I have had several — depending on whether I was attending the Renaissance Pleasure Faire as ship’s pilot Will Thrustwell; Dickens Christmas Fair as London Illustrated News correspondent Peter Boggs; meetings of the Neo-Pagan Society of Diablo Valley College as Barbatus the Elder, or spinning Obscure Research Labs propaganda as BT Elder. It’s fun to impersonate someone else, especially someone of your own devising. Each of the above names (or, let’s face it, identities) is accompanied by a suitable costume and accent or speech pattern. They’re useful as means of latent-self expression and as a great “anchor” for improvisational gigs, especially when around people using the same social context — either as participants or spectators.
About that, Ann just piped in this-wise: “Remember Hallowe’en as a kid, when we first got to inhabit another character?” Her favorite costume in those days was as one of the 1950s ur-hipsters known as “beatniks” — she and her best friend wore black turtlenecks, black tights, lots of black eye makeup, no lipstick, and really felt like a Greenwich Village habitue. I have definitely “felt the part” whenever I have dressed as an appropriate character. In fact, it’s hard for me to use BFA (“Basic Faire Accent”) or any other lingual code if I’m not so becostumed. But even when I dressed as a down-on-his-luck space-merchant for one of John Wheeler‘s legendary San Francisco Hallowe’en parties, the duds I was wearing — silver-painted sneakers; ultramodern shirt; and a many-pocketed jacket containing crystals, a tribble, test-tubes full of colored liquid, and a packet of cinnamon masquerading as Arrakeen spice — helped facilitate my nascent improv skills. I almost believed I lived on a Martian freighter.
I guess there’s something to the old chestnut “Clothes make the man.” I was once the best man at a wedding where the groom rented for me a beautiful and classic tuxedo, right down to the cummerbund and the shiny shoes. I’ve never felt so elegant in my life, not even when I was wearing my (now lost, alas) maroon velvet-and-satin smoking jacket and fez. Not all clothes are appropriate for all settings, however — thanks to my brother-in-law and his wife, I now own a full-on gorilla suit after having put it on my family-in-law’s Xmas list for a pile of years. I’m still waiting for the right occasion. But when it comes, I’ll be ready.