A night to remember.

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:

Posted at 12:05 am in Detroit life |

36 responses to “A night to remember.”

  1. jerry said on October 24, 2011 at 2:11 am

    Looks like a great nigh; hope you can sleep in – fat chance I guess!

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  2. Brandon said on October 24, 2011 at 5:00 am

    Those are some gnarly costumes.

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  3. beb said on October 24, 2011 at 8:38 am

    When you said “rabbit mask” for some reason I was expecting fur. Alan’s mask reminded me of one of the faces the ghosts in “Betelgeuse” used to try to frighten away the new owners of their house.

    I used to work in the old Kresge Building that’s near the Masonic. That is a sad and scary part of town. My wife and I have gone to a couple plays at the Masonic. It is a nice facility.

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  4. coozledad said on October 24, 2011 at 9:30 am

    I hope no one was injured by the girls in the goat masks. Them things’ll put an eye out.
    Dunevant ought to consider opening a venue for chronic carnival revelers full time, and maybe hosting a complimentary reality TV project.

    Your costumes worked well, and they look manageable.
    Even when I was a younger drunk the outsize, complicated getups were too intimidating. I’ve had enough near fatal accidents while wearing street clothes to even consider slapping a five foot papier mache invention on my head.

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  5. adrianne said on October 24, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Hah – remembering our evil twin/angel twin getup in the Fort. That rocked!

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  6. Dorothy said on October 24, 2011 at 10:10 am

    I hate having to come up with a Halloween costume. I never feel like I’m very original. This year we bought masks at Amazon.com – I’m Moe Howard and Mike is Larry Fine. Or vice versa. We picked up some ugly sports jackets from among the costumes we have in storage for the theater group we belong to. If only we had some really wide ties to put on with our shirts.

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  7. Deborah said on October 24, 2011 at 10:22 am

    The best Halloween costume I ever wore was when I had an asymmetrical haircut. I put a cardboard tube on my lower arm and attached a stuffed glove onto the end of it. I had a black dress that had super long sleeves that normally scrunched up, I just pulled the long arm sleeve down over the tube and it was perfect. I had one arm that was about 4 ft long and the other was normal. As I said my hair was longer on one side and short on the other, so my arms matched. One year my ex and I won a costume competition for dressing as Hotlips Houlihan and he was Haykeye. It was pretty lame but the other costumes at the event were even stupider.

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  8. Joe Kobiela said on October 24, 2011 at 10:42 am

    I salute you, well done.
    Pilot Joe

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  9. LAMary said on October 24, 2011 at 11:33 am

    I was Joan of Arc one year. I singed all the clothes I wore, carried a sword and a crucifix, and pretended to hear voices.

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  10. Heather said on October 24, 2011 at 11:43 am

    So are you going to hang the rabbit mask on your wall now?

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  11. nancy said on October 24, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Sure. It’s on the mantel now, looking out at the room all demonic ‘n’ stuff.

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  12. caliban said on October 24, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Swamp thing looks a great deal like George Clinton on a bad hair day. And I wonder if that chunky guy in the leotard and sparkly wings with the King of Hearts tat is supposed to be the strange Turkish resident of the Chelsea Hotel that dresses as an angel in Netherland, the excellent novel by Paul O’Neill. Which “things” would those be Cooze.

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  13. Marc G said on October 24, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Isn’t it early for halloween? In Europe it is always October 31, no matter what. The best costume I saw EVAH was in Athens, Ohio, home of the alternative halloween. It was twelve guys walking down Court Street, dressed in white flowing robes, with a table hung in front of them, each one had a strap to support the table. They took up the entire street as they walked, with the table perpendicular to the flow of traffic.
    The last supper, dudes!

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  14. Scout said on October 24, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    I think the photo of you and Alan is suitable for framing in a wierd sort of American Gothic way. Definitely “Like.”

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  15. brian stouder said on October 24, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Almost American ‘goth’

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  16. paddyo' said on October 24, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Actually, caliban, I think that’s George Clinton on a good hair day . . .

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  17. jcburns said on October 24, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Is your costumery creeping out Ruby? If I were a small rabbit in a lovely Detroit area home, it would me.

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  18. Dexter said on October 24, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Alan’s schnozzola hangs a bit too low to be taken as a serious Spy vs. Spy suit anyway, but that doesn’t mean I don’t LOVE IT !

    I mean, I was expecting the rabbit, but Alan’s plague doctor blew me away.

    The last time I dressed up in a costume was 1985. I had purchased a giant furry rabbit head. I went to a local bar which was full of costumed revellers. O what a night…I drove to the bar and I staggered home on foot. I was offered a ride by some strangers but I know I woulda puked in their car.

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  19. LAMary said on October 24, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    “I was offered a ride by some strangers but I know I woulda puked in their car.”
    Better to puke in their car than while wearing the rabbit head.

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  20. MichaelG said on October 24, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    That picture of you and Alan is fab. Especially the Facebook version. The goat girls are cute but I told them not to run through the briar patch nude.

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  21. caliban said on October 24, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    Here’s why it is absolute bullshit for WaPo to run a big story today about the Presiden’t alleged failure to help out underwater mortgagees. What do they suggest Obama can do? Ninjas? Praetorians? What? This is bullshit journalism and completely belies the well known WaPo/liberal press shibboleth. I am assuming that these self-alleged political experts actually understand how the real world works, but maybe that is giving them too much credit.

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  22. caliban said on October 24, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Nancy, I think I saw you and your husband in that guise, years ago, under the influence of outstanding hallucinogens. Freaked me out. If it wasn’t y’all, that’s probably spookier. Your concept of how to dress the March Hare, if I don’t presume too much, is brilliant. That’s a halloween costume that should be considered vintage, and should be brought back for encores. Between the two of you, I think, no matter how bad the Masonic neighborhood is these days, and that hurts my heart and my soul to consider, you would have had nothing to fear from larcenous punks. Woulda scared the shit out of them. When I was a kid, Detroit was under the protection of the Panthers at night, TMU in daytime, and nobody that wasn’t some objectionable Ofay asshole had to fear going anywhere at all, at nighttime.

    edit: http://www.leedberg.com/mad/spies/spies.html

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  23. basset said on October 24, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Nance, nice outfit but it needs some fishnet.

    You can buy Swamp Thing suits as hunting camo: http://www.theghilliesuits.com/

    Caliban 21, give it a rest, just this once.

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  24. Linda said on October 24, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    I did once have a giant paper mache thing on my head, but it was for the Detroit Thanksgiving parade. It’s scary, because you don’t have a real field of vision, just a narrow view straight in front of you. A little kid grabbbed me around the legs and gave me a start, because in downtown Detroit, you never know who’s doing the grabbing.

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  25. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 24, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    With all due respect to the Goat Girls, and long may they wave, but . . .

    I was at an area high school today, making arrangements for a quasi-juridical function in the near future, and spent a chunk of my time sitting with the assistant principal in the cafeteria. After we’d discussed our core business, I asked him if he had heard something said that a tiny little cranky elderly gentleman resident in the deepest back corner of my brain pan said at moments like this. The voice I heard asked: “How on earth do you know when it’s Hallowe’en around here?”

    This old guy is usually drowned and buried without ceremony, but having let him out, I learned this from the assistant principal. “Jeff, we call them our ‘catch and release’ kids. You know when you’re fishing at a popular spot, and reel in a fish with a couple of hooks already in their mouth, the line clipped but the barb and shaft still protruding? That’s these kids.”

    Studs and gems and ball-n-post apparati extruded from their lips and nasal cartilage; silkscreened skulls and black mascara and fake fingernails, plus the girls often look Goth as well. And the profusion of “tribal tattooing,” which I’ve come to translate as “tattooing done by guys who are just getting started, and who also find symmetry so derivative.”

    Add in the bright hues of the usual hairdye jobs scattered around the tables (magenta and Icee Blue are as common as ‘brown’ was when I was in junior high) — there’s just a whole bunch of costume already going on any day in our high schools . . . and don’t even get me started on “gauges.”

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  26. caliban said on October 24, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    Sorry basset, but that is spectacularly poor journalism, and it’s infuriating. Nobody needs bother. AwPo has been beaten into submission when it used to be a great paper. The damage this sort of idiot pandering does to American government is almost incomprehensible. Maybe it doan mean shit, and maybe it’s pernicious. Just ignore, if it suits you.

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  27. caliban said on October 24, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    I thought pussy ass journalism was open game here, particularly when it threatens the American way of life. I know, it was a funny day with no politics, but When I post a link, nothing to make anybody bother. Nothing to see hear. And if Progressives, which I’m guessing lot’s of yourselves fashion yourselves, you sur shit the bed in the 2010 Congressional elections. So maybe something is up. But really, Nancy’s costume is spectacular. So’s her hubby’s and I immediately take that that asinine sobriquette. There has never been a hubby, ever, unless there was an obnoxious better half. So my consideration of my political obnoxiousness, just ignore me. I know, I’m smart and flashy sometimes. Shit Cooze makes me look like wallowing. Not really, but much mor ordiferous. what did I do wrong, basset? politics? Truly, I am entirely unsure how I may have offended you. The politics is important. N’est’pa? This is very bad shit.

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  28. caliban said on October 24, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    Am I a moron? Is everything I think horseshit? Whatever, Basset’s right. I am too worried about actual considerations of the Constitution. And what sort of shit we can all expect. No way to consider. Whatever anything we ever thought about each other
    . Cry this away. This is one piece of bs as possible
    . No kidding? What we say for sure, you asshole. You are only mildly attractive with th what the hey. I do insist on some sort of thought about you. You might be my my friwnd NS YOU My not, I knoq qhT I lqYA THOUGHT bout how we were auppoaed ro xibauswe owoplw. You xiukld nor qhT I RGIYGHT.

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  29. caliban said on October 24, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    THERE IA NO XONAISWRtion I rhink BOUT YOU. re qw kidding?

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  30. Bowditch said on October 24, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    Havenʻt done Halloweʻen for quite a few years. My last major effort started with my PhD regalia, cowl, beret and all. I threw a few coils of 9×16 headstay wire over one shoulder, some homemade dacron splices over the other, and wrapped it all up with a leather belt with pouches for pliers, knives and a marlinspike. Academic rigger. Nobody got it.

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  31. Crazycatlady said on October 25, 2011 at 1:05 am

    Awesome picture, Nancy! I would have loved it, I’m sure. Next year I’m going by hook or by crook. As a Hooker, or a Crook. haven’t decided…lol

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  32. Dexter said on October 25, 2011 at 3:25 am

    Linda@24 reminded me of October 31, 1987, at The Chicago Theater, where I saw Tom Waits on the Frank’s Wild Years tour.
    Here is a program link for the Briar Street Theater, on Halsted Street, show on June 21, 1986, and I was there also. Of course it was Gay Day, Gay Pride March in full force when we exited the theater.
    We had a short walk to our garage so I can say I marched in a Gay Pride parade with another man, even if it was my brother and neither of us were even aware of the parade beforehand.


    At the beautiful Chicago Theater that Halloween night, a couple sat, waiting for the show. The man ( I assume) was wearing a GIANT papier mache horse head, the single most majestic costume I ever saw. It was so magnificent I can recall it with great clarity 24 years later.

    I also recall that while awaiting the theater doors to open, two drunks on the street got into a hellacious fight. One drunk threw an empty pint (500 ml) bottle and hit the other in the eye it appeared, and he was wildly pummelling his attacker. Quickly two cops in uniform separated them, and gently talked the rage out of them, and pointed them in separate directions, no calls, no squad cars called, no paddy wagons…the smoothest piece of police work I have ever seen.

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  33. Dexter said on October 25, 2011 at 3:43 am

    The Swamp Thing dude could get work as relief man for Bushman out in San Francisco.

    Finally, we learn about Bushman.


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  34. Brandon said on October 25, 2011 at 6:30 am

    The guy’s costume in the first picture looks a lot like this:


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  35. caliban said on October 25, 2011 at 6:35 am

    Dex, I am green with envy for the second time today. At the grocery, I saw a guy with a denim jacket with the Sons patch on the back. perfectly. Is their backstory on the plague doctor. I loved the movie The Devil, By Ken Russel, with Oliver Reed, So fucked up. I’m apologixing if bogus aholes zcrew my cnidertins rayally, All fun nd gMez, get it Bzzett. But these asholes perpetuate their horseshit. I meen that could be z Buddy Roemef out theif. Zmebody might be ztupid andd not conider wht a true shit this guy is

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  36. caliban said on October 25, 2011 at 6:42 am

    Dex, I am green with envy for the second time today. At the grocery, I saw a guy with a denim jacket with the Sons patch on the back. perfectly. Is their backstory on the plague doctor. I loved the movie The Devils, By Ken Russel, with Oliver Reed, So fucked up. I’m apologixing if bogus aholes zcrew my cnidertins rayally, All fun nd gMez, get it Bzzett. But these asholes perpetuate their horseshit. I meen that could be z Buddy Roemef out theif. Somebody might be ztupid andd not conider what a true shit Herman Cain is. In a million years. Bad as can be. Mondo stupidity. People ar moronic enough to buy this moron’s shit? Fuckinwhtn asshole.g idiots. Stand and deliver. Like a real life tune. Herman

    cain is famous for putting people out of work,

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