Ms. Dressup

October 31, 2018

I grew up so close to the Canadian border that my family was only able to tune into Canadian tv stations for most of the 70’s. And one of Canada’s hit shows was called Mr. Dressup. Don’t believe me? Google it. It’s a real thing. And he was super cool. He had a Tickle Trunk that he would open on every episode to reveal some amazing costume he would wear around his living room, where his “friends” Casey (small boy) and Finnegan (dog) would appear from behind the couch (they were puppets) to talk to him. I think they may have lived in a treehouse in Mr. Dressup’s backyard…

Anyway, my love for dressing up started early, thanks to Mr. Dressup. My sister and I and our friends would always be wearing clown makeup or flowing dresses or wigs or tutus and prancing around our living room, putting on “shows” or just lost in some imaginary world. My sister and I especially liked accessories and props. We didn’t need braces or glasses in real life, but we would fashion braces out of tin foil or paper clips and wear sunglasses with the lenses poked out. At a certain point we asked our dad to make us crutches (we had never needed those either) and that was super fun. We would hobble around the house with our crutches and glasses, lisping through our tin foil braces…it was endless fun!

So, of course, Halloween was always a big deal. We grew up before there were many pre-made options for costumes, so our parents always made them. My sister was Betsy Ross once, with a red, white and blue hoop skirt (our hula hoop) and a flag she carried with needle and thread. My dad made me a costume one year that incorporated the crutches: Man Who Has Just Been In A Car Accident. I had bloody bandages all over me and my arm in a sling. And a fake broken leg, of course.

I worked and studied as an actor for a number of years, so always had lots of opportunities to dress up there. But it was the impromptu costuming that was the most fun. One evening, my neighbor Lea knocked on my door in a panic because she was throwing a Murder Mystery Dinner Party and 2 of her guests didn’t show up. And if you’ve never been to one of these parties, each guest plays a role and has a script, which gradually reveals who the killer is. So she really needed 2 more guests and wondered if I could come. Yes! I said. As long as I can bring my other 2 roommates and we could all dress up! Done and done.

No one who attended that party will ever forget it. The 3 of us came in ridiculous costumes (A turban! A flamingo pink disco dress! Curlers in our hair!) and entered in character, complete with accents, ticks, and attitude. The very conservative party guests had no idea what to make of us. Halfway through the script I guess my roommate Kara realized that she was the killer, so she made the character choice to reapply her bright pink lipstick often, each time going a little more outside the lines. And when we got to the last part of the script, where she confessed her guilt, she uncovered her face to reveal a giant painted mouth that spread from ear to ear! As she relayed with a straight face how she had done it, the rest of of fell off our chairs laughing.

Like any decent NYC actor, I spent several years waitressing. And like any decent NYC restaurant, all the servers at Sambuca’s were creatives of some sort, so our manager encouraged us to dress in costume for Halloween. My best friend and I worked there together, so we would compare notes on our costumes, then share a cab to work, rather than take the subway or rollerblade (my favorite mode of transportation in the 90’s) so as not to embarrass ourselves too much. The first year we worked there she dressed as Hester Prynne (from The Scarlet Letter. Google it!), complete with a red “A” on her bodice and a fake baby Pearl. I had gone a slightly different direction with my costume–I was a Beauty Queen Gone Bad. Here we are:

R&L Halloween1

On our way to work that night, we were in the taxi, still 10 blocks away from work, when our driver pulls over and tells us to get out of the car. I’ve forgotten why. Maybe his cab broke down? Anyway, we were stranded and there were no cabs around. We saw one down the block that was off duty and Libby took control of the situation and told me to “hide” behind a tree on the sidewalk that was literally 4 inches in diameter. I obeyed, knowing no cab would pick me up in my weird outfit, and did my best to blend into the tree, while wearing my pink satin gown and leather dog collar. Libby took off her cap and started franticly rocking Pearl, desperately waving down the off-duty cab. He pulled right over and she commanded me to jump in quickly before the cab driver noticed me. As he was pulling away from the curb he stared at us in complete confusion. Where did that crazy blonde chick come from? Is that really a baby? That second question he asked out loud, to which Libby replied she’d tell him once we got to our destination.

The following year, she dressed as Ophelia. (From Hamlet. Google it.) She learned her speech about the flowers and recited it to ALL of her tables that night, before allowing them to order. And when they asked her who in the heck she was, she made them guess. The whole night the only person who answered correctly was a man who later that night called the restaurant, announcing himself as Hamlet wishing to speak to Ophelia and he asked her on a date. I, on the other hand, did NOT get asked on any dates that night. Because I dressed as Medusa (From Greek mythology. Google it.), complete with green snakes in my hair. I didn’t make my tables guess my costume. I announced to each of them in a loud, angry voice that I was going to turn them to stone if they didn’t order from me right away. They would all nervously giggle and try to ignore me, but I insisted and never broke character, snarling and frowning at everyone all night . It was the best night of waitressing I ever experienced.

R&L Halloween2

One is mad…

R&L Halloween3

and the other is MAD!

I don’t dress up too much anymore. I think I’m just too exhausted. And my son is not that into Halloween. But as soon as I recover from single parenting, I’m totally pulling out that red wig and tiara I’ve got in a box in the closet and coming up with some awesome props to create an obscure, insane costume.

Ooo! Maybe my dad can make me some crutches!

 

One Response to “Ms. Dressup”

  1. Thomas Lentz said

    Well I am a single parent and plan to pass out candy as Captain America. Last year I wore this costume to our Finance Dept work party and told everyone I was Captain Accounting. Maybe you can talk your church into dress up Sunday and have people dress up as a Bible character.

    Like

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