In Search of the Empty Costume
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This is Marc Porter Zasada with The Urban Man for KCRW.
As educated people, we know that Halloween is no longer a pagan holiday, but a homework assignment from Psych 101. We're told that dressing up in tights or tin foil allows us to safely express and confront some hidden aspect of our souls--be it dark, hopeful, over-sexed, or idiotic.
Of course, here in L.A., life can seem like Halloween all year long. Not only do we play dress up every day: flashy agents, rail-thin actresses, Eastside gang-bangers, Westside moguls in BMW's, handsome guys in white t-shirts--but we work hard to embody the deepest fears and wildest fantasies of the whole nation. We provide a steady parade of Michael Jacksons, Tom Cruises, and Britney Spears--so that the folks in other cities can live out normal lives.
Now, psychologists do warn us that masquerade can be dangerous when it becomes a fulltime profession. If you spend every day expressing one overblown aspect of your personality, there is a chance you'll end up losing your actual... self. It's sort of like dying and leaving behind an empty costume.
On the other hand, the pay? Pretty good.
Again tomorrow night, the Urban Man will head down to the West Hollywood Halloween parade to observe his fellow citizens doing their homework. It's not really a parade. Just 400,000 Angelenos packed onto Santa Monica Boulevard and eager to express their subconscious drives.
Like all show business, there's a hierarchy to the evening.
At the bottom are the folks who use a lot of cardboard, tape and feathers, but fail to come up with anything... specific. I say, if you have to ask, it's not a costume.
Above these, you have your frat boys dressed as nurses, your nurses dressed as gangsters, your gangsters dressed as gangsters, and of course, your light-footed bucks wearing nothing but Speedos, silver glitter, and little white wings.
And then lo, the crowd will part for a totally-professional execution: that magnificent lunar moth, the Barbie still in the box, or that chorus line of four exquisite Marilyn Monroes, none of course, actually female.
Later on, ever wilder forms of the night appear--people who scare even the people who scare people: Thin, humorless women with vampire make up that's just a little too good, the demons wearing nothing but body paint and tiny horns.
It may be therapeutic, but you don't want to take the kids.
If Halloween confronts us with our deepest fears, then surely mine is that legendary Empty Costume... that fey, soulless manifestation of the Angeleno who has lost himself completely in his role. And sure enough, last year I spotted it around 11:30 p.m.--or at least I think I did.
Yes, I think I saw the famous Empty Costume fluttering between some tall green lizard and hyperbolic Madonna. It appeared as a long dark robe escaped from some grade B Horror flick--you know, Death floating with vacant sleeves and vacant cowl, the waist loosely tied with old rope, but sometimes collapsing completely in the wind. For a while it seemed to be mocking me, but the light was bad, and I couldn't be sure.
Incredibly, the Empty Costume didn't seem to want publicity. In fact, when I raised my camera, it slipped off into a swirling crowd of less committed citizens. But I'll try to track it down again this year, and if I do I'll ask for its autograph.
Oh... how will you spot me on Santa Monica boulevard tomorrow night? I'll be the guy in the sport jacket and gray fedora, the one looking exactly like The Urban Man.
Have a happy Halloween.
Copyright © 2006 Marc Porter Zasada. All Rights Reserved.
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