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FASHION : In Halloween Masks, Nixon's the One; Marilyn, Hillary Next : Bill Clinton is popular, particularly if there is a saxophone prop near at hand.


When it comes to Halloween fashion, we feel pretty efficient. We always manage to come up with something around the house that serves to transport us away from our mundane persona of journalist.

Although someday it might be fun to party as a journalist--wearing a copy of the First Amendment, say, with a huge pair of shears around our neck to symbolize the editorial process.

But we have long taken a prosaic approach to costume parties--often choosing to be a generic household object, such as a pillow. It avoids trying to find a hero worth copying--although it doesn't exactly bring down the house when we walk in, either.

One year we went to the trouble to be a grandfather clock.

We wore a tall electronics carton with a big clock face painted in the chest region and a round opening for black-gloved arms to indicate the time, plus a tiny slit at the top for visibility--which proved to be inadequate. We crashed into furniture, stairs and our host and had to abandon the costume to preserve our dignity, and possibly our life.

Still, it was a successful costume, and cost nothing.

But many people don't look at costuming in this way. By and large, they want an identity beyond furniture. And many of them wish to be celebrities.

But not many celebrities make it to mask status. Possibly because of lawsuits, but also because fame is fleeting--except for the classics.

There are a few personalities whose popularity never fades; year after year, their masks are in demand. The most dependable classic, it turns out, has been out of the limelight for decades: Richard Nixon. But, if you haven't already chosen him for your identity, you may miss the wave. Each location had sold out.

"He's always been a wonderful mask," said Bonnie Mihalic, who owns Bonnie's in Ventura and Oxnard. "He's so easy. All you do is put on the mask and put your fingers up in a V and you've got it."

Show business mask options include old favorites Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean--whose mask looks about as much like him as Bart Simpson--and a new addition: Whoopi Goldberg. The Goldberg mask goes well because people like to team it with a nun costume, Mihalic said.

The second-most popular celebrity locally after Nixon appears to be either Marilyn Monroe or Hillary Clinton, depending on whom you ask. And close behind them is Bill Clinton, particularly if there is a saxophone prop to go with the mask.

Halloween Adventure in Thousand Oaks had five Bill Clintons to choose from, ranging from bargain to deluxe, while its Ventura store had only two.

The two stores are stocked according to demand, and demand for political figures is apparently much greater in the east county. The only politicians in the west county store were the Clintons and the Bushes, while the east side had a range of state figures, from Al Gore to Boris Yeltsin and Saddam Hussein.

At Magic Planet, also in Thousand Oaks, Reagan masks were reported to be hot, while at Bonnie's on the west side, they were totally flat, and those available were actually leftovers from last year.

Al Gore was low on the charts in all areas, and Dan Quayle requests were virtually nonexistent.

Somewhere in between a hot property and obscurity is Ross Perot. In spite of never having held political office, the Texan has inspired several masks, and a fair number of Ventura County shoppers do want to look like him, for whatever reason.

Of course, we make no political assumptions from any of this data; and neither should you.

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