The “Battling Bugs.” It was Halloween day, and we hadn’t made any costume plans, my partner getting fed up with my indecisiveness about going out or not, saying fuck it, we were staying home. About 2 PM I went out into the garage, foraging around for ideas. Eureka, inspiration!
In the next 3 hours, I:
- went to JC Penny and bought us both red pantyhose
- went to a theatrical costume shop that also sold party wear & novelty items, where I got green grease paint, those springy bug antenna you wear on your head, and a giant flyswatter, nearly 3 feet long
- borrowed a soft backpack from our next-door neighbors, that roughly matched one we had ourselves
- created on our printer and printed out a label to paste over a huge, oversized can of Lysol aerosol spray we had at home, that read “BUG SPRAY” & “POISON” with skull & crossbones symbols
Our costumes were the red pantyhose with our own matching white Jockey shorts worn outside over them, plain white socks and white gym shoes. For shirts we used his short-sleeve green hospital scrubs, tucked in and turned around backwards for a high collar. The green grease paint went on our faces and exposed hands & arms, the bug antenna on our heads.
I stuffed the 2 soft backbacks with crumpled newspapers to fill them out but keep them light, and we put those on. Over them we draped two of my black nylon motorcycle covers that I had found in the garage, that had given me the idea, with their hems drawn up by bult-in elastic cords that ran all around them. The hump-backed cape effect was somewhat beetle-like.
We rehearsed some lines I created, and off we went to our gay club a little after 6. There was a judging around 10, with a panel at a long table on the stage where we had our drag shows. Our turn came to step up and be questioned & judged. We spoke loudly so the watching audience of several hundred could hear us.
“So what is your costume?” asked the chief judge. This was the annual routine that I had anticipated, and what I had based our little "skit" upon that we had prepared.
“We are the Battling Bugs!” I answered.
“No, we’re not!” my partner corrected me angrily. “We’re Infuriated Insects!”
“Battling Bugs!” I snapped back in a rising, near-falsetto voice.
“Infuriated Insects!” he shouted back at me.
“You never let me choose!” I started to whine hysterically. “It’s all about you!” “You, you, you! It’s always what YOU want! Well, I have rights, too! I have…”
At this point he produced that giant, oversized flyswatter, and started to slap me with it. The crowd was now roaring in laughter. I briefly half fell down, but got back up on my feet.
“That’s it!” I screamed shrilly. “That’s the last time you ever do that to me!” I now produced the aerosol can from where I had it tucked in a backpack pouch, hidden under my “beetle” cape. I held it aloft for a moment, for the audience to see the label clearly.
“Take that!” I yelled, and started to spray generally in his direction. The stage lights highlighted the mist perfectly. He grabbed his throat and started to choke. He staggered and fell down on the stage onto his back, his convulsing arms & legs in the air, like the “dying cockroach” pose Army Drill Sergeants sometimes made us trainees do, while I continued to spray. Finally he “died.”
The audience was roaring, cheering & applauding, and so were the judges. We won the costume contest, and a few hundred dollars, recouping everything I'd spent and then some.
Lesson: think out of the box, be creative, every object is a potential costume item & inspiration. And DO SOMETHING WITH IT, don’t just stand there like a lump. Create a costume with a STORY.