Dr. Strangelove is my favorite movie. It’s one of those classics that my dad made me watch when I was in junior high. It was before he got a universal remote, so he walked into the den and commanded me to change the channel.
“But, Dad, I’m watching something.”
“Liz, this is one of the greatest movies ever. Watch it.”
He was right. I was probably no more than 13 at the time, but this movie became an instant favorite. It’s one of very few movies that had a profound affect on my sense of humor, if not my whole worldview. I delved into Kubrick films, studying them one by one, not to memorize dialog or minutia– I never did that– but to try and figure out how he built greater themes over a period of time. I’m nowhere near the first person to gush about Kubrick, so I won’t. Really, I’m just trying to explain why I said yes to a last minute assignment.
The gig: Cover LACMA’s Muse Costume Ball for L.A. Weekly.
The reason I took it: The theme was Kubrick’s films. The event was also a preview for the Stanley Kubrick exhibition.
The results: You can read that on L.A. Weekly’s arts blog.
I got the assignment the evening before the event. I hadn’t planned on doing anything at all for Halloween. I had failed at following through on several costume ideas. Now there was a party to attend, a job to do and no costume. Crap.
Technically, you don’t need a costume to get into the Ball and, if you do wear a costume, it doesn’t need to fit the theme. But, it’s Halloween, my favorite day of the year, the one I’ve come ignore recently because of a lack of time and funds. Damn it, I was going to get together a Kubrick-themed costume in 24 hours. There wasn’t enough time to pull off something from Dr. Strangelove. Maybe I could be Wendy from The Shining. I wouldn’t have to do anything with my hair and I give good creepy girl face. But, would they let me bring in a baseball bat? Could I find overalls in time?
I mentioned the dilemma on Facebook and Twitter. People offered tons of suggestions. Several mentioned Wendy as well. Twitter pal @myauralfixation sent me a still of Wendy at the kitchen table, wearing a blue plaid nightgown, red long underwear and reading Catcher in the Rye. She is my savior. I forgot about that outfit.
I ran to Target. The red long underwear was in the guy’s department, just like it is every fall. There were no nightgowns. So I drove into the depths of suburban hell at 8:30 at night and hit up one of those mega-sized, mega-cheap stores that people hate. I hate them too, more so now that I’ve actually been inside one. How does a place so big get so crowded? I wandered through the crowds and stumbled on a pair of pajamas that was the same print as the nightgown in the movie. Called my mom, “Hey, do you think I could rip this apart and make it into a skirt?” She said yes, maybe knowing that this meant, “Can you rip this apart and make it into a skirt?” Then I stood in line for fifteen minutes or so, behind people buying enough candy to survive a sugar apocalypse. Really, you get that many trick or treaters? I give kids three or four pieces of candy and still end up with at least a bag of leftovers.
The next day, I ripped apart the pajama bottoms at the seams and pinned it together as a skirt and took it to my mom, who actually owns a sewing machine.
“You pinned it wrong,” she said.
“You sound like grandma that time I tried to make yalanchi.”
Apparently, my pinning skills rival my grape leaf-rolling skills. My mom thinks this is just a ruse. I admit, she’s onto me. She sewed the pants into a skirt.
“I should learn how to use that thing,” I said.
My mom looks at me as though I’ve made this revelation 15 years too late.
The outfit was done. I tried it on and it’s five sizes too big. I knew that from the get go, but it was the only pair left in this pattern. But, if there’s one thing I learned from spending most of my youth in goth clubs, it’s that safety pins are your friends. I pinned together the elastic waistband and was ready to go. Almost. My copy of Catcher in the Rye, the one that I’ve had since 9th grade, was missing. No worries. I wasn’t too far from one of the few remaining bookstores in L.A., so I picked up a new copy, one with a cover more similar to the book in the movie. Now, I was ready to go.
I posted a photo on Facebook and my friends got the costume right away. Later on, at the party, I ran into a Danny Torrance riding around the courtyard on his little trike and a set of Grady twins. I wanted to take their photo. Danny mentioned that they needed a photo with me. We started handing off our phones to the nearest partygoers for pictures.
It was the best night out I’ve had in a long time, a Halloween that actually felt like Halloween should. Good stress and a lot of fun.