Monday, July 13, 2009

Long ago & far away, the third part

By now, you must begin to see how my world view, life's ambitions and basic philosophical foundation were formed, informed, malformed, from the beginning.

I started young.

Yes, very young.
Here's the smile I wear every year, all October long; this photo was taken in October of '68, the very first October I ever knew.
See? Even then, I was enthralled. This is in my baby book; 'Oct. 1968' is in my Mom's handwriting so I know it's true. My mother never lies.

The next photo I could find was in the same baby book, again in Mom's writing, as 'Hallowe'en 1970'. Well, you can see it there, no need for me to go on... except to say that I think I made one exceptionally cute little ghost.
This next is from '74, as The Wolf Man (one of my favorite classic Universal Monsters). I would love to say who is beside me in the Ape mask, but memory fails me. My instinct says it's my mama... Relatives, a little help?
UPDATE: It is my cousin Dee Dee, as suggested by my sister some time ago, and recently confirmed by Dee Dee herself.
By the way, that skull between our heads is actually a vinyl hand puppet that I absolutely loved and played with every day for what seemed like years. I haven't any idea where it went, sadly.
UPDATE: No, we have not found the skull puppet, but Dee Dee informed me she had that skull pinned to her shoulder as part of her costume. You have to love the originality of Hallowe'en-crazed kids!
In 1976 I decided to go with a Scarecrow, which in hindsight is kind of an odd choice for a die hard monster lovin' kid as I was. Still, I stalked around the yard and scared plenty of folks, so it was monstrous enough. The werewolf in the Crespi High School lettermen's jacket is my older brother Joe.
And then there was THE FLY! I recall Mom getting me this mask, oh what a day that was. I'd admired -- hell, lusted for -- this mask for a long time, and every time we'd visit the great old comic and magic shop, Fantasy Castle, I'd stare at it up on the high mask shelf. I think one day it was put on clearance and dropped from something like $75 to $25, somewhere in there. Mom's eye lit up almost as brightly as mine!
The Fly was in the top three of my favorite monster films (King Kong, The Wolf Man, The Fly) during my childhood, and finally having this mask thrilled me to no end.
Again, my brother Joey joins me in the photo. Here he's wearing some foam appliances; he doesn't really look like that. 1977?
This was another Wolf Man, in '78 or '79 (the calendar behind me is unreadable, and is likely only decorative anyway), only this pic was taken just after I'd removed my snout, brow and chin/fangs appliances. For whatever reason. You can tell by the look on my face that even then I thought it was a lame moment to take a picture.
Like many young (and I suppose not so young) people in the early 80's, I was worried about the End of the World and nuclear war, and this particular creation, a non-descript mutant soldier, reflects that anxiety. Yeah the pic's blurry, but it wasn't a great make-up anyway. I just like it because of its historical context... and because the ape-ish mutant soldier has such well-coiffed early '80's hair.
The next image I could locate is years later, and I'm now just out of high school, so this is '86 at the earliest. I was turning myself into a mad doctor, a la Alice Cooper (rather than Rocky Horror). Here my brother and my uncle are pointing out my make-up skills for the benefit of the camera.
In 1990, a production crew from the 'Home Show' on daytime TV came out to my Grandma's house and taped all of Hallowe'en day and night, as well as the clean up the next morning. The videos and some stills in these posts are taken from that footage.
For that special Hallowe'en, I thought I'd finally take the dive; instead of portraying something which represents evil, I'd go ahead and just be THE DEVIL his-infernal-self!
Again, I did my own make-up, put my costume together, and even grabbed a fiddle to play (kind of)... I also had with me a red book and a feather quill pen, and as I walked around the fence, anytime someone spoke to me, I'd stare at them, smiling, while writing (ostensibly their names) in the book.
It actually made some people uncomfortable!
During those last few years when we were all still living in L.A., I was making masks rather than complex applied make-ups. I was helping to provide a bit more of the props and helping everything to run smoothly, and I didn't have time to sit for hours building a make-up. I instead made odd masks a few weeks before, put the outfit together, and after setting up all day, I would simply black my eyes, put everything on, and go.
This is 1991, I believe. I believe. Sort of a skeletal House of Wax thing. Perhaps a Zombie Simon Legree? I made it with meltable, malleable Friendly Plastic and acrylic paints.
This last photo is, I believe, the last costume I ever wore on a Hallowe'en at Grandma's house, in 1993. I made the overhead mask out of latex, Friendly Plastic, acrylic paints, enamel stains, and even some fake hair. Then, of course, the suit was one of my dear old Dad's which I tore up, burned, stained, and then buried straight in the ground for a month before digging it up, bagging it with some dirt, and taking it to Gram's house. I had to dress outside because of all the muck still clinging to it, but let me tell you something: I looked, moved and smelled like I'd just come out of the ground after hanging out down there for a good long while. It was unnerving, actually.
Here I am with my godfather, Uncle Pat, in front of the staircase, ready to head out for one more Hallowe'en celebration.
1993 was the last year that all of the Lennons were able to get together for a traditional Grandma's House Hallowe'en; a lot of us moved to Branson MO the following Spring, and we were a family divided (in miles, not in our hearts). But for another few years, those who were still in Venice did their level best to put together a haunt, and while they tell me it worked and was fun, they all agree it just wasn't the same, by any measure. It didn't feel right without all of us there.

So... sadly, with the exodus of family and the eventual sale of the beautiful old house on Harding and Naples in the 90's, the Lennon Hallowe'en Era in southern California came to a close.

But with the move to the Ozarks, the era of my own haunts began.

There are, as with any good story, a thousand sidesteps, details, inside jokes, and in this case, pictures, tons of pictures. I will always be adding images and tales from the Hallowe'en front lines of Grandma's house.

Spook forward-


  1. I was never one to really believe in fate. However, if there ever was someone with an unavoidable destiny,it was you. That is one amazing story about a phenomenal family. No wonder you love Halloween so much. All those family gatherings and the obvious love that went into Grandma's House Halloween shows. It must be a special for you and yours.



  2. I believe the ape-masked cousin is Geek, and in the pic of grey-haired you, you're just DAD. Ah, I can smell the intoxicating combination of coffee, doughnuts, Gram's fireplace, McDonalds and greasepaint (with just a hint of Babis).