuzu's exploits and proclivity for provocative and profane language. My mother would have shit a crucifix if she had known I was watching That Movie. Getting away with something I knew I wasn't supposed to do, but had absolute approval to do so made me giddy and sent mixed messages that had long become a staple of our family dynamic.  

What a day! A quick check confirmed my suspicions that I indeed did now have a hair or two on my beanbags.

The second first time I saw The Evil Dead was a week later. 

I smuggled the video contraband over to my friend Theodore's house for a sleep over. I'd been bravely talking this film up for 6 straight days, describing in detail the nastier scenes. The insanity and intensity of this masterpiece left no need to exaggerate. I was a hero for having done nothing more than Watch. But there is a difference in watching a horror movie at noon in the safety of your own home and watching it at midnight in unfamiliar territory. 

As thumbs gouge out Scotty's eyeballs, trees rape Cheryl, and poor Ashley Williams has to decapitate his girlfriend, I realized that maybe my previous bravado had been a defense mechanism to stop my mind from cracking and my heart from stopping, a way for me to deal with the absolute fear my mind wasn't ready to interpret. 

And maybe fear is contagious and Ted's wide-eyed horror was catching. 

And maybe, just maybe, I got so scared on that second first viewing of The Evil Dead that I pissed my pants a little bit.


Saturday, October 1, 2011


My blushing bride loves the art of negotiating. She also loves my chivalrous willingness to compromise. Unfortunately neither of us are very good at these things.

For example, when she tried to renege on her agreement to occasionally be featured as a Guest Wearer here on Shirt Of The Day I patiently explained that breaking a promise to a devoted spouse was akin to convincing a baby seal to commit suicide, thus condemning it's big wet eyed soul to baby seal hell where it would be clubbed over and over and over again for all eternity.

And anyway, if she refused I would just post the picture I have of her drooling in her sleep in lieu. She scoffed and accused me of bluffing. I showed her said picture that I have safely stored in my phone. She pouted and naively stated that I wouldn't dare. I showed her the next photo of her on the potty. She made me promise never to tell anyone about this. I agreed.

She guilefully changed her tack and fell back on her considerable feminine wiles. Her eyelashes fluttered like an epileptic butterfly as she gently caressed my smirking countenance, her lip jutting in sensual petulance. Oh she was good, effortlessly exploiting the antediluvian chink in my manly armor. She artfully tilted her head and breathed "Maybe we can hammer out a deal". Cunning, dare I say shrewd.

"Are you suggesting that we...dicker?" I countered, my eyebrows furtively popping up and down like a demented Groucho Marx.

Knowing when to quit is also not one of my strong points. Her folded arms and icy stare put to rest any notions I may have had of dickering. There was wheedling, palaver, pleading, and confabulation, but nary a dicker.

In the end my soulmate begrudgingly agreed that she would pick the shirt and I could write the text, on the condition that I not embarrass her or be rude.

So, without any further fanfare, let me introduce you to my beautiful and tolerant wife and her Good Ol' Boys! 

I like to call them Beauregard and Lucas. 

I personally think it would be in poor taste to mention her Daisy May, so I won't.

In an unprecedented display of a modicum of restraint and decorum, notice how I steered clear of the obvious Cooter joke, and avoided referring to my genitals as Boss Hogg. 

See...Negotiating and Compromise.