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Getting in Touch With Their Dark Sides -- in a Happy Way

At Bats Day in the Fun Park, nearly 1,000 Goth devotees take to Disneyland, mixing their subculture and family life.

August 25, 2003|Claire Luna | Times Staff Writer

It really must be the happiest place on Earth, when even Goths can't stop smiling.

In what has become an annual ritual, nearly 1,000 black-clad, death-rocker types from around the country invaded Disneyland on Sunday for what organizers officially bill as Bats Day in the Fun Park.

Attendees simply call it Goth Day. The event started five years ago with about 90 people going to Disneyland for the simple irony -- a morose crowd in a place best known for making people happy.

Now, with so many Goths having children or just wanting to embrace their inner child, the annual gathering has taken off in an overlap of the subculture and family life.

For the clueless, or those who mistakenly think being Goth means wearing trench coats and worshiping the devil, a crash course on the subculture, which originated in the 1980s: Gothness is about appreciating darkness -- whether in music, literature, clothing or a theme park ride.

Bats Day isn't sanctioned by Disneyland, but employees seem to expect the group. Photographers came to the 1 p.m. photo session in front of Sleeping Beauty's castle for what could be one of the park's more unusual brochures.

Visiting the park from Mexico City, Mercedes Diaz gawked at the cheering, giggling sea of black, while her young daughters oohed and aahed over the women's dresses and lacy parasols.

"Even people dressed like they're going to a funeral are laughing like little kids," said Diaz, 36. "I guess that's the magic of Disneyland."

The sweltering August day produced bizarre scenes:

* In the parking lot, shiny hearses peeking out from the rows of minivans.

* Six Goth men and women lining up to take pictures with Mary Poppins, then trotting to Pinocchio's Daring Adventure. Watching the black-clad cluster approach, one wide-eyed little girl looked at her mom. "I didn't know this was supposed to be a scary ride," she said. "Goodie."

* Santa Monica hair salon manager Ven Faiz, 23, plopping a set of Mickey Mouse ears over her purplish-black bob without a hint of irony.

* In the restroom near New Orleans Square, a woman in a black, patent-leather cat suit gushing over Lyn Harton's fuchsia dreadlocks as tourists in bright-colored T-shirts and shorts waited in line. Half an hour later, Harton, 32, and friend Jennifer Frey, 29, rode down Main Street in a red carriage, waving with beauty queen precision.

The event is held now because the park has longer hours in summer and the last Sunday in August is the first non-blackout day for season ticket holders. And you'd be surprised how many Southern California Goths have annual passes, said San Diego Web designer Joey Large, 33.

"Most of the Goths I hang out with are not dreary people," she said. "They're pretty perky."

Large brought her 7-year-old daughter, Zoe. The freckled, blue-eyed girl had her dyed-red hair in pigtails just like Mommy's, along with a black shirt and skirt trimmed with patent leather.

The disconnect between Goths and Disney isn't as great as one might think, Large said, adding that Disney has a lot of evil -- think Pirates of the Caribbean, the "Nightmare Before Christmas" movie or Maleficent, Sleeping Beauty's nemesis.

But Sunday, Goth-filled boats floated through the kitschy "It's a Small World," and there were black blurs on the spinning teacups.

On Sunday, at least, Disneyland was a Goth world after all.

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