Before Halloween became The Thing 2 Do, and the day when Christmas decorations appeared in store windows butted up against the occasional cardboard skeleton or sickly orange-ish plastic pumpkins, I actually looked forward to it. That anticipation waned when I turned 14. But prior to that, I was anxious, apprehensive, neurotic about just how my outfit would look, almost dizzy with the hopes of what the evening would bring and could focus on little else. You know, exactly like your first date.
Where I grew up, adults took pains to be certain their house was as frightening as possible for us. No difficult task in the late 60's: we couldn't see horror movies, (except on TV where the fare ranged from "Mothra" to "Gog" to "Mothra"), while DVD and VHS were just letters in our soup bowls. Comics, a few, did provide shudders: remember Cousin Eerie and Uncle Creepy? Bless you Frank Frazetta!
I remember scanning the list of artists each week in the front of "The New Yorker" hoping to see Charles Addams listed and was severely punished for sneaking downstairs to watch the premiere episode of the show his characters spawned. I had a taste for the macabre, as almost every adult noted. Alfred Hitchcock, not missing the opportunity to insinuate himself into the consciousness of my soon-to-be-able-to-purchase-movie tickets-on-our-own generation, had his likeness on the cover of numerous books for Young Readers and his laconic voice introduced a few uninspired tales on one LP. And there was Margaret Hamilton, green of face, to threaten poor Judy each year on the annual "Wizard of Oz" special presentation. But that was about the extent of our exposure to the dark side.
No real trauma to a growing lad unless he had, as I did, a true taste for the macabre.
Aurora model company veered way off course from war planes, schooners and race cars to provide me with an entire line of Monster Models...beginning with Frankenstein. This was a disappointment to me. Not only was the model of the Monster, not Frankenstein himself, but it had to be assembled, glued and painted just like the other models at which I was so maladroit. Nonetheless, build them all I did. The Mummy (fairly well conceived, the cobra and decaying ruins were cool), Dracula (poor, the bat was ridiculous and kept sticking to me rather than to the dead tree branch), The Wolfman (very poor, no cobra, no bat, no wolfbane, no full moon, not even a gypsy caravan wheel) and then...ah! Bliss: a working guillotine! It did indeed chop off that dude's head. I cherished it and easily equaled The Terror if only for the sheer number of decapitations. Soon, however, this Aurora monster line sank further into inferior tableaux: Godzilla didn't have a miniature Raymond Burr, and The Forgotten Prisoner of Castlemare was so obscure that I forgot to finish it.
So much for a brief reprieve from the sunny-side up lifestyles of Orange County. (Now before those nasty but accurate comments get posted, I am very aware of how many scary occurrences happened daily in Newport Beach, but they happened behind closed doors for the most part and we only learned of them later when right out of high school, fresh with the "I like you so much, I'm going to tell you something I've never told anyone before" mentality, we dished and let slip the secrets we either knew or had heard from someone who did). And to my knowledge, no one ever had their head chopped off!
So, Poor Johnny: craving the craven, yearning for the terror, lusting for the lurid, dreaming of all that was dark and damp and truly frightening. You know, exactly like the second date.
This video is a tribute to those adults who draped their sofas-and sometimes themselves--with TP, hung fake moss and jumped from behind china cabinets to give us a night to remember. I do remember..despite learning how very very scary the world can actually be and that true monsters do exist--and hold true power over the lives of us mere mortals...I remember and still smile at the image of myself jumping back from someone wearing an eye patch holding out a Snickers. It's because I do remember that I urge you NOT to allow your children to watch this video. They wouldn't be scared a bit. And that hurts. You know, like the memories of that first and second date.
PS. The song, "My Beautiful Monster" is performed by The Eels, a group whose name and song title would most surely have appealed to the young monster described above. I do not own the rights to this song and intend no copyright infringement. The images in the video are, in part, copyrighted by The Ulander Project, a not-for-profit foundation supporting the arts. Please do not copy, duplicate or otherwise utilize these images without its permission.