From hoop skirts to Who Dats, on any given day in New Orleans, you can find many people in costumes for many reasons. But there are a few days when the city pulls out all the stops and Halloween is definitely one of them. We started the weekend with a pumpkin carving party. Pumpkin seeds rolled in cayenne, salt and cumin toasted in the oven while we all carved around a large dining table with horror movies playing on the TV.
Of the 7 pumpkins, I expected to see 6 jack-o-lanterns and one second-annual Boo Dat pumpkin. (That’s right, last year’s pumpkin was so nice, we made it twice). Instead, there were elaborately carved faces with flames for lips, an arched cat and 2 fleur de lis among the amazing pumpkins everyone made. I’m a pretty crafty person, but creativity comes so naturally here and has so many outlets, that I’m almost never the most creative person in a room anymore.
Though I didn’t costume up this year, I took some time to visit the recently opened Southern Costume Company, a full service costume and wardrobe rental house that has to be seen to be believed. For the layperson, they provide a 9,000 foot warehouse filled to brimming with cartoon characters, cavemen, Revolutionary war uniforms from the movie The Patriot, flapper dresses and more. Rentals, including shoes, hats and accessories, run from $50 to $350 and last 7 days. For the film industry, they also provide cages, office space, on-site seamstresses, supplies, custom costume orders and manufacturing, group discounts and street-level freight and loading.
Walking through the racks begins as a journey through time, starting at the dawn of man and traveling row by row through Medieval times, the Civil War and the 1960’s. In addition to the racks of superheroes and “zombie formal” and “zombie daywear,” there are pedestrian outfits like the waiter and police officer uniforms used in HBO’s Treme.
Owner, Wingate Jones, was a second-generation Hollywood costumer for over 25 years wardrobing such movies as Top Gun and Ferris Buellers Day Off. He moved to New Orleans in 1997 but left his love of costumes behind until recently. In a city where no one has closets but everyone manages to have a “costume closet,” Jones’ shop promises to provide New Orleanians with reasonably priced costumes without the need to make space for storing a hoop skirt or a puffy dinosaur.
This year’s Krewe of Halloween parade was cancelled due to a rumored family dispute. Without the motivation to head to Decatur Street in a costume, we meandered through the masses on Bourbon Street for a few blocks. I remember loving the crowds wandering the barricaded street when I used to visit New Orleans. Now, the crowds of drunken out-of-towners can be a bit much but I still love watching everyone enjoying the music and food and falling in love with the magic of this city. We stumbled onto some people holding a long strand of Mardi Gras beads while others limbo danced under it. I video-recorded the one holding a “Hand Grenade” boozy drink as he stumbled onto the ground then laughed and got back in line. Another highlight was watching one of the city’s new pedicabs (“cabs” driven by bicyclers) roll by with 2 gladiators riding in the back. The effect was very chariot-like.
Halloween means many things to many people but I was thrilled to be treated to a movie marathon specially selected with my distaste for gore in mind. Friday was Ghostbusters, Poltergeist (one of my all time favorites) and John Carpenter’s The Thing. Saturday was Gremlins, It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, Ghost Breakers (a Bob Hope/Paulette Goddard film and the only one I turned off – not for gore but for the far scarier portrayal of the movie’s only black man), Shaun of the Dead, Bride of Frankenstein, Beetlejuice and, last but not least, Rocky Horror Picture Show.
I may never have been a perfect fit in Los Angeles, but movies still perfectly fit me and some of our best were designed to scare us. Between viewing Michael Keaton’s head spin and observing drunken revelers dressed as Teletubbies holding up traffic while dancing in the street, I had a near perfect Halloween weekend. If you’re a Saints fan, you must know which “horror movie” I could barely stand to watch…
Enjoy a minute on Bourbon Street and some photos of the weekend.