This is an image heavy post. Pics up top are small, pics toward the bottom are slightly bigger. Click any to Embiggen.
At first I felt guilty for not staying home to pass out candy, which is enormous fun, despite the occasional idiot. But with Halloween on a Saturday, combined with my having been in nonstop work mode for about six weeks and desperately needing to blow off steam, I decided to accept two party invitations instead.*** When another uber-cool opportunity came up, and the organizer said it was fine if I wore the costume I was planning to wear for the evening, I threw that into the mix!
The plan for this costume was it had to be constructed from materials I already had in hand, as there is no free range money available in my household to purchase anything. I was going to build a period-accurate Elizabethan middle class suit, one that would pass the exacting muster of St. Ives, except that it would be a mummy suit!
Yes, it is an awesome idea.
Then I discovered I was out of boning needed for the bodice (consumed in other projects for friends earlier in the year I had forgotten about), and when it came right down to it? Actually I didn't feel like dealing with cartridge pleating if I couldn't also make the bodice. But I liked the idea so much I just altered the approach.
Wrap skirt for the bottom, reconstructed 3/4-length sleeve T-shirt for the top. I sacrificed my custom Chuck Norris Facts shirt for this costume. Chuck Norris does not write books. The words assemble themselves out of fear. I still can't believe my fabulous contribution to CNF did not become cannon, but I made it into a shirt for myself anyway.
What I had to work with:
About four yards of black satin leftover from a witch costume I made for a kid a couple of years ago
A giant bolt of mauve tulle, gifted by The Gardener of Eden next door
A pile of cream linen
A pile of natural muslin
The linen/muslin came out to a combined total of 13 or so yards
Two gores would work fine for this skirt, but because of additional layers involved that would take the longest to create, so that's what I made first. Because I have already drafted several base skirt patterns for myself I was able to save time by pulling a template from the closet. For this one I used my 44' length template (designed for when I'm wearing heels). O look! Cuddle Kitty in the way when I was cutting that out:
Each gore was constructed from two layers, satin and tulle. Satin the provide a firm base to hold the whole thing together, tulle to soften the color bleed when the linen and muslin were laid atop. Gores made, the linen, muslin and tulle were then cut into strips. This pic is from early in the process, there were many more before I was done:
Then it was just a matter of laying each strip down on the base one at a time:
I sewed the strips in with about 1/4- or 1/2-inch seam allowance depending, with the hope that down the road the exposed edges would become ragged.
In truth, it bothered me that this suit couldn't be all linen or all muslin, because I'm Type-A obsessive that way. To work around not having enough of either to make a solid suit, the front gore was linen, the back muslin. For the top I used a mix of both for front and back. The front was mostly linen.
Due to time constraints - I got ambushed by Unexpected Things during the build period and had to set this project aside for a bit - I did not take a single picture of the construction of the top. I finished it on Halloween, about three hours before I had to garb up and get to the show site. The short version is I took a T-shirt with long sleeves, disassembled it so it was like a butterfly chicken breast, sewed the new elements atop the front, back and sleeves, then reassembled it.
In all, it took about three weeks to build this suit. Had I not been Ambushed it would have taken about two, I think. Though I had planned to, I ran out of time and could not give the entire suit a coffee bath for false aging. That failure bothers only me. Even after splattering the final result with stage blood and clay, I think it looks entirely too clean. Nobody else who saw it had a problem with the look.
Originally this suit was made with the intent of wearing it at two parties, meaning standing around eating and drinking, or sitting around eating and drinking. Not a lot of movement. But through the fabulous people I met through Thrill The World event, word came down that a zombie team was needed to perform Halloween night at Halloween on Pine, a street fest in Long Beach. The LBC city fathers made a hefty donation to the Thrill The World LA chosen charity, Inner-City Arts, to get a team to come down for two performances during the festival and teach anyone in the crowd who was interested in learning the Thriller dance in between. (Another team performed as entertainment for the halftime show at the Clippers game that night. I don't know if the Clippers organization also made a donation to Inner-City Arts.)
I checked in with our leader, Zombie Slave Leia, to see if it was all right if I participated in my mummy costume instead of in the Red Carpet Zombie costume I wore for the big event. She said that was cool! So then all I had to worry about is if this outfit would work if I had to do a lot of dance movement in it. I would not know until we got on stage. Turns out it could!
But I did have to do a bit of last minute trimming in the 'green room,' a law office which I shed all over, and cut away some of the trailing bits on the skirt so I wouldn't trip on them.
Here's what the suit looked like from the back. Yes, the strips on the back gore are wider than those on the front. Urg.
Below, a group shot of my fantabulous zombie peeps that night. I am most jealous of the kid with blue hair, with his Most Excellent exposed ribcage outfit! (That kid could also dance up a storm):
Here's an outfit shot from the front our Zombie Slave Leia's hubby took for me. This was after I had slashed about two inches of trailing bits from the front of the skirt:
That grey on my hands and arms is potter's clay. It's also in my hair in giant chunks. Some of the stuff in my hair is leftover from the official Thrill the World event the weekend before, because I was all it'll be handy for Halloween next weekend! I added fresh clay to the hair that afternoon. As is typical when I zombie up, I later had to use pliers to get the bulk of the clay out, and it will probably be about three weeks before all of it is gone from my hair. TOTALLY WORTH IT.
The outfit was only part of the costume. Flesh wounds are necessary for zombies! My feeling about zombies is they should not have decoratively cute wounds. The wounds should be overt and gross.
As a dark-skinned zombie who has had the benefit of spending time in coroner autopsy rooms looking at a wide range of actual dead bodies, I have a sense of what brown dead bodies look like. That's why I have a personal aversion to the reverse minstrel look you often see darker skinned zombies use when they zombie up. I think this approach is taken because all of the DIY zombie makeup guides out there are predicated on white skin. That approach is perfectly fine for those with lighter skin, but it doesn't quite work for darker skin. I think that if you take an ichor approach over a traditional blood approach with darker skin zombie wounds, it works better. Happily, ichor works perfectly with mummy zombies!
Because of the length and heat of the day on the official Thrill the World event, I didn't do Serious Woundage (or for when the Zombies Of Debt rolled in Pasadena), but I did for this Halloween. I only wounded both sides of my face because I didn't have time or enough raw materials in hand to do my arms and neck. Using a combination of liquid latex, toilet paper, black/blue/purple greasepaint, crackle, and clotting fake blood I built up two disgusting wounds. That only took about 45 minutes:
Okay, maybe you can't see the gradient of bruise effect in that picture, but you could in real life.
What does all this come down to? Awesome Halloween!
*** I had one party invite in Long Beach, one invite to a hootenany in Hollywood. After our performance I wandered around for about an hour trying to find the LBC party site, only to end up in San Pedro the first time and Wilmington the second. I just suck at navigating the Here Be Dragons Lands outside of LA proper - especially at night, and eventually gave up. Headed back to the Silver City, hit up the H'wood party for a short time, then went home to shower and fling Moiself into bed.
Update! Record set. As of this update (Oct. 29, 2009) 22,923 dancers, in 32 countries, participating in 278 global events, raised $85K for 80 different charities worldwide. ROCK ON.
Here's our Thrilling in Los Angeles, in the plaza between the Nokia and the movie theater. If you know where to look you can see me dancing for a good four minutes, total! (Warning - shooter never stops moving the camera for some reason, so look away when you get dizzy. On the other hand, my guess is shooter was perhaps trying to get a little bit of everybody in at least once.)
Word is the participant count for TTWLA is around 2,300. Pulling on extensive experience elsewhere, I'm calling that number off. I think more people danced than officially registered. That felt more like a neighborhood of 4- to 5-K crowd to me.
Since you don't know where to look above, a couple of screencaps!, helpfully labeled "ME" (in the handwriting of H.P. Lovecraft).
I made tons more, but I think that's enough. O wait, I like this one:
I could hear Moi chattering on his video - fave line Ooo I just saw my hair on the jumbotron! He also accidentally got a shot of Moi on-the-ground at the start of the dance. He was a nice kid:
Oo, here's a still from Gary Leonard, in whose gallery I see parts of myself all over the place, but only this one near-whole body shot! Really, it's like Where's Waldo. This pic is from one of the early rehearsals. I'm just happy I have a pic of me taken by the great Gary Leonard. (It's not just me. When it comes to chronicling Los Angeles, it's like if Gary Leonard didn't shoot it? It didn't happen.0 No, really. If Gary didn't shoot it, it didn't happen.I took his picture once because he happened to walk in front of me at a Thing. Still giggle about that. Man o man, to get a look at his archives...
Then there was this, which I found out about on Monday when the CrackBerry exploded. For the record "it was horrors" was not what I meant to say. I was ambushed after 3 hours straight of teaching day-of newbies the dance; there was a disconnect between what was in my head and what came out of my mouth. As usual:
I've got a bunch of posed shots of me with various uberFun people, but that's enough. I'll hold onto those for myself.
So basically, Sunday was sleep for a very long time, then do as little as possible. I pretty much just searched for photos and videos all day, astonished and delighted watching all of the different videos from all over the world. I must have went through at least 200 of them, but I'm calling these two teens from Sao Paulo my fave:
I shall explain why these two are my fave at a yet-to-be-determined later date. I'll also add the one thing I found hilarious after the fact. At the time, after three hours, I was like PLEASE SOMEBODY COME SAVE ME.
The memory of myself at age 9, hysterically delirious with joy at my very first concert, watching The Jackson 5 at the Front Row Theater.
Mom, who took me to that concert.
James, who could bust out some MJ moves like you wouldn't believe.
Mrs. & Mr. Classy, by request.
In solidarity with the Truth of this column, particularly the graph excerpted below.
O and also this poem, which Alice Walker wrote in 1991.
This is going to be a blast!
Update (short version)! It was phenomenal day. Longer version later.
"The beauty and power of Michael Jackson, particularly in the first 30 or so years of his life, was that he was black. It’s important to stress and explain that because in this “post-race/post-black” moment, it’s become obvious that a lot of Negroes rushing to free themselves from the so-called shackles of blackness, aided by “colorblind” and “progressive” non-Negroes, don’t even know what blackness is: Working like a dog while mired in poverty in Gary, Indiana — endless rehearsals, mastering backbreaking craftsmanship, sweltering under the heat of a father’s dream deferred — all while aiming for a big time mapped out by sweat, hope and faith; that’s black. Not letting your lack of material comforts impede your forward motion; that’s black. Being rooted in the working-class/struggling-class vortex of innovation, perseverance and resilience that has birthed all the Negro musical r/evolutions in this country; that’s black. Building effortlessly on the past and setting a whole new bar for the future; blacker than black. Exercising the prerogative of organic genius by laying claim to shit that already exists and just making it your own; B-l-a-c-k. Mapping the template and setting the pace that will govern the globe; b-b-b-b-black. Coming of age amid proud shouts of “Black is beautiful” and effortlessly embodying the adage, but somehow getting infected with the centuries-old disease of white supremacy and internalized racism that will have you repeatedly take a knife to your natural-born beauty, that’s so very black. Being universal in your struggles and triumphs just by being you: black."
Because after a long time yakking about it, this year I'm actually going to participate in Thrill the World!
The LA event takes place Oct. 24 in the giant, blinky, freshly-minted LA Live mall the city fathers and their developer buddies built downtown. Practice sessions have been going on throughout the region in public spaces such as parks & libraries, at businesses, in homes and I've heard of a couple of ambushed parking lots, but my schedule is such that I didn't have time to hit one up until last night.
Here we are about to start the sixth or seventh run-through (there's tons more people behind me and off to the right. Most were locals, but I talked to people who came in from Pasadena, Long Beach and the IE just for this. Wowie.):
More than one person on the ground looking up at the jet black sky blazing with arclights from the surrounding towers went 'wow, it's so pretty up there'. Our city is a fabulocity of urban. We who live in it tend not to lay on the ground and look up.
I didn't take a lot of CrackBerry shots due to not being able to take pictures and concentrate on not screwing up shoulder-step-nothing-step-shoulder-shoulder-back-shoulder at the same time.
The instructors were a combination of pro dancers and TTW veterans, and they were Made of Awesome. This session kind of broke into two groups. One was lead by a woman called The Queen Zombie, a pro dancer who was lithe, gorgeous, personable, flexible. The other was lead by a guy whose name I got, but did not write down, so by the time I got home I forgot it. It started with an M. Update! His name is Mahdroo.
The Queen Zombie started off slowly, but then moved at a pro pace that I could not keep up with. Think A Chorus Line - here are the moves, got it? here are the next moves, go - which was uber-cool to watch, but left my I'm Not One Of Those Black People Who Can Dance, Actually, in the dust.
Then I noticed the guy in a green T-shirt off to the left, leading a small group with whom he was breaking things down slowly using mnemonic tricks. One of the people near in my group joked "that's the remedial class." And I was allo really? Yay!and shifted over into his group. For me, that made all the difference, even though I'm still kind of sucky with everything that comes after down-clap-slide-set-shift-roar-stomp. I'll figure it out by showtime. The two groups would merge for complete run-throughs lead by Queen Zombie.
Here's me with M and the cheery guy to whom I loaned a pen (but I didn't write down his name, either..his T-shirt reads "free hugs" which immediately made me think warm fuzzy thoughts of CCI) after 2.5 hours of practice. You can see M in this video from tv news shot that morning. He's the one in the top hat.
I wanted a pic with the Queen, but didn't get one. Though it will be a zoo that day, I'll try to get one with her come showtime, because she is indeed made of Fabulous.
Basically, what the instructors do is teach you the dance cold. These volunteer veteran dancers - pro and enthusiast - are sprinkled throughout all of the practice sessions in the region. They know they're dealing largely with everyday people; their approach is one of positivity; they don't care if you're not a dancer, they just want you to have fun and do your best. They are there to help you bring your A-Game. I'm saying this because the TTW homeport has a bit of Stern Messaging about how exact you need to be with the dancing, which could scare folks off. You don't have to be perfect dancer. You do have to be committed to it though, and if you are your ! Woo Joy ! will come through in your performance and you won't suck as bad as you think you do.
I think anyone who would think of participating is already There with their whole heart, and probably not as bad as they think as far as their dancing abilities. Once the group gathers for show, and the energy is crackling among all and the group mind forms? You'll be fine. (But you do need to practice ahead of time so you can tune in. You can't Grock if you're not prepared to pick up the Frequency. Ask Kenneth. He'll tell you all about that part.) This is preparation:
Anywho, for the LA Thriller dance the dress code is Red Carpet Zombies! Which makes sense. Era doesn't matter, style does. The main firm rule is no T-shirts. The second rule is don't wear anything that will hurt your feelings once the costuming people throw blood all over it and shred it. If I had gotten off my ass over the past 1.5 years and made myself a full set of Victorians, that's what I'd wear next week. But I haven't, so I will be wearing my $8 do-over prom dress, since it was purchased over the summer with zombie action streetwork in mind. (Rev. Billy has a choir. I dream of a mobile social justice strikeforce comprised of zombies.) I will also clay my dreads that morning, with full knowledge that I will be dealing with clay in my hair for at least three weeks after. TOTALLY worth it.
What else? Oh! What I didn't realize until I showed up is that LA Live still has the MJ panels from the events that happened after his death still on site, mixed in with new panels for the soon to be released rehearsal footage/film. People wrote tributes all over the new as they had the old:
Because I will never be other than what I am, what was one huge thing I immediately noted about just this one practice for the home team? Latinos, Blacks, Filipinos, Whites, Mulits, all gathered together trying to figure out the dance and having a great time. I've seen pictures of what's happened at some of the other practice sessions, and most of them maintain that diversity.
I love this town!
Update! A very small part of the Santa Monica practice group on Saturday, lead by a guy from Africa. You can't see him in the shot because he's at the front with the non-remedial group. The guy in black was the remedial group leader:
Days later update! So many people showed up for the rehearsal in the Valley (they can call it North Hollywood all they want, but we on The Other Side Of The Hill know the score) that the room in this dance studio was over capacity, and they had to open up another room.
Even later update! The organizers also put together something called Express Practices. These were 1-hour sessions held in corp-heavy areas during lunch hour! How considerate is that?! One was held Friday in downtown LA in a grassy area in front of the Central Library. Here is our instructor manipulating one of the THREE security guys who showed up from Maguire Properties, trying to tell us to go away. This had a happy ending, mainly due to how she handled it. She told the security guys to get their supervisors down here, probably knowing that would take a while, and then just had us quietly working through the moves while they were dealing with that. Eventually they gave up, but left two security guards in place in case we - I dunno, zombie rioted or something - and we finished our practice. The privatization of public spaces thing that some of us rage about and the rest of you go Who Cares? Small example of why that's a problem. Small, less serious example of why this kind of thing (citizen use of public-yet-private spaces) has ended up in the California Supreme Court. For the record, the security guards who showed up were fabulous, in that they did not do what they could have done about us dancing on their grass in front of the city library. More than that I will not say.
Moving on, here is a sucky CrackBerry night shot one of the final rehearsals at Pan Pacific Park down on Beverly. Three groups of zombies dancing at starter/intermediate/advanced levels. We had a beautiful moon above. At this moment I can't remember if it was waxing or waning, and I don't feel like looking it up, but it was gorgeous. One of the dancers who hit up an outdoor session in Santa Monica earlier in the week said that while they were Thrilling, the marine layer rolled in, as it does in that part of the region, and they Thrilled through deep fog.