Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Corpse At The Mall

My friend Richard was into special effects-makeup (blood and gore, as opposed to making yourself pretty, like some of my other friends) and needed a guinea pig. I was all to happy to comply. He was a perfectionist, so it took hours. When finished, yep, I looked like a rotting corpse that had crawled out of the grave. Thing is, it wasn't Halloween. It was just the sort of thing he and I liked to do on a summer afternoon rather than, you know, passing ball.

It was such a terrific effect I thought it would be a shame to waste it on solely ourselves. I suggested we drive to the local mall and let me stumble around and see what people thought. Not the best of plans. We lived in West Virginia, not exactly a haven of zombie fans. Or people particularly interested in being confronted with something different.

We pulled up in the parking lot, near where the multiplex exited. A movie let out and people started streaming from the door. I got out of the car and shambled near them in my rotted corpse makeup. "Excuse me," I said, "Can you tell me how to get to Spring Hill Cemetary?"

One of my favorite, and ongoing, social experiments is to force people to come face to face with something outside their sheltered little world-view. What is fascinating, to me, is how often this sparks, of all things, sheer anger. I'm forced to confront things every day I simply cannot fathom, but the most heated response I usually offer is a smartass joke. But apparently I am not most people. A vast majority, I've found through perpetrating such stunts for most of my life, think that experiencing something they can't understand is immediate cause to feel threatened and offer bodily harm as a solution.

This is exactly what happened mere seconds after appearing in public in July made up as the living dead.

Some redneck and his girlfriend, no doubt watching Stroker Ace for the fifth or sixth time, caught sight of me. Mr. Man clearly had to protect his woman from watching a teenager bathed in latex and the fight-or-flight mechanism kicked in. He chose Fight.

"Buddy," he shouted at me like I was anything but, "You need to take off that creepy-looking suit and get your ass the hell out of this parking lot." He swiftly advanced his pace, heading straight for me.

"Richard? Richard!" I hissed through clenched teeth, "Unlock the car!"

He didn't hear. The angry man in the wife-beater ran after me.

"Richard!" I shrieked like a girl scout, "We've got trouble!"

Richard is not one for moving at a high rate of speed. He opened the driver's side door, then casually unlocked the passenger side. I jumped in an re-locked the door, smearing makeup on the window in the process.

Mr. Man and his 70's porn-star mustache hammered on the window.

"This is why we need to get out of here!"

"Oh," Richard said.

We took off, with seriously offended redneck man chasing the car like a mutt hunting dog.

And there ya go. Some twisted kid shows up in zombie paint and someone's brain misfires in a way that reads 'This does not compute' and a serious beat-down is the only possible way to handle the situation. What scares the living shit out of me is that this is how MOST people deal with such a scenario.

Some years later I bought a bunch of tubs of 'I Can't Believe It's Not Butter' and stood on a busy downtown corner with a shopping bag full of them. As each person passed, I said, "Would you like some margarine? You don't have to rub it on you right now..."

Not one person took one. And many people were hostile and threatened to punch me. (What made this experiment even more fascinating was that when I pointed to a non-existent, "hidden" camera people would smile and laugh and utterly change their personality in a heartbeat.) People clearly have to have a safety zone of the familiar. But potential stardom, no matter how half-baked, can cause them to throw that notion right out the window. Whatta world.

On the way home from my near-thrashing at the mall, Richard and I passed a car full of girls on the highway. They caught sight of me in my corpse makeup.

They mooned us.


  1. "Passing ball?" Is that how they say it?

    Hell, I guess if you can swallow it, you can pass it.

  2. Actually, "passing ball" was a nightmare. Dad would insist I take off my shirt (he kinda had a thing about this I didn't get till years later) and fire baseballs at me that I was supposed to catch but instead would pelt me and leave huge welts due to the fact that there could be no one more disinterested in this activity than me. But no, I was forced to do it even though I'd made it perfectly clear I'd rather be inside making puppets out of googly eyes and felt that looked like Charo. Our worlds never quite met. But somehow, we manage to love each other.