DOWNEY - It was Halloween, 1957. The world was entering the space age and people were asking, "What's next? Sputnik was hurtling across the sky. I was hurtling across my teens, and Vampira was queen of the late show on TV. Vampira was also my inspiration for a Halloween costume party. She excelled in slinkiness, but I determined to out-slink her in an old velvet gown my mother dug out of her trunk. It was black, and just as slinky as any of Vampira's. I pulled it over my head and watched as the plunging neckline, so seductive on Vampira, plunged lower and lower - there being nothing to hold it up. Standing in front of the mirror, I bemoaned the lack of endowments which stood between me and the prize for best costume. Then I wriggled around until I had the dress on backwards. Perfect! Vampira would celebrate Halloween with a plunging backline. But I still needed the long, black hair with the famous widow's peak. The widow's peak was provided by using a heavy hand with a black eyebrow pencil. But I couldn't just run out and buy a black wig. The only people who wore wigs at that time were movie stars. Or bald people. Or possibly bald movie stars. So our string mop was appropriated, boiled and died black, and Vampira sported a Raggedy Ann look instead of her usual sleek, straight style. Five-inch heels were in vogue, and I felt triumphant as I teetered out of the shoe store with just the right pair of black, stilt-like sandals. At the party, we marched around the room for the inspection of the judges, a group of our peers, whose qualification for judging us was that they were ineligible to win, having come in street clothes instead of costumes. As we paraded before the judges, my knees kept knocking from nervousness, which, along with the heels, gave me the grace of an inebriated camel. My mop wig, still slightly damp, also helped dispel my thin veneer of sophistication. When the judges' voting was completed, I was surprised to hear my name called as the winner. I still have the prize - a tiny ceramic Siamese cat. Though only two inches tall, she portrays exuberance and spirit. She sits up on her haunches, one front paw tucked under her slightly tilted head, the other paw lifted ready to fight or play - ready for anything; an eager "What's next?" attitude. Now, years later, the cat and I are a little worse for the wear. She has one chipped ear, and I have wrinkles Oil of Olay won't cure. But whatever comes next, we're ready, eager and still asking - "What's next?" Maybe things haven't changed so much after all, since Vampira was in her prime.
********** Published: October 18, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 27