I suppose when most people approach an upcoming birthday, they remember celebrations from their past. When I have such thoughts around my birthday, I tend to recall goulish masks and scary costumes. (Thank goodness my birthday is on Halloween or else I’d need major therapy). Personally, I recall sheets worn over my head in a blinding fashion, my Man from U.N.C.L.E. mask that nearly suffocated me, and a devil costume that my mom hand-sewed for me, complete with pointy tail. As I aged into my teens, the disguises faded to the yearly dressing as a "hobo" merely to pass the costume cops so that I could beg for candy. Upon entering college, youth was reborn (with the help of a keg of Iron City Light) as I recall dressing as Zorro and a couple of other less flamboyant characters. But no costume rests deep within my memory as well as the one I wore in my late 20’s. In the early 1990’s, I not only dressed the part, I became Beetlejuice.
My incarnation as Beetlejuice occurred completely by accident. As Halloween approached in 1992, my girlfriend at the time insisted we visit Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Most areas across this country have at least one town within driving distance that is famous for their intense Halloween celebration. Chapel Hill is such a town. Every October 31, costume-clad college kids gather by the thousands to Franklin Street to display their creativity, ingenuity and depravity. (82,000 people attended the celebration this year). Three types of people gathered on "The Hill"…the observers who merely watched in amazement, the slightly-costumed who walked the streets (usually with beer in hand), and those that appeared to have been dressed by Hollywood’s best special effects artists. For this particular Halloween of 1992, I was content to be an observer, but my girlfriend insisted on dressing to some extent. I had no objections since I’ve always enjoyed the spirit of the holiday.
I found an old pair of surgical scrubs and frizzed out my hair (which was a LOT longer back then) so that I’d look like a mad doctor. I added black circles around my eyes for that crazed effect. I have to admit, for a 30-minute plan, my costume looked pretty decent. We ventured to Chapel Hill, parking about ½ mile away, and was immediately lost in the crowd. I was amazed, as this was my first visit to the celebration. Frat brothers dressed as a group of Vikings riding a boat…9-foot tall monsters…and plenty of other expertly dressed partygoers. And as I said before, there were thousands of costumed individuals roaming the street. However, no mater where I walked, I kept hearing someone yell, "Beetlejuice!" Being a fan of the movie, I kept looking around for someone donning the black and white striped suit and a hideous mask, but I never saw such a person. "Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!" It finally dawned on us that they were yelling at me! While my focus was on the mad-scientist look, I never realized that I had such a resemblance to Beetlejuice, but in fact, the hair and the black eyes created a remarkable likeness. From that point on, I claimed to be dressed as Beetlejuice, but in surgical scrubs.
The next year, I found a white sports coat and white pants at the Goodwill store and applied black duct tape all over. I also let my hair grow out from the beginning of August until Halloween and bought an assortment of "Beetlejuice-like" props such as large bugs to chew on and plenty of green, black, red and white make-up. I also rented the movie and watched it several times so that I could learn the nuances and voice. By All Hallow’s Eve, I had transformed into Beetlejuice.
I must have pulled it off, because I won several costume contests over the next few years. One award was given at a friend’s party where everyone pitched in 5 bucks. I think I won about $150. I also entered a contest at an Applebee’s where I won second prize, which was a neon bar sign that I sold in a garage sale the next year. The winner was a very bosomy Elvira. Most of the judges were male. The biggest prize and thrill of the season was when I attended a contest at local bar. Hundreds of folks gathered and I ended up winning "Best Impersonation." First prize was a trip for two to the Bahamas. You would be amazed at how many attractive women hit on a Beetlejuice-looking guy when he has such a prize in his possession. However, I never cashed in on that prize. It turned out there were too many fees involved to make it anywhere near "free."
The greatest reward I received as Beetlejuice was on trick-or-treat nights. The neighborhood kids delighted at seeing Beetlejuice greet them at the door, although admittedly, the younger ones were a little intimidated. I probably caused many children to have a fear of clowns after the parents assured the tikes that I was "just a clown." But the funny thing is that kids would come by in the summer time and ask if Beetlejuice was going to be back the next year. Even the ones that were scared asked that. Despite the silliness of it all, the kids liked it. And that is a better reward than any neon sign or faux trip to the Bahamas.
The Beetlejuice costume has been long tossed aside…partly because my hair (what’s left of it) just couldn’t take the punishment, and mostly because I’ve moved on to other things in my life. I have a new "girlfriend" (I now call her "wife") and I have two little trick-or-treaters of my own. Perhaps one day I’ll resurrect Beetlejuice, but right now, he’s best tucked away as a pleasant birthday memory. From here on out, my future memories will include Spiderman and a Ladybug, and whatever else my little ones dress up as in the future. And those memories will be better than ever.