Insert drum fill.
So it came to pass in 3rd Grade that, after having been a "cute" character for Halloween in 2nd Grade, I was ready to be something a bit more scary in 3rd Grade.
That prior year, we were all riding high off the release of ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, and my grandmother, having no idea what an ET was, sewed me an ET costume. I was freaking cute as hell, but it was also a warm autumn in the Spring, Texas area, and I'd mostly remembered sweating through the shirt I'd work under the costume and wanting to take the mask off at every opportunity so I could release some of the heat building up inside. It was like wearing a ski-mask in 80+ degree temperatures.
So, somehow the summer before 3rd Grade, I began considering going out as Dracula. Both The Wolfman and The Mummy seemed to have the same "mask in humid Houston" issue, and I couldn't figure out where to secure a Frankenstein head except via a paper-mache project I was fairly certain I'd just sweat through, anyway.
I made a list of what I'd need to become Dracula, looked at pictures, and was certain that my Dracula would not be a plastic-apron-costume variety with those pokey plastic face masks. But...
1) Dracula's opera-tuxedo costume was not something one could easily get their hands on, and
2) the more I looked at Dracula, the more I felt he was a bit of a dandy in our modern, 80's, Casey Kasem-driven-era
Before you get clever: No, if I start a snide, indie-rock band, I am already calling us Count Dracula Jr.
My Dracula, Count Dracula Jr., would be an 80's sort of vampire. I would have a cape and fangs, because both of those things could be bought at Eckerd's Drug Store, if I could get my mom to buy them. But the rest - and this was the selling point - could be made from what I already had, sort of. I'd just wear jeans and sneakers... and , "see, mom, I'm really saving money. You're practically losing money if you don't invest in Count Dracula, Jr.".
In my head, Count Dracula, Jr. had a back story of being the honest-to-god offspring of Dracula and one of his brides (no, I don't know how, either), but who had come to the US of A and become an 80's action-horror guy. I might even tie a bandana around one leg.
But... in jeans, t-shirt, plastic fangs and red-nylon cape (yes, I talked her into it), how would I convey my identity? How would it be clear to folks who I was? I had a branding problem.
At the time, even if you showed up at someone's doorstep as something recognizable as Superman, it was entirely likely the Halloween costume you had on (if you got one of the store-bought, plastic apron costumes) had the name of the character emblazoned upon the chest, and likely an image of that character, in order to clue in the hapless sweet old lady who'd never heard of "Dr. Strange" or "Aquaman".
|70's and 80's Halloween costumes - leaving no room for mistaken identity|
"Mom," I explained, "I need a white t-shirt and some markers."
"You're going to draw your own costume?"
And because it was easier to let me do my own thing rather than watch me stress about it, and because it would keep me busy and quiet for a while, The KareBear bought me a 3-pack of t-shirts. I slaved over the first two, still utterly screwing them up, but on the third, I managed to somehow mostly get the letters all on there spelled correctly, and you could barely tell I'd run out of space as I went from left to right.
But... Just a name? That seemed like it might leave some ambiguity, and that wasn't going to work- not when Count Dracula, Jr. made his debut.
I went to work, adding a few flourishes.
I no longer have the shirt, but it wound up basically like this:
|terror has a new name|
I was aware that this might not be exactly as blood-curdlingly terrifying as I'd hoped, but I think it was clear what I was going for, and I really liked that red, nylon cape.
A number of things conspired against me before Halloween set in.
1) After a test-run, I realized that the plastic fangs really, really hurt. I couldn't wear them for more than three minutes without worrying that my gums would start bleeding.
2) My neighbor, Stevie, let me know he was going to be Dracula. He'd gotten permission to wear church-slacks and a white church shirt, and his dad was going to put Kiwi shoe polish in his hair, so he could have a great Lugosi-coif. He also had a black cape made out of material that wasn't a fire hazard that was pretty cool.
"We can go as father and son!" he declared. This, of course, broke the narrative I had in mind for Count Dracula, Jr.
3) Finally, I explained to Jason what I was going to do.
"So you're a made-up character?"
"That you made-up yourself?"
"And you think people will know what you are?"
I considered the shirt and wondered how I had failed to disambiguate the situation.
"I'm just not sure people will know what you are."
To his credit, he didn't make fun, nor did he tell me I was a dummy (his usual reaction to my hair-brained schemes). But come Halloween morning, I looked at the pieces of my costume and wore just regular old clothes to school. Stevie showed up on the bus in full Dracula regalia. He looked, I thought, a bit like a kid with gross hair en-route to church. He'd been asked to leave the cape at home by his folks.
That afternoon I got home and went through my toy chest. I grabbed a plastic space helmet and a wooden sword and shield. I put on the cape and thought it pretty obvious: I was going as a Space Knight.
At every door, the old ladies and moms smiled at Stevie in his Dracula cape and gross hair, and then looked at me and said "what are you?"
"A space knight!" I'd declare. But by the fifth house, I was a little down.
Sadly, Count Dracula Jr. never saw the light of day, nor dark of night. He never managed to make it out to secure Tricks-or-Treats. He more or less wound up as a t-shirt which lived at the bottom of my drawer straight through high school, long after the shirt would no longer have fit.
I'm still a little sad Count Dracula, Jr. has never made an appearance. But maybe one day.