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Masking Their Enthusiasm for Halloween


It's that time of year again. Things are hopping at Somewhere In Time.

Everybody's getting antsy about Halloween.

The other day, a guy came in looking for a Teddy Kennedy mask.

"We offered him Michael Dukakis or George Bush, but he got insulted," said Pat Burdy, owner of the Pasadena costume shop.

"Teddy Kennedy?" said Darryl Martell, one of four imperturbable workers who staff the front counter. "Now that's obscure."

The customers mill around the front of the store, leafing through a picture album-catalogue of Somewhere In Time costumes, from Adam and Eve (fig leaves) to the 1960s (tie-dyed shirts, hot pants and miniskirts). Or they try on assorted masks--from E.T. and Richard Nixon to Frankenstein and Dracula.

There are plenty of obscure and near-obscure outfits. Everybody's looking for the perfect get-up--a disguise that somehow expresses something deep and elusive about the person wearing it.

Robert Istenderian takes less than five minutes to settle on a grinning, heavy-lidded face with a pointed nose. "It's kind of a Mortimer Snerd look," says Istenderian, the owner of a pastrami shop in Upland who will dress up for his customers on Halloween. "A buffoon. It's me. I'm sort of a buffoon."

Melinda Baca howls appreciatively at the transformation of her friend, Rachel Marin. "Oh, Rachel, that is funny," Baca says. "You're a troll."

Marin, who works for a collection agency, thoughtfully considers her new face in a mirror. It's grotesquely knobby, with pointed teeth, and Marin's movements seem slower, more lumbering, than they were a moment ago.

"There's a whole transformation that comes with masking," says Burdy, who has owned the store for eight years. "Something happens from within. Put on a mask and you unmask."

Burdy and a partner started selling antique clothes and furniture about eight years ago. Now the store, in spacious quarters on Colorado Boulevard with wraparound window displays, is one of Southern California's premier costumeries.

In the basement, craftsmen piece together a shrimp costume for a television show, repair an alligator head and put the finishing touches on a custom-made outfit for a woman who wanted to look like a man walking on his hands.

Danny Garland, an art school graduate who discovered that he had a talent for costume design, explains the hand-walker: rubbery shoes shaped like hands, a head jutting from the front of the pants, a baggy upper robe with "leg" holes for the woman's arms.

"We're simply fulfilling a woman's fantasy," Burdy says. "It's something she always wanted to do."

Upstairs, the dressing area is starting to get busy. Here's Shari Schultz, a party planner from Simi Valley, in for her third fitting on a Mae West costume. "I want to show off the new me," says Schultz, resplendent in red sequins and ostrich feathers. "For many, many years, I was extremely heavy. Most of my costumes were designed to cover up. But I've lost 78 pounds in a year."

She flashes a fetching smile and swings her hips. "I'm going to be the hostess with the mostest," she says.

Mildred Noble, a short, serious-looking Altadena resident who works as a counselor at Pasadena City College, appreciates herself in dark pin-stripes and wide-brimmed chapeau.

"Last year I was Gay '90s," she says. "This year, I want to be a male mobster type. I thought it would be fun. It's the opposite of me. Everybody teases me about being small. This is totally different."

She straightens the brim of her hat and smoothes her jacket. "A mobster acts very assured," she says. "He likes his presence known. He wants to make sure he's noticed. It's the body language. That's what does it. There's going to be some body language this year."

She makes room for a woman dressed as Tweety Bird, the ingenuous cartoon canary--yellow and fuzzy with huge black eyes. The woman, who won't give her name, says she's going to a children's party. "I don't want to scare them," she says. "I just want to give them something to identify with."

Here comes Nefertiti, silky and exotic-looking, with a yoke collar in gold lame and a headdress in the shape of a sloe-eyed dog. This is Carole Cunningham, a real estate relocation specialist from Arcadia. "I've been going through some past-life regression work under hypnosis," she says. "Three different times it took me back to Egypt. So I figured I'd act it out, see what it feels like."

Cunningham is scheduled to go on a weekend cruise. She looks critically at the new Cunningham in the mirror. "It's a bit wild," she says, "but nobody I know is going to be there."

Roseanne McNeil is having difficulty choosing. She's supposed to go to a party dressed as her favorite actress.

"So who's your favorite actress?" asks clerk Brenda Giering.

McNeil isn't sure. She considers Elizabeth Taylor in "Butterfield 8," a costume that amounts to a flimsy black lace slip and little else. She wrinkles her nose and shakes her head.

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