This year's costume: yourself
'So who are you going to be?" This motto should be printed on the entrance signs to Los Angeles. It is the fundamental quandary faced by the city's millions of aspiring immigrants and desperate runaways and, of course, its population of putative actors.
By DOUG SAUNDERS
Saturday, October 21, 2000
LOS ANGELES -- 'So who are you going to be?" This motto should be printed on the entrance signs to Los Angeles. It is the fundamental quandary faced by the city's millions of aspiring immigrants and desperate runaways and, of course, its population of putative actors.
It is also the question we ask on Halloween, which is probably why the event has taken on such an outsized significance in L.A. -- here, Halloween is a far more important holiday than Christmas.
After all, December 25th is all about being one thing, and one thing only, while Halloween is about being anything else. Strangely enough, though, the big trend in L.A. this year is to dress up as that ever-popular character: yourself.
The character costume has gone the way of the dodo. This year, people will be coming as they are. Or, rather, as they would be if they were a lot more attractive. "This year, a lot of people are getting into these new high-tech fabrics that make them look more shapely and shiny," said Steve Elowitz, manager of Hollywood Toy and Costume.
In the past, L.A. has seen all manner of costume fads, from Stone Age to high-tech to cheekily religious. Recent movies are, surprisingly, not much of an influence here. In a town where the stars go out of their way to dress up as regular schmoes, there isn't much chance that those schmoes are going to return the favour.
Elowitz's store, popular in all seasons, is a scary-stuff dealership the size of a Wal-Mart and the scope of Harrod's. (Aisle 7, for instance, consists only of severed limbs, including 22 different amputated feet and a large sack labelled "Misc. Noses.") And, while the visitors from Kansas were snapping up Lion King garb and Gladiator shields, the locals were off in the back, trying on outfits that just scream eroticism.
"I wanted something that just makes me look hot, and I'd say this is doing it. Wouldn't you?" asked Rashmi Goel, an L.A. woman who was wriggling into a head-to-toe bodysuit of skintight black patent-leather material, with a matching hood. It was indeed doing it, but you couldn't really say what she looked like, other than shapely.
Nearby, Al Hansen was buying a dozen leather belts with oversized buckles for a private Hollywood Hills party. "They all want to dress as macho men," he said, as if his high-power clients normally spend their days as milquetoast men.
But the parties aren't confined to the Hills. Halloween is the one day when huge groups of Angelenos gather on the streets, in several neighbourhoods, to party (as opposed to riot), when the Mexicans' Day of the Dead and the millionaires' masked ball and the gay community's drag bash all congeal into one simultaneous event. The last night of October is subject to lavish spending and lengthy planning in L.A., on scales not seen anywhere else, and provides an industry that thrives all year round. (It helps that this is one city with an industrial demand for silly costumes in all seasons.)
This year it seems as if the whole city has adopted the ethos of its two largest Halloween parties. The outdoor bash on Hollywood Boulevard is a favourite of goths, those pale-faced kids who wear plenty of black. And the Broadway Ave. party, in a big old theatre, is the gay community's signature event, in which fabulous men become fabulous women for the evening.
Somewhere between these two extremes, everyone else seems to have picked up the message: Just be yourself, stranger.
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