By Tanja M. Laden
One of the best things about living in Southern California is the idea that Halloween is a monthlong celebration that actually continues past Halloween itself.
One reason we do this is we have the added bonus of the Nov. 1 Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos, aka Day of the Dead. Also it's because it still feels like summer and we're just trying to convince ourselves that it's fall. Or maybe it's because Halloween is the last major respite before the holiday season, given that Thanksgiving has practically become absorbed into the buying frenzy that officially kicks off on "Black Friday." Or, more likely, it's because Angelenos in particular love any excuse to dress up and pretend to be someone we're not.
Whatever the reason, there's no shortage of ways to celebrate All Hallows' Eve across the City of Angels. Here are just 13 of the many ways to get into the spirit of Halloween.
13. Bob Baker's Halloween Hoop-Dee-Do
Let's face it: Marionettes can be creepy, and no one understands them better than L.A.'s legendary puppet impresario, Bob Baker. His "Halloween Hoop-Dee-Do" debuted way back in 1963, and it's back for another season filled with flapper-era skeletons and creatures such as the Purple People Eater and the Invisible Man. By now, Baker's performances have evolved into a local institution, and if you haven't seen him yet, it's practically your duty as an Angeleno, a rite of passage, to see one of his shows. We recommend you begin with this one. 1345 W. First St., dwntwn.; through Nov. 10; $15, children under 2 free. (213) 250-9995, BobBakerMarionettes.com.
12. Gary Baseman's Nightmares of Halloweens Past
If his now-iconic artwork is not enough to convince you that Gary Baseman loves all things creepy, his huge collection of vintage Halloween-themed photographs should help you see the light -- or darkness, as the case may be. Baseman busts out his alternately entertaining, disturbing and amusing collection of costumed characters in antique photos, officially opening the doors of Chinatown's newest KK Gallery. Witness how the photos wind up inspiring Baseman as an artist, too. 963 Chung King Road, Chinatown; through Nov. 24; free. KKLosAngeles.com.
11.Dead Men Do Tell Tales: A Post-Mortem Affair
We may as well accept the fact that we're all gonna die and just embrace the creepy. At least, that's what this event at the Last Bookstore seems to recommend we do. Emceed by ex-Germs drummer and L.A. cult figure Don Bolles, the free evening program is full of clowns, fetuses and Sicilian sex ghosts, in the form of stories, short films, live horror-rock and theremin music -- all of which should help channel the spirit(s) of Halloween. 453 S. Spring St., dwntwn.; Oct. 24, 7:30 p.m.; free. (213) 488-0599, LastBookstoreLA.com.
At last, a haunted house where you don't have the luxury of clutching your boyfriend, girlfriend, sibling, parent, grandparent or best friend -- instead, you're forced to go through it alone. No one under 18 is admitted inside this terrifying tribute to a Halloween tradition. Blackout Haunted House first cropped up in New York City four years ago and has finally made its way out west. 207 S. Broadway, 2nd floor, dwntwn.; Oct. 26-31; $45. www.BlackoutHH.com.
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We know how you feel -- San Pedro seems like such a haul, but it's really just about 15 miles from downtown. Community-minded arts nonprofit Angels Gate Cultural Center invites kids and adults to a free afternoon program where the time-honored tradition of door-to-door candy-scoring (and hoarding) has morphed into a "haunted scavenger hunt." There's also the ever-elusive dance class that transforms into a "Thriller" flash mob, plus workshops and live music. Stick around for an Indian summer-style bonfire with spooky stories at 6:30 p.m., but don't forget to bring a picnic, maybe some bug spray and $5 for the evening entertainment. 3601 S. Gaffey St., San Pedro; Free, Sun., Oct. 28, 3-6:30 p.m; $5 after 6:30 p.m.; kids under 6 free. (310) 519-0936, AngelsGateArt.org.
Stage Fright, formerly fREAKmACHINE, bills itself as L.A.'s "only spontaneous variety show," which could be hilarious -- or just full of horrors. With no more than a dozen five-minute acts, odds are there's a bit of both. Atwater Village Theater, 3269 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village; Oct. 29, 8 p.m.; $5 cash (or a five-minute act). (323) 644-1929.
Author Sally Richards tells real-life ghost stories with a reading from Ghosthunting Southern California at Vroman's. While there's one of these "Ghosthunting" guides for practically every major city in the country -- all part of the "America's Haunted Road Trip" series -- we're willing to bet the local version out-spooks any of the stories you'd find in the Ohio, North Carolina or Southern New England editions. After all, SoCal is the home of Hollywood, where some dreams are made, but most of the dreamers wind up on Rehab With Dr. Drew. 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; Tue., Oct. 30, 7 p.m.; free. (626) 449-5320, www.VromansBookstore.com.
Up next: a dog costume parade
Downtown Burbank's businesses invite costumed little 'uns to trick-or-treat while their cousins (aka canines) parade outside in crazy outfits of their own. Dogs and caretakers are urged to register for the parade beginning at 5 p.m. at the AMC at San Fernando. The parade kicks of at 6 p.m., so bring your child and/or your dog (on a leash) and make sure you don't forget your camera. Downtown Burbank (between Verdugo Avenue, Glenoaks Boulevard, Burbank Boulevard and the I-5.); Wed., Oct. 31, 4-7 p.m.; free. (818) 238-5180, Downtown-Burbank.org.
Speaking of dogs, Forte Animal Rescue is a local no-kill nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of animals, and it's holding a Halloween-night fundraiser at the Little Bar in order to help those in need. Each ticket includes a drink and appetizers, with 100 percent of the proceeds going directly toward the critters themselves. The evening benefit also includes a contest and raffle.757 S. La Brea Ave., Hancock Park; Wed., Oct. 31, 8-10:30 p.m.; $15 - $20. (323) 937-9210, farescue.org/LittleBar.
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Up next: a performance party
Following last year's "I Am Vegetable," the all-immersive creative collective Dream Circus is back with "I Am Animal," an interactive performance/party where guests in meat- or beast-themed costumes become part of the backdrop in an extended story that includes a human petting zoo, trophy lounge, bear cave and something called the "Human BBQ Museum." The whole thing is part of the lead-up to the main performance at 11:30 p.m. Vortex L.A., 2341 E. Olympic Blvd., dwntwn.; Wed., Oct. 31; $22.50. (310) 853-3075, www.DreamCircus.com.
Finally, don't forget that it's not just the time to celebrate Halloween, but also Day of the Dead -- something Angelenos take very seriously. Case in point: Hardcore party planner HARD Events presents a one-day-only electro-music blowout at Los Angeles State Historic Park, with four stages, dozens of music acts and an audience full of people hellbent on waking the dead. 1245 N. Spring St., Chinatown; Sat., Nov. 3, 6 p.m.; $75 - $135 ($40 VIP parking). www.HARDFest.com.
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