Dreamgirls and Ophelias

by Pamela Felcher
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dragqueen.jpgI live in West Hollywood, where Halloween is like a national holiday – arrangements for street closures have been made well in advance and people from all over will come watch the flagrant and the flamboyant, the political and the theatrical,  the absurd and the sublime march along Santa Monica Boulevard, from La Cienega to Doheny. Candy is not an integral part of this spectacle and frankly that's the only thing that rankles me about it.

One year, the Wicked Witch of the West wheeled along the Boulevard with an enormous crystal ball that housed terrorized miniatures – Dorothy, Toto, and the other Oz pilgrims were all cowering on the yellow brick road within her bubble. Another year, there were several Menendez brothers, wearing blood covered v-neck sweaters and conservative haircuts. Then another year, there were groups of huddled Titanic musicians playing desperately as their ship was sinking (or, I should say, as the parade was passing them by).
cher.jpgOnce there was a Humpty Dumpty, sitting on his wall. The guy had painted his face white, rimmed his eyes with red liner and painted his lips red; he had glued little tiny arms to his cheeks and put a body sized, cardboard brick wall under his chin. He would walk a few steps, then plant himself, egg resting on wall, still as a chocolate bar. People would approach him cautiously and stare at him. He wouldn't even blink. Creepy, I say. His little hands could have at least held little Hershey's for the curious passersby.

Of course, every year there are the requisite six- foot tall, sherbet wigged, airline hostesses, with their Pez-colored Pan Am bags and uniforms, a la Boeing, Boeing. And who can miss the enormous sequined West Hollywood cheerleaders and their muscular calves, marching like candy canes down the Boulevard. Milkmen and mechanics, cops and cowboys, nuns and priests fill out the crowd, as do Cher, Bette Midler, and the Dreamgirls – all looking like cotton candy confections.

ophelia.jpgWhen the holiday falls on a school day, I get a double dose of parading alter-egos. I teach at a Music Academy, where kids wear costumes almost daily. I offer extra credit to the kids who dress up like the literary figures we are reading. This brings out the inner Hester Prynne and flower-laden Ophelia in some and the outer Hamlet and monstrous Grendel in others. The spectacle of Gatsbys and Daisys and Titanias and Oberons warms this English teacher's heart.  

I suppose every costume, like every symbol in a dream, is a revelation of an inner-self, or maybe it's a reflection of the way we think we are seen, or the way we want to be seen? Well, I am wearing my witch's hat and carrying my broom this Friday, so I'll let my students decide what they are seeing. Whatever they think I am revealing to them, I hope they give me candy.
Pamela Felcher is the English Department Chair at Hamilton High School's Music and Arts Magnet. 

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