Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Halloween To Remember


By Doug Vehle, For The Daily Bosco

So have you ever had a Halloween that lived up to the promise? After all the sneaking out of the house as a kid to get MORE candy after we'd been indulged in a little near the house, I tired of Trick or Treat about the age of 9. It wasn't about eating candy, I gave most of it away. It was about having a bigger and badder Halloween than anyone else.

 For a few years I had THE haunted yard of the neighborhood, but that too got old. This seemed like a night that called for a real adventure, and here I was growing up so I could move on to one. While it would be great to dress up as Indiana Jones and get the opportunity to BE Indiana Jones for one night, you have to settle for having something a bit out of the ordinary happen, something you might have hoped to have happen anytime during the year. Maybe the one night and set the events in motion for that night to indeed be the big adventure.

By the time I got to college I was needing one. The Bosco Tech nightmare may have been over, but there hadn't been this whole new life to take it's place. There just wasn't time. I had to work my way through school,in addition I had nieces and nephews to take care of when their troubled mothers moved in. Plus my terminally ill Father, who was growing concerned at what my college years were turning into.

Maybe it wasn't so bad. I thought it got worse after Dad was gone. Mom moved away, but I still had the nieces and nephews, as well as their mothers around. Eventually I found a little time to spend with the Communications Department at CalState Fullerton, a bunch who knew how to throw a wild party, it turned out. It is they who made possible my one big Halloween night, short though the evening had to be. (Or maybe I'm not counting all of it.) They and of course the girl I just have to call 'Tondelayo.'

I didn't know what to call her at first. When school stared it was posted that the Comm dept. was going "Across the Street" Friday at 6pm. If you didn't know where that meant there were plenty who could tell you. What people called her at that point was "That mousy little girl." She was a bit tall but otherwise fit the description; after three years at community college she was just starting at CalState and didn't know anyone, finding it hard to talk in that situation. Me being me I started talking to the wall flower, which continued into the semester.

Always dressed corporate at school, she had a fulltime job that let her show up for class first thing MWF morning then go to work. She get away a little early TTh for an afternoon class. I wasn't in either but I'd see her walking, she'd be torn between needing to rush off and just wanting to stop and talk. I figured I understood. Those who had time for the idyllic college life were the envy of us who didn't.

I could bring a few more players in shortly before Halloween. Jerry was almost 30, a guy trying to give up a dissolute life and change his ways. He'd buddied up with another guy who was a bit older than the traditional college age, let's call him Orson for continuity sake. Once again it was posted "Shakeys BunchaLunch on Thursday." And the usual suspects were there, myself included.

Previously the subject of the WWII bombers having names and icons painted on them had come up, specifically the sheer number called Tondelayo. In the novel 'White Cargo' the title refers to the British diaspora who traveled the world to make a career developing the imports for the British Isles. If you succeeded in surviving on the job through your probationary year you avoided being sent home as "White Cargo." In the novel Tondelayo represented only one of the pitfalls that could bring these men to being shipped home in humiliation. In the movie, Tondelayo WAS the pitfall.

At that time I was unaware that Hedy Lamarr had invented the spread spectrum that would evolve into what we now know as broadband/WiFi. Like most people I didn't know much about her beyond ' Samson and Delilah,' but I was at least familiar with the fact that, during WWII, she was the equivalent to Princess Leia in the metal bikini from 'Return of the Jedi.' She appeared on the side of several planes, identified as Tondelayo. Jerry and Orson had discovered one of their film history books had these publicity photos of Lamarr as Tondelayo, which inspired her image on the planes. Often topless. Let's just say we had favorable things to say.

The audience to the discussion included two other important players. Dianne I had known since grade school when she spent the first few years at St. Mary's before transferring to what we called "The Annex," St. Julianna's, closer to her home. During my time 30 miles from home at the infamous Bosco Tech Catholic boys school she'd gone next door to all girl Rosary. We'd been reunited in Broadcasting and Photography classes at Fullerton College, now she'd arrived at CalState. More importantly, Tondelayo had used her lunch break at work to show up, always the business attire, the hair in the bun, the black rimmed glasses, quietly looking on. Well, nobody was calling her Tondelayo yet. With Dianne auspiciously pointing out that she resembled Hedy Lamarr. Somewhat, anyway. And of course Halloween came up.

Ah, Halloween. You KNOW the Comm dept. crowd would be having a party. What a busy crowd this was. There were school football shoots, shows for the school cable channel, etc. And pretty much all of us had to work. A lot of these were the people who would work hard, play hard. This event was not to be missed. Especially since the next day was NOT a school day.

But I had to work. One of my jobs was with an entertainment company, I had to DJ a party thrown by a guy who'd self published an obscure fantasy novel and wanted us dressed as characters from the artwork. As the bigger guy who lifted weights, etc., it befell me to rip open the sleeves of what we called the "Chinese Waiter Shirt," black with white cuffs, the black and white of my face to further indicate I'd died in one hell of a blast, and indeed hell sent a demon to use my body in the story. A touch of my own was added, an old cubscout shirt of one of my nephews with the patches out, worn as a hood. Wayne got the little elf like character.

I don't remember why we weren't going past midnight on this one. Maybe this was one of those events where we would play early then a band would show up. It's just that the night wasn't a total loss by the time we had the equipment put away, this party would go late. Wayne was going to CalState but wasn't a Comm student, but neither was I; after my AA in Broadcasting I was getting an English degree at CalState, though I was in a number of Comm classes and busy with productions. There was no getting Wayne to come along, he just wanted to go find his girlfriend and go home, bundle of excitement that he always was.

So I parked almost as close to work as to the party, more than a half mile away. I took off running as though I'd already missed too much, as I did I came across a few who were leaving and they filled me in on a few things I'd missed. Some of them made a point of mentioning "Wait 'til you see that one mousy girl's costume." They didn't know her name, I didn't know who they meant. If I'd thought about it I could have guessed they knew something I didn't, besides what she was wearing.

One good thing being fashionably late to those parties is being the "New Guy," they've gotten used to one another and you can walk in and be the next big thing. Most of the people were still there and they were all saying hello. Including that crowd of guys around the couch, with the scantily clad woman at the center. I couldn't guess who she was, but she said "Hi, Doug" several times trying to be sure to get my attention. I should have guessed from all the tipoffs I'd been getting.

She did a good job with the top part, a rag wrapped around and tied in the back, filling it out better than the woman she was imitating. The bottom proved she didn't realize that the photos showed a woman in a long skirt, she was wearing a loin cloth. This homemade rag bikini was "The mousy little girl's" way of dressing up as Tondelayo. That and her resemblance to Hedy Lamarr. From here on, people who didn't know her name knew who you meant if you said "Tondelayo."

And she was anxious to get me sitting next to her telling her about work. What could there be to tell? If they had been some excitement, such as a woman who looked and dressed like her right that moment trying to pick me up, I don't think I'd have talked about it. She told me it was the first time she'd had a Halloween costume since grade school and this was her first Halloween party. Boy was she having a good time. The guys had been entertaining her all night.

Yeah, about that. Apparently all she had to do was show up in that costume, unescorted, and indeed all the unattached males went to work competing to entertain her. Hopefully for the rest of the night. Although she honestly didn't seem to understand that last part was going on. One in particular she'd found especially entertaining. None other than the quiet, reserved Orson.

I have to say, that was a really good time for someone to dress up as Orson Welles. While people mostly know him for 'Citizen Kane' and the 'War of the Worlds' broadcast, he had in his old age a string of wine commercials that probably served as the inspiration for the "Most Interesting Man in the World" campaign. He might have been jostled outof the way on occasion throughout the evening, but he could always come back and win her attention again. As she had me there with her, he hovered around concerned that the guy she'd been waiting for all night had arrived, she went ahead and asked him to say the line. He delivered: "We will sell no wine - - - Before it's time."

So I did know the guy, I did not yet know the contest that had ensued from her arrival. Since we talked about film history anyway, I thought it would be fun to discuss with Orson Welles the efforts that the REAL film fans like to talk about, such as 'The Third Man' and 'A Touch of Evil.' He was instantly annoyed.

Surprising that he wasn't up on those films yet but was ready to dress up like that. But I still hadn't caught up with the fact that costume of hers really was all about me. After some time of asking people about me she apparently had been saying something about giving up and going home, with Orson interjecting himself as walking her to her car. And he started insisting she was leaving and she should come on.

Sometimes there's a security only another girlfriend can provide. Since I knew Dianne, whom she'd been buddying up to, she figured she could take my hand and lead me to safety, finally giving me the idea there's something more going on here. Yet here came Orson skulking behind.

And with that Orson wasn't just blowing it, he was forgetting the importance of that old song 'Girls just want to have fun.' It all went fine for him when he was just trying to be more fun than the guys who were trying to stop him. But how does he compete with the guy who's letting him be a fun guy while he's feeling second best? Making her uncomfortable wasn't the answer.

Out in the backyard was the girl who liked to use her Keltic heritage as an excuse to hold mock Druid ceremonies at Halloween. Dianne was busily leaving Catholic school in the dust by supporting the undertaking. We were given candles like everyone else had and since Halloween is the Druid New Years Eve she started an incantation about the new year and I started hoping she wasn't accidently conjuring up the living dead to come eat our brains. Tondelayo, meanwhile, was getting cold in her --- almost nothing. She started pushing sideways against me saying "Your arm is warm." Here came Dianne to her other side, leaning on her other arm and creating a near cocoon for her. Tondelayo started holding the candle near her face and switching it from hand to hand so she could hold the other over it to catch the heat. Eventually she seemed to get caught up in the proceedings and didn't mind the cold anymore.

The ceremony wound up with us spontaneously singing a song we were making up as we went. It was going surprisingly well so I would think someone would decide there really were Druid spirits guiding us. With everything seeming finished but the spirits still high, Jerry decided to say there was only one thing still needed to make this the perfect night. He looked at Tondelayo and said "For you to dance while you flash us."

That received a positive response from the remaining crowd, especially the women. Dianne was thrilled at such an unCatholic schoolgirl thing, she put her face right against Tondelayo's, saying "DO IT, DO IT." Tondelayo was laughing really hard as she dropped her candle and put both hands over her face. She turned her back and leaned way over, when she finally looked at Dianne again she hand her arms in front of her where they would be the next minute or two and she said )"I can't. I just can't." Laughing on and on.

So now it was past midnight and people were looking to leave in numbers. Orson still wasn't giving up, acting like he could escort her away. She made her point by telling me "Let's go. Walk me to my car." As we're walking toward the house, Dianne, in her pointed slippers and hat with bells and boyfriend wearing the same, says "This is the most romantic thing, you coming here like this."

Which seemed to have an affect on Tondelayo. She stopped and looked at me, finally saying with a sort of pseudo sadness, "This will probably be my only chance to go to a party like this." Then she walked back toward the people still in the backyard, Jerry included. And pulled off her top as she danced. Jerry was quite pleased, as were others. I guess she had spent the evening doing some drinking, but I wasn't there to have seen it.

I guess it's a good thing Jerry didn't think to get really pagan and tell her to dance Skyclad, as the Wiccans say. Then again, what would it hurt? Everyone was having a good time.

Unless Orson wasn't. He was sure glowering as we were leaving. I'm the guy who might meet a woman on the same night her exboyfriend gets out of prison, possibly by escaping, and comes looking for her. It doesn't go well. This is where he turns out to have some demon power for real. But by the time I'd see him the following week he was getting over it and there wasn't a problem.

I offered to go get my car and drive her to hers since it was so cold, but she wanted to walk. The girl that was normally so reserved they called her "Mousy" was chattering away excitedly about what had gone on at the party. The following week she'd be back in the business attire and glasses, but they wouldn't call her "The mousy little girl" anymore, she was now to be "Tondelayo." People may not know her real name, but they knew who you meant if you said Tondelayo. When we got to her monster steamship of the early 70's car she sat on the the trunk and patted for me to sit next to her, but before I could she jumped off holding her behind, saying "No no, that's too cold."

As she was getting in the car she said "Don't go away, I'm not leaving yet. She started the engine, continuing to insist she wasn't going anywhere, after a few moments she shut it off and went to lay on the hood. "Ah, that's great." She patted next to her for me to come over. She finally said she wanted me to come back to her "Dorm room." Which I took to be that she lived in an apartment behind CalState. In fact her family lived just a few blocks from me. There's these little matchbox houses, some have a tiny apartments attached to the garage. She'd have more room in a real dorm, but at least we had a place to be alone. Mine was full of relatives.

So you're wondering, if this went so well where is she now? Good question. Right away she started letting me know she was really working on becoming a wine connoisseur, with me not wanting to be around alcohol after all the trouble in my family. There'd be the other little things, but mainly she was about to meet this guy, if she hadn't already; she'd lose all interest in me shortly. Probably a better match there.

The big thing here is that I probably hold the record on first date disasters, but this time there wasn't one. It was the night of the demons, but none of them found me. How'd that happen? Did the girl's Druid ceremony work? If so, not for long.

Nothing against the other Comm dept. Halloween's, or any other Halloween party I've been to, but there was never another quite like that one. Which is too bad. It doesn't take much to be a really good night.

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