Another Halloween is upon us boys and girls, so I thought I’d take a time out from posting about grown men getting paid millions of dollars to pretend they are superheroes, and draw on fond (and miserable) memories to list some of the best and worst things about this crazy, kooky holiday.
Best: Halloween Specials
It’s hard to believe now, but once upon a time the major TV networks felt it was perfectly reasonable to fill an entire night (or sometimes even two) of prime time programming with animated Halloween-themed specials for the kiddies. The best of the bunch was something that, to the best of my knowledge, still gets shown to this day – It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, a.k.a.- The One Where Snoopy has a Really Bad Acid Trip. Sitcoms also regularly jumped on board the bandwagon with Halloween-themed episodes, one of the most memorable being Roseanne‘s famous “Tunnel of Terror” show during the second season:
Worst: Having to wear a jacket over your costume
Since Halloween is at the end of October when some of the most unpredictable weather can occur (especially if you gew up in the Northeast), it’s a crapshoot as to what kind of elements Mother Nature is going to throw your way in your attempt to amass copious amounts of fun-size Snickers bars. I can remember Halloweens where the nights were balmy and clear, and others where you could see your breath and a shimmery sheen of frost covering the jack o’ lanterns. Those Halloweens were the worst, because that meant your Mother was going to make you wear your winter coat OVER your costume, thus negating the entire purpose of putting together a cool costume in the first place. Jedi Knights and Zombies don’t wear jackets!
Best: Ben Cooper Costumes
Certain brand names have become synonymous with the Holidays. On Easter, you use Paas coloring kits for your Easter Eggs, on Thanksgiving you eat a Butterball turkey, and in the 1970’s/80s, it just wasn’t Halloween without seeing a giant store display of these iconic Ben Cooper vinyl costumes. These “highly inflammable” death-suits consisted of nothing more than a creepy molded plastic mask and the cheapest, Z-grade Chinese-made vinyl body coverings that would’ve instantly transformed a cheesy, inaccurate Batman costume into the world’s most authentic Human Torch costume with one stray match. Still, these bargain-boxed costumes were adored by kids (and lazy parents who didn’t want to spend any time sewing). Plus, the unique smell of that cheap-o vinyl when the box was first popped open is one of the all-time greatest “kiddie-high” smells, right up there with fresh Play-Doh and uncapped magic markers.
Worst: Crappy Treats
One of our nation’s most hallowed rituals is the post-Trick or Treat sort, where a long night of soliciting processed sugar from neighbors ends when you rush into your house, dump the contents of your bag onto the kitchen table, and examine the goodies like a Pirate who just made off with a chest full of jewels and doubloons. If you were like me, you separated the candy into three distinct piles :
- The quality, name brand stuff – Kit-Kats, Snickers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Twix, etc.
- “Second-tier” candy – Tootsie Rolls, Milk Duds, Starburst, Tootsie Pops, etc.
- The “reject pile.” We’re talking stale popcorn balls or anything “healthy” like a box of raisins, and the terrible off-brand candies like Bit O’ Honeys, Squirrel Nut Zippers, black licorice, peppermint wheels, and other assorted inedible horrors. Receiving these as a child on Halloween was akin to opening a brightly wrapped Christmas gift and finding socks inside. Let’s not even get started on the clueless do-gooders who felt the need to give out those travel-size kits containing a tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush. There’s a special place in Hell for you, buddy.
Best: McDonald’s Halloween Pails
In the mid-1980’s, fast-food giant McDonald’s unleashed one of their greatest and most memorable Happy Meal promotions of all-time. The greasy treats came in these fantastic orange plastic Jack O’ Lanterns, which could then be used as a handy candy receptacle on Halloween night. They also made wonderful containers for toys, as I can recall storing hundreds of M.U.S.C.L.E. figures in them.
Worst: School-sponsored Halloween Parties
Halloween parties that took place in your elementary school gymnasium or cafeteria almost always sucked. If they were anything like the parties at my school, they were dull, sparsely decorated, poorly organized, and the costume contests were always rigged so that the kid whose Dad was on the town’s Board of Aldermen won first prize, despite having a shitty costume.
What is Halloween without Elvira, Mistress of the Dark? It’s 100% less sexy, that’s for sure.
Worst: Getting too old to go out Trick-or-Treating
I think we can all look back on the day we realized that it was no longer “cool” or appropriate to put on a superhero or monster costume, and go door-to-door asking other grown-ups for candy with tremendous sadness. I think my last excursion into a crisp October night to trick or treat was when I was 12 years old, and that was a half-hearted affair that involved a quick application of face-paint and a grocery bag. The cold, bitter realization that you were too old to go out on Halloween was one of life’s most depressing rites of passage. It was a crushing bummer, until you hit 17 or 18 and started going to “adult” parties. That was when the magical discovery of “sexy” Halloween costumes took the holiday to a whole new level…