Trick or Treat? A question that is asked millions of times on Halloween with the answer almost always being Treat!
When I think back on the Halloweens of the past, for me it almost always involved a rainy night in Dunbar. I’m sure it was just a cloudy memory and isn’t backed up with any statistics, but for this Vancouver kid, on the last day of October, you could pretty much depend on it being a dark and stormy night.
Imagination didn’t exactly run wild back in the mid to late 50’s when this Trick or Treater went knocking. The go-to costume always seemed to be a “Hobo.” Now, today that term may or may not be socially acceptable, it’s hard to keep up these days. But for my Mom, it was the easiest of costumes, burn the end of a cork and rub the charred end on my face to simulate being unshaven, my jeans always seemed to have holes in the knees so that was easy, find a baggy old shirt and presto the costume was complete!
We were armed with old pillowcases to collect the loot. I never did fill the whole thing, so I guess it was just wishful thinking on my part. We weren’t much into a big fireworks display in our neighbourhood, probably due to the cost. But there were some old standbys like the burning schoolhouse, which didn’t do much but burn, those little black snakes that grew out of pellets, and of course sparklers, a red hot burning favourite that was handed out liberally to little kids placing them just inches away from 3-degree burns! Ah, those were the days.
But the memory of Halloween that haunts me is not the Halloweens of my youth during the 50’s and 60’s but a Halloween in the 80’s. I’ve mentioned before that I was a co-host of a TV show called The Vancouver Show on a TV station known as CKVU, or U-TV, or VU 13. Movie director Daryl Duke owned the station, and the Vancouver Show was his baby. It was a show that was 2 hours long and was broadcast live from 7-9 PM five nights a week. A show that industry insiders said couldn’t be done, but somehow we seemed to get it done for 10 years.
To help fill those 2 hours of live TV a night meant we would lean heavily on theme shows, or 2 hour specials, and Halloween was one of those opportunities. On this one particular night, we had invited viewers to come and be part of the audience and the show dressed in their finest Halloween costumes. Naturally the more elaborate the costume the better, this was TV! As hosts, we were also dressed in costumes and had the advantage of professional makeup artists, special lighting, and a props department with some special effects like a fog machine!
Viewers did come out, and some of the costumes were amazing. One person had constructed a full-size horse with a dummy dressed as Napoleon fastened to the horse’s saddle. The person was inside the horse costume with the back feet on wheels so it really did look like Napoleon was riding a white horse!
Another notable costume was a slug. Yes, a common garden slug, but a 6-foot long, 2-foot high garden slug made of a foam rubber material with a person inside crawling along the floor! Luckily for him, nobody came dressed as a salt shaker!
Soccer great Bobby Lenarduzzi was a guest on this special Halloween show, and I really wasn’t sure what he thought of the whole thing, but he was a good sport about it.
We were getting ready to start the show, and as mentioned this show was live, so when the clock struck 7, the show was on the air and away we went for 2 hours. All the costumed people were in place, and we as hosts were standing in a set that resembled your classic Halloween graveyard, the only thing missing was the fog. You can’t have a scary graveyard without fog.
Now, the fog machine was a pretty simple device, it was an old 50-gallon oil drum filled with water. Attached to the top of the drum was a winch designed to lower a large block of dry ice into the water. When the dry ice is submerged into water a fog-like effect results and this fog was blown by a small fan through a large hose onto the floor. At least that’s what was supposed to happen. As the countdown began and the costumed people were set and ready, the fog machine operator was instructed to slowly lower the dry ice into the oil drum of water. But as he did, his hand slipped off the winch handle and the huge block of dry ice plunged into the drum of water. Water splashed up and over the sides of the oil drum, the studio was suddenly filled with fog and the studio floor was covered in water. That’s when someone yelled, “Watch out for the water, we’ve got 5 thousand volts of electricity running through these camera cables!”
When the guy lying on the floor in the foam rubber slug costume heard that, he jumped up and started running through the fog heading for the exit door! So did Napoleon on his horse! 3…2…1…We’re on the air! At this point, all I could see was a faint red light through the fog, where the camera was situated. I turned to see the slug heading for the exit sign above the door, the horse was running too but didn’t realize how tall his rider was, and Napoleon was cut in half as the horse galloped through the exit! To be honest, I don’t know what happened next. I can only imagine what the viewers at home must have been thinking! "What’s going on?"
I’ve often thought of asking Bobby Lenarduzzi if he remembers that Halloween, and if he wondered why he ever agreed to be on the show! Must have been a trick, because it was no treat!
Till next week...
Bobby Lenarduzzi and Wayne in the fog
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