Monday, October 27, 2008


You want to do something really scary for Halloween? Stand in front of a live TV camera and present party tips for six straight hours—over and over—while wearing a ridiculous witch costume. Sound like a horror movie? No, it’s the frightening life of a writer at Halloween time. And it’s called a Satellite Media Tour.

A balloon company found me while searching online for a spokesperson to promote their product. Apparently they thought I was an expert on balloons because I’d written a few party books. I’ve done a few of these SMTs in the past, for companies that sell gum (“Just like brushing your teeth!”), frosting (“Who needs cake when you have frosting!”) raisins (“Sprinkle them on everything from cereal to spaghetti!”), food wrap (“Keep it fresh for years!”) and overnight diapers.

I almost didn’t get the diaper gig. At the Big Meeting with all the Execs, I was asked if I was familiar with their line of products, which included incontinent pads. Thinking they wanted someone perky and quick-witted like Kelly Ripa, I said, “Oh yes! I’m wearing them now!” Their looks of horror made me wish I’d actually been wearing those adult diapers.

But when the company asked if I’d like to write some party articles for their website and “maybe do a little live TV”—for which they’d pay me way more money than I was worth—I said, “Party on!” Sounded easy enough. Don a disguise so no one would recognize me (ridiculous witch costume), stand at a table filled with already prepared party props (mostly balloons), and talk about fun Halloween ideas (such as: “If you really want to scare the kids this year, don’t give them any candy…”). Piece of cake, as they say in the party business.

The next think I knew I was being whisked off to the East Coast to do live TV. O.M.G. The gig required the ability to inflate balloons without popping them, memorize pages and pages of script, remember to call the treats “Monster Mash” instead of “Party Poop,” and answer questions like “Is Halloween Satan’s Birthday?” from unpredictable TV hosts. All this, while constantly mentioning “The Product” without making it appear this was an infomercial.

I quickly learned I’m not good at remembering the cumbersome product name. I’m not good at keeping a witch’s hat from flying off my head during Live TV. I’m not good at looking into a dark camera lens and pretending it’s Regis on the other end. I’m especially not good at doing this over and over and over for six hours straight.

My “performance” was sent out—live—to 35 TV stations across the country. I only hope I didn’t embarrass myself too much in Greenville. I pray the folks in Mobile didn’t see the set fall down behind me. I hope viewers in Wichita didn’t notice I forgot to mention the product website. I think I went over pretty well in Yuma. (Do they have TV there?)

Immediately after the camera went black, I changed out of my costume and flew home. No one on the plane recognized me from my TV stint, even in my streetwalker makeup. There were no paparazzi waiting for me at home, no calls from Ellen, no product companies begging me to sell Wheaties or hemorrhoid cream. Instead I had a three-hour gig babysitting four kids under the age of four. It was almost as scary as doing live TV.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


As if the economy isn’t scary enough, now it’s time to celebrate Halloween. I think a few ugly masks and blood-spattered costumes pale in view of our country’s financial portfolio, but I have noticed that Halloween has amped up over the past few years.

Remember when we used to set a carved pumpkin on the front porch, buy a bunch of our favorite candies, and get ready to greet the ghosts and goblins that rang our doorbells? Now the neighborhood is filled with gruesome graveyards, mega-monsters, and scary, screeching sounds.

To get in the mood, I took a trip to the giant Scary Halloween Store to see what was new in the haunted house department. Whoa—this ain’t my grandma’s Halloween store! No wax lips or witches fingernails. No pretty princess or fairy costumes. Not even a clown nose for sale.

Instead, this is the place to buy real fog machines that cover your lawn in an eerie mist. Or jack-in-a-box style monsters that pop out of crypts to startle the kids out of their wits. Or life-size tombs with life-size corpses for life-sized thrills. Yes, this is the place where you see dead people. And they’re covered in blood and guts.

You won’t find any light-hearted Disney-style costumes there, like Prince Charming or Peter Pan. It’s strictly horror-movie genre now, with such evil creatures as the guy from Scream, the guy from Halloween, and the guy from the white house. And those are just the guy costumes.

The girl costumes seem to come from X-rated movies, like “Cinderella the Skank,” “Snow White the Dominatrix,” and “Little Bo Peepshow.” I thought about trying one on, but I just didn’t have the courage—or the body. As for cute costumes, these are apparently reserved for pets. Your cat or dog can now dress up as a “Super Pup,” “Cop Kitty,” or “Yoda.” Sounds like pet abuse to me—someone call the ASPCA.

Wandering through the store, past the Beheaded Corpse Bride, the Toxic Zombie in a Can, and the Electrocution Chamber, I found the Body Parts section. I had my choice of severed arms, bloody legs, chopped off hands and feet, loose eyeballs, a slimy brain, and what looked like a still-beating heart. Be still my own beating heart.

The next room held the must-have accessorizes to complete your creep show look. I could choose from a variety of hooks, blades, razors, hacksaws, chain saws, and buzz saws to go with every outfit. Or I could pick out a fright wig, a leather whip, a pair of devil horns, a glow-in-the-dark nose ring, or even a remote-controlled pet rat.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of Halloween—it’s my favorite holiday. I drive an orange car that looks like a pumpkin. I wear black t-shirts with rhinestone bats on the front. My ring tone is the theme from “Halloween.” I watch reruns of “Spiders 3” and “The Presidential Debates” on Chiller TV. And I manage to consume several bowls of Mounds bars and Malted Milk Balls before the doorbell rings.

But this year, there are some things too scary for even me this Halloween. While the economy may cause a few restless nights, global warming may give me a chill, and the price of gas may occasionally stop my heart, it’s the thought that there are only 55 days left before Christmas that really gives me nightmares.