In our gay world of “throw on a costume at the chipping of a manicured nail” or “I saw this bed sheet and had to turn it into a Dior knockoff,” the very idea that Halloween could be canceled by a world-wide pandemic is a reason to scream. The bottom line, queens love Halloween. A national gay holiday, it’s worshipped like gay Pride and Judy Garland’s birthday. The thought of not adding the word “sexy” to any number of costumes (sexy cop, sexy fireman, sexy deli counter worker) is equivalent to being told you shouldn’t kiss strangers. Horrifying!
After years of working in the bars, I estimate that I have celebrated at least 30 Halloweens over a minimum of 60 terror-filled nights. In the bar business, you milk Halloween like a cow, regardless of how sore her teats might be. It’s standard to celebrate the weekend and multiple days before the actual Halloween. Any attempt to stretch it to the day after is, well, sacrilege. Sometimes it encompasses five nights of too much bad drag and enough bare flesh to circle the globe twice, leaving a comet trail of glitter.
In the clubs, we love a good theme. However, at times, even with collective minds, it can be Whitney-Houston-dancing lame. One multiple celebrations the big boss ignored the staff’s creative suggestions and mandated an idea that came to him after too many sleeping pills and chocolate. “Night of a Thousand Britney’s” was born to honor the queen-of-the-moment pop star. It fell over a measly three nights and I, not being one to repeat a costume, was panic-stricken. If there ever was a person who should not dress as a big-titted, pouty-mouthed, bleached-to-filth blonde, it was me. But, always the trouper, I put together versions of a young, a middle-aged, and an old Britney’s.
Young Britney was my crowning glory. I recreated one of her albums covers complete with a bare midriff and an entire shaved upper body and held my stomach in for six agonizing hours. You know a theme stinks when there are 50 employees in similar costumes and the customer mantra all night is, “Who are you supposed to be?” I’m supposed to be polite to the customers, but screw that, screw you, and screw this theme. Happy f*cking Halloween.
Of course, it wasn’t all bad. There did come a certain pleasure seeing sexy doctors, sexy superheroes, and countless gay boys attempting to be sexy girls. The lesbians, not so much. It’s disheartening to compliment a plaid-covered lesbian on her construction worker’s costume only to discover it’s her daily attire. My bad. And if RuPaul had been passing judgment on the countless beauty school dropouts, he would have a bevy of beauty wannabe’s sashaying away.
I worked for one occasionally benevolent owner who watched a young queen wearing a single mattress with arm and neck holes and oversized ears dashing as fast as the costume allowed across the packed street. He said, “Everyone thinks they’re a winner.”
“Yeah, and most think they have an above average penis,” I said.
I spent two decades emceeing multiple costume contests, indoors on a microphone, and outdoors on a screeching megaphone. The street would be closed and dozens of optical disasters would trounce across a wobbly makeshift stage, vying for trophies and often substantial cash prizes.
At one outdoor contest, the brown-nosing owner told me that a local Senator is known for attending “the opening of an envelope” was going to say a few (yeah, right) words to the crowd. He shook a finger at me and said, “No funny business. Introduce her. Let her speak. Thank her. Nothing more!”
After her not-so-brief words fell on deaf ears and over-painted faces, I thanked her and added, “Hand her a trophy, ’cause that’s the best Sheila Jackson-Lee you’re gonna see tonight!”
I caught the owner’s death stare and bulging purple neck vein threatening to blow. Fellow employees used to be convinced that I would someday infuriate him to the point the vein would burst. Unfortunately, it was not that day.
I lived to celebrate many more festive Halloweens watching the enthusiastic, creative and Stranger Things concepts that continued to surprise. Leave it to a queen to put lipstick on a pig and call it Cher.