I mentioned last week that Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, and I suppose I am fortunate to have so many wonderful memories of it. While some have proven to be quite educational, and not always in a good way, I still have been able to look back on them with fondness.
Around 30 Halloweens ago, we decided to have a rare (our first and final) Halloween costume party. We invited friends, family and permitted guests to bring someone along. We placed emphasis on “costume party” and everyone complied. In fact, many attended in costume that I never would have guessed would do so. It was a success.
We had purchased an older home with a quite aged garage, but I had remodeled it and a few of my friends and I had just put the finishing touches on pouring a concrete floor in it. It turned out very nice even if I say so myself. Too bad I can’t say that for my costume.
I decided to greet everyone as a rather convincing version of Count Dracula. I had planned my costume for quite some time, even down to very realistic fangs. In months before I had appeared in a theatrical drama so I had some of the makeup left over. It was perfect. Well, almost.
Came the day for the event and the family was putting on their costumes so we would be prepared when guests arrived. As I made ready, I applied the base white make-up, along with the black for the shading beneath the eyes, and it was so convincing I frightened my wife, my children and myself. Eureka, I thought (not really, I don’t think that word was part of my vocabulary then. Now that I think of it, it’s not a part of my vocabulary now).
Now the formal suit, vest and cape and I was ready. But wait. My hair. I needed to create the signature “V” hair line that any self-respecting Count Dracula would have. And then it occurred to me. I had forgotten to get anything to grease my hair down to accomplish that look, and it was far too late to go shop for it. Not to mention I was mostly madeup and, well, that just wouldn’t work in public.
I frantically began searching the house for an acceptable substitute. Lard? No, I was watching my cholesterol (I made myself laugh on that one). Cooking oil? No, that would probably attract insects. I am in big trouble, I thought. But then I happened upon the perfect solution. An amazing substitute that would help to transform me into the Count Dracula Hollywood would be envious of. I stood in amazement wondering why I had not thought of it before. Vaseline.
I took my new-found treasure and headed to the closest mirror and began applying it liberally. It was perfect. Then I combed it in place, and nothing could have been better. My hair stayed where I combed it and, as an added benefit, it darkened my hair perfectly to rival any Dracula I had ever seen. I could wear this stuff in a hurricane, and while my eye brows might blow off, my hair would stay where I combed it. Nothing could be better.
The costume party was a success. Everyone had a terrific time, and for the most part I had no problems with my costume other than some ill-fated millers who became entangled in the greasy mess, as well as some chaff from straw bales we used for decoration. However, the real Nightmare on Elm Street (not really the name of the street we lived on. I just changed it to protect the neighbors who don’t want you to know they lived next to me) was about to begin.
After everyone had gone home with their treats and smiles I did my victory lap around the garage in celebration of a successful party, and then I proceeded to take off the costume and return to just plain ole me. All went well until I tried to get the Vaseline out of my hair. No matter how much water, no matter how much soap, the Vaseline remained. In fact, the water seemed to harden my hair, and now I had a head filled with spikes that I wasn’t wild about.
I used everything I could think of including gasoline (don’t do that. Seriously, don’t ever do that) to remove the grease concoction. For weeks, I looked like either a bed of nails or a puff-ball. Finally, two or three haircuts later, my hair recovered (sort of).
Hearing that I was too stubborn to listen to good advice was no comfort. Hearing the endless laughter was no comfort. Seeing those I didn’t know point in my direction when I would venture out was no comfort. Some of the best lessons in life are from experience, and honestly, I really dislike those lessons.
So, this Halloween when you begin to put on your costume, think of me, and step away from that jar of Vaseline. I promise, you’ll thank me for that piece of advice.
Herb Day is a longtime local radio personality and singer-musician. He can be heard Tuesday mornings from 8 a.m. to noon on 88.7 WOBO-FM, and can be reached at HEKAMedia@yahoo.com.