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Tricks and Treats

Halloween won't be a day for bin Laden
By STEPHANIE CESCA, The Globe and Mail
Monday, October 29, 2001

Osama bin Laden may hold the current title of world's biggest bogeyman but the suspected terrorist apparently doesn't cut it as a Halloween costume.

Instead, adults -- and children in particular -- are showing an interest in costumes that represent the heroism or patriotism inspired by North America's response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"I feel bad about what happened at the twin towers," said 11-year-old Anthony Fallone of Woodbridge, Ont., who wants to dress up as a doctor. "I'd like to help people."

This shift from the traditional ghost and goblin theme is one that even Canadian retailers can't ignore.

"There's been some change this year over other years. There's no question about that," said Randy Scotland, vice-president of communications and public relations of the Retail Council of Canada. "There's a renewed interest in super heroes and the kind of people who fight crime."

Stores across the country are seeing a surge of interest in firefighter, police officer and paramedic costumes.

"That's creating the most buzz this year. . . . A lot of those people feel it would be a tribute," Mr. Scotland said.

Wal-Mart Canada says the firefighter costume is its current top seller, followed by the paramedic outfit and nurse or doctor garb.

Jeffrey Reitz, a sociology professor at the University of Toronto, said this sort of consumer response is completely understandable given the enormity of the terrorist attacks.

"It seems that people have to weave in a patriotic element to justify having a little fun," he said.

Dr. Reitz said Canadians are leaving their senses of humour at home this season -- which may also explain why there has been virtually no demand for bin Laden costumes throughout North America.

Richard Williamson, owner of Pierre's Costumes, a Philadelphia-based company that manufactures, sells and rents costumes via e-mail to people in more than 200 countries, said just one of the 40,000 costume requests he's received this year was for a bin Laden outfit.

"I just deleted it. I thought 'I'm not responding to this jerk,' " he said.

Although Mr. Williamson could easily manufacture bin Laden costumes for party-goers this Oct. 31, he said he doesn't think it would be appropriate.

"You don't want to go as Public Enemy No. 1," he said.

Lili Khan, co-owner of Hollywood Costumes in Thornhill, Ont., said she's noticed customers are even avoiding anything that could be construed as Arab dress.

Although Ms. Khan usually rents all of her store's sheik costumes during the Halloween season, this year she has rented just one.

"Everybody looks at them and goes 'Ha ha, bin Laden,' and that's it," she said.

And while Margot Loveseth, owner of The Costume Shoppe in Calgary, said she's received "a few" bin Laden requests, most of her sheik costumes remain hanging on the store's racks.

Dr. Reitz said it's easier to err on the side of caution.

"It's very difficult to predict what may or may not upset people at this time right now," he said. "I would think that anyone who adopted a [bin Laden] costume for Halloween risks that they're making fun of a serious matter."

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