When you’re young and filled with energy, Halloween is the greatest of opportunities to act out some fantasies, and live close to that line that separates fact from fiction.
Now I don’t know if that explains why Styles was dressed up as a blow up doll, complete with fake boobs, a tight fitting plastic body suit and a face full of makeup, but it certainly explains why Rick dressed up as the nineties dancing machine, hip-hop artist that called himself MC Hammer.
From my first book, Climbing Out of Bed. Banner photo: Mike Shaw
The day started with rummaging through costumes at the local thrift store on the day of Halloween. Procrastination is something college students seem to excel at, and the Boomerang in Gunnison, Colorado, was packed with people trying to find a last minute get up. Styles and Rick wanted to be the center of attention, and to entertain the people. Most of all they hoped to make people laugh.
Rick picked out a pair of baggy, shiny, purple pants, a black vest, a gold chain and a flat top wig. Styles, who prepares for Halloween with more enthusiasm than nearly everyone else, had purchased his costume three weeks previously on E-Bay, and was already in costume attracting points and smiles from the shoppers in the store.
Back at Rick’s apartment, he was pondering his costume. Could he really pull off MC Hammer, one of the most memorable characters from the nineties? Would his costume be convincing? Would this be a classic Halloween or a bust?
“They’re going to think you’re Vanilla Ice,” Styles joked.
Rick hoped that wouldn’t happen, and tried to visualize what Hammer looked like when he saw him in real life, randomly shopping in the Mall of America in Minnesota. That must have been the moment that made Hammer a hero to him. Rick and his friend were the first ones to notice him shopping. When he left the store, sixty people were following him around, as if he were some sort of prophet.
Rick focused on that image, put on an old Hammer tape and practiced his dance moves. The “Hammer Dance” was unique and recognizable. A series of sideways shuffles, a turnaround spin, jump back and forth, all while making his baggy pants float in the air!
“Damn, you’ve actually got some skills,” Blow Up Doll said, surprised.
Now if you could imagine, a male blow up doll, highlighted with blue and red makeup in a bright neon green body suit, and high heels, walking in a stiff manner next to a white MC Hammer, complete with the extra baggy pants that fluffed in the wind, a boom box, a gold chain, walking as if he ownedthe nineties, and, for that matter, as if he owned the street they were crossing in broad daylight to get a cup of coffee.
Hammer felt liberated, as if he was getting ready for the show of his life. Blow Up Doll felt awkward, already complaining about the stiffness of his outfit. The next stop after coffee was the LQ, the liquor store, where Blow Up Doll could get some liquid confidence for the evening. Hammer had agreed to be the designated driver, a real DD. In previous years, the DD simply didn’t drink but was allowed to dabble in hallucinogenics, which the duo agreed, if they kept up this practice, the whole Halloween crew might be eliminated from the gene pool.
As nighttime approached they cruised over to Rex’s house. Rex was dressed up as a skiing cowboy from Texas; we’ll call him the Million Dollar Cowboy. He wore a cowboy hat, a jean jacket, blue jeans and ski boots. He walked awkwardly around the house practicing his accent saying things like, “Yee-haw! If this ain’t goin to be a darn tootin’ get up good ol’ hell of a time tonight.”
The Dude from The Big Lebowski was also there, as well as Ed Viesturs, the legendary mountaineer. The Million Dollar Cowboy kept rubbing on Blow Up Doll’s boobs and Hammer was getting defensive, “That ain’t legit Cowboy, get your hands off her, ummm, I mean him.”
Everyone was beginning to act in character, and thus the true spirit of Halloween was coming through. The Dude was sipping white Russians and trying to keep everyone calm, “I’ve got to meet my lady friend now, man, so everyone stay cool,” he said in a hippie, stoned like slow voice.
The Mountaineer sat at the farthest end of the kitchen table, and no one noticed how fast he was drinking cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon. “We need more beer,” he proclaimed.
As the Dude made an exit to his lady friend’s house, wearing only a bathrobe to protect him from the cold Colorado night, the quirky quintet decided to get out and find parties. Since Hammer was the DD, he took the wheel of the party-mobile for the night, an old Toyota RV, called the Dolphin.
The Dolphin had a hundred stories of its own. It had been to Alaska and back, to Vegas on Phish tour, it had seen many road trips and a few LSD trips as well. The crew got comfortable in the Dolphin as the Million Dollar Cowboy said, “Gawd dang, let’s get this party started.”
The plan was to go to a college party in Gunnison, then cruise up the highway thirty miles to Crested Butte. With six years of college experience under his belt, Hammer predicted the party in Gunnison would be busted, or become uninteresting before midnight and then they would head up to Crested Butte with hopes of finding some freaky, fun people to interact and party with.
“We’ve got to stop at the LQ,” the Mountaineer said from the back of the Dolphin.
Hammer had already past the liquor store, but promptly did a U-turn in the middle of the road. “Ha, ha, I’m sober bitches,” he said, imagining if he were to be pulled over by the local authorities.
Hammer was the first to walk into the liquor store. The employee at the register eyed him, and without hesitation pointed and said, “You’re MC Hammer.”
In this very moment, Rick was instilled with the utmost confidence that he was Hammer. There would be no more doubting. He was as excited as he could be as his friends picked out an assortment of beer and hard liquor.
Hammer drove everyone over to the house party, and the place was just as they expected, packed with mostly underage drunks. It was so insanely crowded that any movement in any direction meant you were going to touch someone. There was not near enough room to showcase their costumes and personalities. After less than an hour, Blow Up Doll stood up and announced, “Off to The Butte, and get your hands off my ass Cowboy.”
Hammer took the wheel again. Once arriving in The Butte, they parked the car and out of nowhere the Million Dollar Cowboy pulled out a joint the size of Texas. What else were they to do? The Mountaineer was not up for this mountain of a joint, and quickly exited the Dolphin. The group barely noticed until fifteen minutes later when the Cowboy said, “I’m worried about Ed. He was pretty tore up, and you know how he gets. He’ll drink a twelve pack and then go try and climb a mountain.”
“But usually he barely gets to the base of it, and passes out in a drunken stupor,” Blow Up Doll added. “Last Halloween we found some bears gnawing at his leg, after he passed out in a snow bank.”
They exited the Dolphin in a way that could have been a scene out of any stoner movie, a cloud of smoke surrounding them. The cold night slightly altered their buzz. “It’s so fricken cold,” Blow Up Doll complained, his teeth chattering.
“Quit yer bitchin,” the Cowboy responded using a Southern drawl.
“Please Cowboy, don’t hurt the Blow Up Doll,” Hammer said defensively, carefully altering words from a Hammer tune.
As the trio stumbled along Elk Avenue, the main strip of the small mountain town, Hammer realized his boom box wasn’t working. They spotted the post office across the street, which was always open and warm. “Let’s go in there and fix the box,” Hammer directed.
Each had a forty ounce of Old English to chug before the bar and they attempted to fix the ghetto blaster. They thought of Ed, “Perhaps he’s making a drunken attempt of Mt. Crested Butte,” the Million Dollar Cowboy said, worried.
While speaking of Ed, drinking their 40s, and trying to fix the box, in walks Willy Wonka with a puzzled look on his face. He checked out the situation and without saying a word fixes the boom box. “It works, thank you Willy Wonka,” Blow Up Doll said.
Hammer took a pull off the 40, hit play on the box, and along with Willy Wonka, the group hit the streets. “Now this is the scene,” someone said.
“Yee haw, this is funner than skiing in jeans,” the Cowboy hollered.
The boom box played a Hammer classic that the growing crowd recognized. Immediately the freaks in the streets of Crested Butte started an impromptu dance party. The crowd included: Nelly, Homer Simpson, Pamela Anderson, Salt-N-Pepa, Akeem from Coming to America, Mike Tyson, polka dancers, Geraldo Rivera, Janet Jackson and Britney Spears. They all took to the Hammer vibe. It was as if the nineties never ended. Salt-N-Pepa were freaking with the Blow Up Doll between them and Nelly said, “It ain’t hot in here, but it sure is fun.”
The entrance to the bar they danced in front of, The Eldo, a famous Crested Butte bar, was so crowded that more and more people joined the party. “It’s the Eldo Underground,” Blow Up Doll yelled to the crowd.
“Ho,” someone said.
As the tape slowed down to the Hammer love song, “Have You Seen Her?”, Cowboy suggested they enter the bar via a cover free climb up to the deck of the bar. It was a climb more than one drunken patron had fallen off of and been injured on. To their surprise, they looked up to find an underage friend, the only person around without a costume on, quickly scale up the wooden pole that led up to the deck. He nearly fell when he reached a patch of snow near the top, but he pulled through.
Just as the Million Dollar Cowboy was about to start up, he looked at the ground and saw Ed’s headband. “He must be in the Eldo,” Cowboy said happily. By the time he’d realized this, a cop car rolled up alongside the group, wondering what was going on. “Just a little dance party, Mr. Policeman,” Hammer offered quickly.
“Hey Cowboy, Blow Up Doll, we better be legit and pay the cover,” Hammer said to his friends.
Inside the bar was entertaining, and the patrons had their wits about them more than the crowd at the house party in Gunnison. Quickly everyone noticed Michael Jackson, and they were all surprised when she entered the women’s bathroom. Others might have been surprised to see the Blow Up Doll enter the men’s room. On the floor of the bar they found one of The Mountaineer’s gloves, but no sign of him. Michael Jackson, straight out of the Thriller days, had some good moves and Hammer asked her to join him on the dance floor. Hammer shuffled and Michael Jackson did the moonwalk until Hammer’s girlfriend, dressed up in a jazzercise outfit showed up, “Damn, Hammer’s gotta get some of that,” he said.
Hammer then stood up on a barstool, as if to make some announcement to the crowd, but before he could say anything, 5.14 Gene, an eighties rock climber in spandex, stood up on the bar above him and screamed, “Let’s get wild,” a phrase uttered only on special occasions in The Butte.
The crowd went wild.
Madness of this sort continued until closing time. Hammer’s friend Lil’ Kev asked to borrow the boom box and told everyone to get out of the bar. He added that there would be a special show for them out on the streets.
Blow Up Doll suggested to Hammer, “Let’s get the Eldo Underground going again.”
“That’s hype,” Hammer responded.
“What the hell are ya’ll talkin ‘bout?” the Million Dollar Cowboy asked.
Hammer grabbed the boom box and went into the street, which like usual at two in the morning was free of traffic, save for a couple cop cars cruising back and forth. He triumphantly yelled to the crowd that was spilling out of the Eldo, “It’s Hammer time.”
Hammer went into his routine, shuffling, breaking, shaking, jumping and twisting his body; Blow Up Doll and The Million Dollar Cowboy danced too! The Cowboy looked damn good doing his thing to the Hammer groove. A cowgirl quickly noticed him and danced close to him. Blow Up Doll had to fend off multiple drunken guys, who mistook him for a woman.
Before long, a crowd of fifty surrounded Hammer as if he were the real thing. Rick’s mind drifted to his experience as a child seeing MC Hammer in the Mall of America. A chill went down his spine. This very moment was the ultimate goal of Halloween.
“You got to pray, just to make it today,” another Hammer classic came on. Out of nowhere a man dressed up as Jesus showed up and held a bible in the air. An alien appeared which added to the strangeness. The crowd attracted people in costumes, which were being forced out onto the streets from neighboring bars. Even the police were watching and they were clearly enjoying it, with one cop even putting his hands in the air like he just didn’t care.
Finally, after nearly the entire tape had played, the cops finally asked Hammer to disperse the crowd, “Hammer they love you. They won’t listen to us.”
Knowing the cops could’ve stopped it long ago, Hammer agreed if they let him have one more song. “This is the best night of my life,” he told the cops, as he high-fived them and then high-fived the Million Dollar Cowboy and the Blow Up Doll.
The last song was Dancing Machine, and Hammer could hardly believe it when a half naked Ed the Mountaineer, with lipstick all over his face appeared, and joined the dance party. The crowd was on both sides of Hammer forming a dance line that he busted his best moves through. Then Hammer told the crowd he had to leave.
After continuing the show down Elk Ave for a while with Blow Up Doll, The Cowboy and three jazzercise girls, the group knew that Halloween was coming to a close. Now that’s as much as I can recall, a tale that I’ll admit may be altered by time and memory a little. But I’d say believe more of it than not. As Hammer would say,
“That’s word because you know.”
This piece is a chapter from Climbing Out of Bed, my first book.