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Halloween '98: Hail to the Chief, say costume sellers

As goes Intern-Gate, so go costume sales  
October 23, 1998
Web posted at: 7:58 p.m. EDT (2358 GMT)

From Heather J. Twidale

(CNN) -- Ah, Halloweeen, when our sick, cynical selves party in the open -- as someone else -- courtesy of the right mask, wig, and makeup.

"We've been selling a lot of black berets and black wigs," says Stephanie Pettys, assistant manager of Holiday Costume in Atlanta, which stocks over 5,000 costumes year round.

"The Clinton mask sold out weeks ago. Not even our distributor can get more -- and he's the manufacturer."

On the phone with Eddie's Trick & Novelty Shop in Marietta, Ga., a rather breathless manager strove "to take care of the line at the cash register," and explain, over background cacophony, why business was booming.


"We've got a major scandal with Clinton," explained Sue Carter. "Plus, Halloween is on a Saturday this year."

In honor of our national spectacle/debacle, Eddie's Tricks is offering two Clinton masks for '98.

"We have 'Wild Bill', with kiss marks all over his face and his tongue hanging out," says Carter. "And we have 'Traditional Bill,' the face we see on television."

At press time, Wild Bill had been outselling Traditional Bill. "But it's still hard to tell which Bill will win out," says Carter. (Attention pollsters, report for inventory November first.)

Clintonian accessories: "jumbo" cigars and "presidential knee-pads" in (you guessed it) red, white and blue.

Goin' Hollywood

Movies making an impact on the dress-up set: "Titanic,"although "for us, that peaked for the proms," says Joan at Atlanta Costume/Norcostco in Atlanta, where "Zena: Warrior Princess" bustiers are striding out the door.

Zena costumes are busting out all over  

Pettys sees people "trying to be original with trends." A Titanic customer, for example, will be wearing a nightshirt and blue makeup, and looking "very, very cold," Pettys explains.

Another hot seller: Emma Peel's skintight black leather from "The Avengers," and, for men, the leisure suit or similarly groovy threads from "Austin Powers: Man of Mystery," baybee. The 1970s in general (huge bell-bottoms, disco jump suits dripping spangles) continues its boom from last year.

Jump, jive an' wail

Newer for '98: a yen for zoot suits and the swing look of the 30s and 40s (helped by the popular Gap commercial and burgeoning swing dance clubs.) Elaborate Renaissance costumes and the Southern Belle look, both perennial favorites, are getting a run for their money against a campy 20th Century television classic, "I Dream of Jeannie."

South Park
Hats off to South Park  

At Costumes, Etc., in Atlanta, triple Emmy-award-winning makeup artist J. Townsend is on staff to transform serious party-ers. Book ahead! The year-round costume shop, which is also a production house, is selling out of Kenny hats from the television series "South Park," says manager Keith Hinxe, as well as vampire forehead pieces ("humongously big because of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer.'") One surprise: Army fatigues are marching out of the store, "because of 'Small Soldiers?,'" muses Hinze.

Put a little "Spice" in the night

Hot newcomers with the preschool set are PBS' "Teletubbies". "They go out as quickly as they come in," says Carter, as well as the long-time favorites like Superman. Carter's own daughter, aged 8, will trick-or-treat as Baby Spice, along with two other "Spicy" friends.

On the really sick front: Sonny Bono with broken ski poles, and the man who will dress up as Rosalind Russell, cover himself with bruises and go as "Auntie Maimed".

"What can you say?" says Pettys, "Except that it's Halloween."

And although Pettys has had a few requests for stained dresses, "most people are just doing the beret and wig, and aren't out for the full Monty -- so to speak."

The "intern" look  

But Pettys' favorite moment so far had nothing to do with the down and dirty (also so to speak.)

"Two little boys came in and the eldest wanted to be a wolf," she says. "The little one looked at his brother and said, 'I'll be a cub!'"

The big boy bought a scary wolf face and the little brother bought a furry black costume. "They were so happy," says Pettys. "You can picture that little pair of wolves trick-or-treating hand-in-hand, and having more fun than all of us. Sometimes you forget that Halloween actually can be sweet and innocent fun."

Remember those days, intern-wannabees?

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