AT LAST YEAR'S WEST HOLLYWOOD HALLOWEEN COSTUME Carnaval, I dressed up as a samurai; the year before, as a boy scout. Once, I went as a bloodied surgeon, complete with a cleaver and a vital organ of indeterminate nature. This year, dressed down in tan carpenter pants and a green thermal, I'm embarrassed to say that I went as a lookie-loo. I've always sneered at the people who showed up for one of the country's largest Halloween celebrations without a costume. But this time I just flaked. I suppose if I'd thrown a chambray shirt over my arm, I could have told people I was a Gap trainee, but that would have been trying too hard to not try too hard.
To make matters worse, I showed up around 9 p.m., just as Pink (whose hair was vampire-bat black) began performing on the stage in front of WeHo's version of a high school cafeteria, Koo Koo Roo. Trying to get a good view of the stage, I pushed through the crowd with two other friends, but drunk undergrads in angel wings and way too many guys in Justin Guarini Afros packed the narrow space between the sidewalk and the stage. (Word to next year's planners: If you get a big-name singer like Pink, put the main stages in the middle of one of the larger intersections.)
"I should yell I have a bomb," a man with a crew cut and tie-dyed shirt said as he crushed against me from behind.
"Dude, that's not cool," his equally tie-dyed friend warned.
Grasping one another's hands like Everest climbers, my friends and I eventually broke through the main-stage throngs. We were able to move freely once Pink began her cover of 4 Non Blondes' "What's Up."
Then, just as Pink sang the line "I scream from the top of my lungs/What's goin' on?," a friend walked up with bloody, brain tissueladen bullet holes across his forehead. "I just got back from Virginia," he explained.
I watched a group of middle-aged couples wait their turn to pose with two satyrs sporting very low-hung haunches and overly developed abs when one friend spotted a klatch of figures in pink sheets.
"Gay ghosts?" he asked.
"I think they're Mary Kay Kay Kay," I replied.
We spotted the retinue of local TV reporters covering the event, each practicing their bemused "Can you believe this?" look for the anchors back in their newsrooms. The L.A. Times, predictably, ran a picture in the next day's paper of a tired-looking Dorothy Gale enveloped in a cotton-ball Emerald City. And the mainstream media once again lived up to the familiar charge that they cover only two gay events, the Halloween Carnaval and the Pride Parade, unless there's a fag-bashing vigil or a really violent AIDS-funding protest.
"I thought I'd see more Anna Nicoles," I said.
"There sure are a lot of pimps and their ho's, though," my friend Rob said.
"And priests with their boys," another friend added.
"It's all sort of the same theme," I said.
There were also plenty of Sponge Bobs and one amazingly detailed, life-size version of the kid's game Operation. The ubiquitous firemen and Statues of Liberty, so popular last year, were in check, but a few good timely and political costumes stuck out. It was eerie how just four people with brown cardboard boxes on their heads became the perfect facsimile of the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. A triptych of Winona, Martha and Lizzie (Grubman) behind bars got plenty of laughs, and the decked-out airport security team rolling around a metal detector and taking federal license to grab well-built spectators for strip searches was also very popular.
At one point, a Latino family with kids dressed as Jasmine and Aladdin were whooping it up at the sight of my friend Guy undressing on orders of the faux airport security. It always surprises me how many people in L.A. come to fairly risqué, overcrowded evening events with their kids. More and more, nice gay couples arrive toting their adopted or egg-donor babies dolled up as Piglet or Winnie the Pooh, but who knew straight couples would need pictures of their offspring with drag queens?
What was once largely the purview of gay men who raided Paramount's costume department to pull off a serviceable Mildred Pierce has become the family event of the 21st century. Less than a decade ago, any soccer mom who bragged about taking her daughter to West Hollywood dressed as Mia Hamm would lose her car-pool privileges. But in a world where sending your kids around the neighborhood to gather uninspected candy is an increasingly scary prospect, a street fair full of nuns with dildos strapped to their habits is almost charming.