The Village People Save Halloween October 18, 2009Posted by alwaysjan in Holidays, Parenting.
Tags: Halloween, Halloween at the Hotel Chelsea, Halloween Costumes, Halloween in New York City, Halloween Nostalgia, Halloween Parties, Parenting, Trick-or-Treating
Halloween in New York City in the 1980s was a tough call. The big draw was the Village Halloween Parade. But how many gay guys can you watch prancing around dressed as poodles in costumes made from pink plastic bags? (The answer is quite a few!)
The trouble was that my sons, Taylor, who was in third grade, and Ian, who was in Kindergarten, were eager to go through that American rite of passage called trick-or-treating. In Manhattan, that meant going from deli to deli and getting a piece of candy or maybe having a slice of cheesy pizza dropped into your bag at the local pizza parlor. Not quite the Halloween of my childhood.
When I was a kid, Halloween was a pretty simple affair. You carved a real pumpkin and it always had triangle eyes. None of that artsy stuff you see nowadays. If you were hard up for a costume, being a hobo was always an option, but that was before there were homeless people. You could wear your dad’s shirt and carry a stick with a bandana tied to it. Now those same bandanas signal gang affiliations. Sigh. Word traveled quickly as to which families were handing out the “good stuff.” I’m talking homemade popcorn balls and caramel apples (before they had razor blade fillings).
Fast forward. We were living at the Hotel Chelsea on West 23rd Street. Built in 1883, the hotel is 10 stories tall and has an ornate wrought iron staircase winding through its center. The residents were mostly “artists,” (code word for eccentrics). We moved in the year after Sid Vicious killed his girlfriend Nancy. There were residents who swore the elevator always stopped at the first floor, even when no one had pressed the button, because that’s where Sid had lived.
At the Hotel Chelsea, it was pretty much Halloween year round. We once walked into the wrong apartment once and found ourselves in a casino. It’s not like the boys could go from apartment to apartment trick-or-treating. No, we would have to bite the bullet (the silver one intended for werewolves) and throw a Halloween Party.
Other parents, who were equally desperate for something to do on Halloween, quickly RSVP’d. We enlisted the help of some of the hotel’s residents, some who we only knew in passing. I was willing to buy the candy for them to hand out, but they insisted they would to do it. But what it they flaked – or OD’d?
I ordered a sh*tload of plasticky crap from the Oriental Trading Company. Skulls, spiders – Typical boy stuff.
I made a huge platter of spaghetti with eyeball meatballs (olives) along with vampire repelling garlic bread. Jake’s mom, Arlene, who was a caterer, arrived bearing the most incredible cupcakes I’d ever seen. They had black frosting and a green plastic witch’s finger protruded from each one.
We set up games out in the hallway. Stick a skewer into a bowl of flour and try to hit the lady apple. (What a mess that was!) There was a little fishing rod with hook on the end of it so kids could try to snag a skull ring out of a jar. This was all time filler until the main event. Finally, it was time to go trick-or-treating.
I shouted out an apartment number and a dozen children raced up the stairs with parents trailing behind. From floor to floor they raced, maybe ten apartments in all. The last stop was at our friend Susan’s. She was a teacher and lived in the penthouse. I expected candy. Instead she’d gone all out with spooky lighting and a scary soundtrack. Her apartment was already a jungle filled with terrariums of exotic animals. When she had the tarantula walk across her shoulder, the kids were mesmerized. But then, so was I. This was the grand finale. But wait, there’s more!
My husband’s office was across the hall from where we lived. It had a wrought iron balcony that overlooked 23rd Street. Flying high on sugar, the kids tied rubber bugs to fish lines then dropped them down to street level. When someone walked by, they’d jerk the line to make the bug jump. When unsuspecting people were startled, they laughed hysterically.
Everyone swore it was the best Halloween ever. And it was. A motley crew of people who wanted to create a lasting memory for children made it happen. Yes, it takes a village – Or in this case, the Village People.
Moxey, whose blog Middleground is on my blogroll, wrote a hilarious post about her own ambivalence about Halloween and the inevitable Costume Drama in outfitting her eight-year-old son, Spawn. It’s a fun read. This year, the party is at her house!
Photo Credit: Spooky Spinner by Mark Williams at markrosswilliams.com