In the center of the city’s long bohemian tradition, it’s a night for children and a night for everyone else to remember why children have so much fun. It’s a night for bizarre encounters.
On the way to Sixth Avenue from Astor Place, a policeman at the entrance to Washington Square Park bars entrance to a pudgy gladiator. “Sorry, the park’s closed, he says.” And then, after receiving a quizzical look, adds, “If you had your sword, maybe we’d let you in.”
Another woman asks a policewoman how to get to the C and E train. “It’s that way,” she says and points downtown. “I’m not really a cop, by the way.” At this, the woman walking toward the subway glances back to notice the policewoman is handcuffed to another woman in broad-striped, cartoon-like prison attire, complete with one of those striped beanies and holding a ball and chain. All three of them can only smile.
A woman with a (fake) bullet hole in her head says to a (real) cop, “I like your costume.” The cop says, “Yeah, I like yours, too.”
One trend easy to note on this unseasonably warm New York October 31st is the abundance of skin. Judging by the women tonight, someone might suppose there are no dowdy nurses or chaste catholic schoolgirls in America. Only a vast procession of sexy nurses, sexy school girls, sexy devils, sexy angels, sexy teachers and even—Lord forgive her—a sexy nun.
A Greek chorus of ghost-faced “Dead Presidents” perches on top of newspaper dispensers and provides a running commentary on the parade of costumes that runs up and down the sidewalk beside the parade. They give mad props to the pimps, taunt the nerds with cries of “Waldo!” cross themselves in mock pious deference to the priests, ask of the udderless cow-man, “Got Milk?” and chant “Let’s go Marlins!” at the pinstriped Yankees. The scantily clad women receive crass double entendres. To the sexy nurses: “Can you take my temperature?” To the sexy teachers: “Mommy, can you teach me a lesson?”
The women accelerate and the crowd eats it up.
Meanwhile, on Sixth Avenue, the actual parade advances uptown from Spring Street to Chelsea attended by as may as two million participants and spectators. Puppet skeletons hover overhead accompanied by marching bands and a float featuring grand marshal Audrey II from the Broadway revival of “Little Shop of Horrors.”
Josh Dankowitz of West Orange, N.J., dressed as an army soldier with a deep neck gash and a gaping chest wound walks past a man in overalls simply wearing the Michael Myers mask from the “Halloween” movies. “Now that’s scary,” he says.
That mask, famously created on short notice and a low budget on the set of the 1979 John Carpenter film was originally a William Shattner Star Trek mask painted over in white. Now that’s scary.
Paul Sansone of Bellport, Long Island exhibits perhaps a less inspired makeshift costume. “I was late getting out of work today,” he says in response to the question, “Why are you wearing a FedEx envelope on your head?”
It wouldn’t be American culture if Halloween didn’t inspire the distasteful, yet requisite shots at celebrities. Seigfried and Roy avatars march the parade route waving and smiling with stuffed tigers clamped at their bloody necks. A woman stuffs her pants with a rear-end sign identifying her protruding rump as “J-Lo.” A man walks by wearing a sweatshirt over a green turtle neck and a 1980’s-style walkman over his Chicago Cubs cap, in mock tribute to infamous interfering Cubs fan Steve Bartman.
But it’s all in good fun, this childish night in such a grown-up city.
As the parade disburses to the surrounding Greenwich Village restaurants and bars, Richard Scheffer with flowing robes, a wig of bedraggled white locks meeting his full white false beard, large wooden staff and cardboard tablets in hand, proclaims in a somewhat less-than-booming voice, “Thou shalt buy for Moses…many drinks!”