The clock on the wall says it’s almost time to go to Theatre Bizarre. Are the Derringers ready to attend Detroit’s best Halloween party?
Alan researched his look very carefully, and would like you to know he is a plague doctor, not one half of Spy vs. Spy, although granted, the resemblance is remarkable. He says the latter was based on the former, but his aim was the former.
Honestly? On the grand spectrum of costumes, ours were at the conservative end. The most enthusiastic comment I got was at the Detroit CVS drugstore where we stopped to buy straws, so that Alan might be able to drink without removing his mask. He stayed in the car (“If I go in dressed like this, they’ll call the cops”) while I negotiated the Saturday night crowd in my formal riding costume. “Where’d you get them boots at?” a woman waiting on the next line asked. Answer: A catalog.
The Masonic Temple is a grand old Detroit institution fallen on hard times, due to its location in one of the worst neighborhoods adjacent to downtown. They had guarded parking, but the area around it was, as usual, full of skulking wraiths and the homeless. Which gave the lit-up, rocking hive around the Masonic the feeling of a naughty Brigadoon. The lobby and entrance featured jugglers, stilt-walkers and one of the many TB props, in this case, the Fiji Mermaid:
It’s a moving mermaid skeleton, with a very nice water effect.
Just a short tour around one floor — there were seven or so levels, including mezzanines — showed how well John Dunivant and his crew used the space. The 1920s Masonic made a great backdrop for the Theatre’s ’30s-carnival props and sets, and honestly, it was hard to separate the things the crew brought from the permanent architectural details of the building. I especially liked it in this room, where the chandelier and clock look like an organic part of the stage:
Those booths at either end were where the suspension artists performed — the hooks-through-flesh folks. It freaked me out, but no one seemed to be in any pain.
One room had a simple but arresting effect made with red can lights overhung with white scrims. I think this might be the best single picture I took. It’s a barbershop quartet who sang there:
There were several different venues within the space, with something going on at each one. I liked the smaller spaces, so we ended up seeing lots of burlesque, like this naughty-nun act:
She had a padlock on her g-string. Har. Elsewhere were the aforementioned carnival acts, bands and, in between, stuff like this DJ, with his steampunk rig:
Which brings us to the costumes. As I said, we were the equivalent of Grosse Pointe squares, at least as compared to the Goat Girls:
And Swamp Thing:
Note, just to the left of Swamp Thing — an elevator operator, in the traditional uniform, with zombie makeup. He actually rode the elevator up and down, announcing floors. They really thought of every detail. This lady is a Detroit school teacher who obviously threw her costume together at the last minute:
She’s a MEAP test. This is the time of year for our state’s standardized test. I’m sure it haunts her nightmares, much as Swamp Thing might.
After a couple hours in my riding boots (which are made for riding, not walking) I was happy to just sit and watch the parade flow by.
We left after 1, and things seemed to have hit another gear, but there were still plenty of people left to fly the flag. Theatre Bizarre isn’t so much a party as it is a conceptual art installation that uses all its guests as participants. We’d done our part, and someone else could stay until dawn. This is your correspondent, over and out: