It was a simple idea: we asked our writers to share their best Halloween costumes and tell us a little about them. Of course, our writers are creative geniuses, so they had some pretty great responses. Here, in no particular order, are some of the best Halloween costumes of all time:
This is perhaps a simple and straight forward choice but the Halloween costume that I felt most transformed and transported by was the time, two years ago, when my friend Lisa and I went to a party as Angela Chase and Rayanne Graff. Not only was this my first foray into the world of the couples costume, but I got to pay homage to seriously the best television show ever, AND I got to be Rayanne. In my heart I feel very much like Angela (don’t we all?), pining, swooning, having crushes that go on way too long and staring off dreamily; but going out acting like ourselves is not really the point of Halloween. So I took a break from my usual lazy tradition of wearing a tiara or a fur coat or a pair of wings and calling myself a ho, and actually attempted to assemble a get-up that was vaguely Rayanne-ish. And it was fun! For one fantastic night I got to be the charismatic, daring, mess of a friend who just sleeps with Jordan Catalano instead of pining after him (kind of refreshing, really). Bonus points that a cute, tattooed waiter at the restaurant where we had dinner walked up to the table, exclaimed, “Angela and Rayanne,” and gave us free drinks for being the best costumes he’d seen all night. He was pretty cute, and Rayanne probably would have gotten wasted and slept with him, but at the end of the night, I unbraided my hair, took off my '90s flowered stockings (not pictured) and went back to being my dreamy, swoony, self.
My sister-in-law has a huge Halloween party every year, and the pressure to have a rad costume is high. My friend came up with the gnome idea and we basically stole it from her. We were broke and all we needed was cheap fake beards and a big piece of red paper to pull it off. My contact lenses were bugging me, so I had to wear glasses, and my husband wore some fake glasses in solidarity so we could look like scholarly gnomes.
Side note: My friend who came up with the gnome idea dressed like a zombie bee (zombee!) and her boyfriend dressed as Hunter S. Thompson. As two gnomes and a zombee, I thought we looked like Hunter S. Thomson's hallucinations had come to life.
This is me in college with Alicia, my girlfriend at the time, as Team Rocket, the villains from the Pokemon TV series. At one point in the night we got drunk enough to recite the whole rhyme the characters would use to announce their presence in every episode of the show. Our friend Gonzi videotaped it, and we immediately began cajoling him into promising not to ever show it to anyone. He still uses it to blackmail us from time to time.
Off-the-Grid Halloween is not a costume per se, but a particularly painful part of my childhood existence from ages 9-15 where my parents forced me to live like a social practice hipster, before there was such a thing, in the Sierra Nevada mountains on 800 acres of private property. Living off-the-grid during my formative years meant there was no Long's Drugs to buy a simple, cool, masked costume like a Ninja Turtle. I do have to give props to my artsy mom, who resourcefully dug through her own closet to come up with the two outfits pictured. In the first photo, I remember telling people repeatedly I was dressed as an "old lady," not a confused gypsy dwarf with enormous feet. In the other, my friend Camille and I pushed my mom's pregnancy clothes to their stretchy limits as "a lemon and a blueberry." Living off-the-grid also meant there was only one "neighborhood" of trailers parked close enough together down a desolate, unlit gravel street to warrant a trick-or-treat through the dark with a flashlight and pillowcase in hand while you were trembling with fear of both mountain lions and carnies. However, if your friends' parents were generous enough to drive you kids the hour's trip to "town" (Nevada City)--mine believed it was ridiculous to dress up for Halloween past age 8--you could experience what you assumed all other kids took for granted: street-lit paved roads with quaint Victorian cottages decked out in spooky decorations that gave away whole candy bars! When you made it back from the promised land in a sugary haze in the middle of the night, it sunk in slowly that tomorrow all you would have were the memories of one night of real childhood and a fistful of snickers bars 'til next year.
It was 2002, my first year away from home, when I made the rules. Back then I only lived to get radical. Everything was hilarious, and Halloween was no exception. My roommates and I decided to host a real rager of a party, something that would later come to make the University of Pittsburgh police blotter. And so we did. As hostess with the mostess, I strived to not only provide my guests with the keg beer I had craftily (albeit illegally) procured, but also a good time and lots of laughs. So I did what any girl would in my situation, I swapped the “sexy” version of my Halloween getup for a silly one. Mary Catherine Gallagher had left the Saturday Night Live limelight back in 2001 but that didn’t stop me from re-appropriating my friend’s Catholic school sweater vest into one of my all-time favorite Halloween costumes. Finally, my “totally necessary” prescription glasses had some use. With a long black wig covering my trademark bleach-blonde hair, and a punky plaid miniskirt attempting to cover my bum, I awkwardly held my hands in my armpits, releasing them, occasionally, to sniff them, and took every opportunity to excitedly jump into the air only to fall on the closest hard surface (e.g. our coffee table). I refused to break character even as I hopped our backyard fence to avoid the police at the front door. In 2002, I really gave it my all.
When I first moved to San Francisco in August 2007, I was ready to take the city by storm and experience all I could. I randomly scored an apartment in the center of the Castro, right across from the theater. Coming from a rather conservative city, I was ready to express myself in the center of American gayness. The first major holiday ahead was Halloween. I had always enjoyed the holiday in the past, dressing up as a bottle of hot sauce, a buddy list, a restaurant menu. But little did I know it was a major event in San Francisco, specifically my new neighborhood. Drawing inspiration from the 1954 classic The Red Balloon, I decided I would be a hot air balloon rider. It was a simple costume to assemble, really: a suit and bowtie, a wicker basket, and a 3.5-foot red balloon I had inflated with helium on Halloween day. I was lucky this specific party store had the perfect ribbon to hold the balloon in place. I was ready for all the tricks and treats a new kid in his new neighborhood could handle! I could hear the laughter of people as they spilled onto the street below my bedroom window. The only thing was I couldn’t quite move in the costume. I mean slowly, sure, but any slight gust and I was tangled in the mire of ribbon. And then I got the phone call from my friend Kate who uttered the four words no one in San Francisco wants to hear on Halloween: We’re going to Oakland. The party across the bridge ended up being mediocre and I mainly hung out with a cardboard robot in the corner. We shrugged and bonded over being unmovable. I thought it was funny too, because the only thing I really wanted to do the entire night, was float away.
Last year I decided to go extreme public media employee and take my costume from a story I heard on the radio about a beluga whale that made sounds that sounded like human speech. Because the only other interest I had at that point was the Giants, I made NOC a shirt that said: "Beluga Loves Giants" with a stencil and spray paint. Pictured above: NOC winning the work game of musical chairs. One thing I have in common with the talking beluga whale: I'm extremely competitive.
Halloween took precedent over Christmas in my house as a kid; we were always more the Addams Family than the Waltons. Between my grandmother's sewing abilities, my mother's love of dressing up her children and both my parents being game for any ultra-abstract or super specific concepts we dreamed up, my younger brother and I have some good costumes between us (see the year he went as a very believable Richard Nixon circa age 8.) I discovered Star Wars in time for my first school-aged Halloween and planned to go as my childhood hero du jour: Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight. It was extremely important to me that when describing my costume people use the full title. I wasn't just going as Luke Skywalker: I was specifically Luke after completing his training in Return of the Jedi. Seriously, he didn't get an off-screen Jedi Knighthood to be called "Mr. Skywalker." This costume was chosen for a number of well thought-out reasons. 1. Obviously full Jedi Luke is the most powerful. I thought dressing up as him would also allow me to move things with my mind (it still might, I haven't given up hope.) 2. I was deeply uncomfortable wearing white after Labor Day so the iconic Tataouine tunic from the first movie was clearly out. 3. Jedi Luke wore a cape AND a hood. These were really important parts of my fashion lexicon at age five. The outfit came together easily (awesome cape, even had the one glove to cover the robot hand) but the accessories were a problem. You just couldn't be a Jedi Knight without a green lightsaber. Since this was sort of a sleepy time for the merchandising between the original trilogy and the prequels, they weren't exactly selling lightsabers at the local toy store. How my mother, pre-internet, pre-eBay managed to track down a green lightsaber from the original toy run I'll never know but like I said, we take Halloween very seriously in my family. I'd also like to point out that since this was an early '80s lightsaber you had to make the noises yourself which is half the fun of playing lightsaber. If I could put "proficient at lightsaber sound effects" as a special skill on my résumé I totally would.
For arts stories you won’t read anywhere else, come to KQED’s Arts and Culture desk.