As kids growing up in Culver City in the 1950s, Darrell and Dan Hazen had little interest in the kinds of Halloween costumes that cram the aisles of their vintage clothing shops. Darrell was busy taking part in the annual egg-throwing fight that pitted the surfers against the pompadours in Veterans Park. Dan was more concerned with hiding his stashes of candy from their dental-technician father.
Fast forward 45 years, and the holiday all but consumes the brothers, who turn their stores into Halloween haunts with the enthusiasm of horror-movie fans at a Roger Corman film festival.
Dan, a former puppeteer for Sid & Marty Krofft Productions, joined the ghouls-and-goblins craze first, adding masks and makeup to his inventory at Ozzie Dots, his Los Feliz shop. Soon, Darrell was placing stuffed vultures and glow-in-the dark hunchbacks around the funky exterior of Hidden Treasures, his rambling store in Topanga Canyon.
"Dan started going to the Halloween shows in Las Vegas and Chicago, and he would tell me about all the cool stuff they had," Darrell says. "About eight years ago, I started going with him."
The brothers rely on their blood ties and personalized service to help them compete with the seasonal Halloween superstores that pop up all over Los Angeles this time of year. Just days before they expected the usual rush of costume-challenged shoppers, for example, Darrell was roaming the aisles of Ozzie Dots, stuffing a bag full of plastic purple tongues, gun belts and vials of skin glue to take back to Topanga.
"Some of my orders haven't come in yet," he explains. His brother shrugs and tells him to put it on his tab. "We work off each other," Darrell says. "There's no competition."
Rivalry aside, the brothers' personal styles are as far apart as the 28-mile distance between their stores. Darrell, 50, a surfing and diving enthusiast who lives in Topanga, enlisted a feng shui specialist to help create a flow in his shop's multiple rooms.
In the 1960s, the store was the site of the Discovery Inn, a restaurant and gathering place for Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix and other artists who made up Topanga's thriving music scene.
Ozzie Dots, on the other hand, used to be part of a cavernous Hollywood Boulevard post office. And unlike his brother, Dan takes a more-the-merrier approach to his store's decor.
"I want it packed with stuff. I want people to walk in and say, 'Wow, this is amazing,' " he says, sweeping his arm across the rows of yellow chicken costumes, striped zoot suits and ostrich boas.
Dan, 55, also can rattle off trends and expound on the latest models of prosthetic vampire teeth with the encyclopedic assurance of a college professor. "Everybody wants to be a pirate this year because of 'Pirates of the Caribbean.' We ran out of eye patches right away," he said. "It's because Johnny Depp gave them license to do whatever they want with the costume."
Back in March, costume companies were predicting that outfits based on "The Lord of the Rings" films would be all the rage this Halloween, Dan recalls. The store has sold a few white wigs to people wanting to re-create the role of the wizard Gandalf, but sales haven't come close to matching the predicted demand. "You never really know what's going to be the standout," he says.
For stumped customers, Ozzie Dots has an "idea book" of photos, which covers everything from 1950s hemlines to the location of Anna Nicole Smith's facial mole.
Over at Hidden Treasures, the clientele tends to live in Topanga or Malibu and be less price-conscious than Hollywood costume shoppers, according to the Hazens. Last year, Julia Roberts, Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson browsed the racks of sequined bodices, disco shirts and Grim Reaper outfits. (Lee walked out with a devil's suit, according to the staff.)
Though Halloween was not a special event in the Hazen household, both brothers credit their parents with fostering the creativity they channel into their businesses. Their father ran a dive shop and hot dog stand in Culver City on his days off from the dental office. His seven kids took turns helping out after school.
"He decorated the shop in a nautical theme," Dan says. "There were statues of tiki gods outside. We were brought up in this kind of creative environment."
Another turning point for Dan involved an annual costume ball held at the Hollywood Palladium in the 1970s, when he was working as a manager in another L.A. vintage shop. "My customers would tell me about this costume contest and how flamboyant it was, so I went one year." Seeing all of the elaborate costumes was life-changing.
"These were the most competitive people I had ever seen in my life," he says. He kept those standards in mind when he opened Ozzie Dots a few years later.
"Now I get it when my customers say they want a boa, but it has to be a different boa than all the other ones out there."
Ozzie Dots odd stuff:
* Plastic Psycho Chain Saw: $18.99
* Half-hula dancer, half-gorilla costume: $50.99
* Life-size "Shivering Ghoul" statue: $250
Strange Hidden Treasures:
* White disco boots with glowing goldfish-bowl heels: $89
* Flashing battery-powered belly button: $8.95
* Glow-in-the-dark hunchbacked waiter with severed head on a platter: $300
Where: 154 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga
Halloween hours: Through Saturday,
10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Info: (310) 455-2998
Where: 4637 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz
Halloween hours: Friday-Saturday,
10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Info: (323) 663-2867
Laura Randall can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.