The carnage continues apace, Gentle Reader: here in New York, countless small businesses are closing their doors forever, victims of the economic damage wrought by the ongoing pandemic. Arts organizations are paralyzed, as the audiences they rely upon are trapped at home in lockdown. A small business that serves those arts organizations is in an especially precarious place at the moment, and even the most established of those businesses are in danger.
Earlier this month, it was reported that the Halloween Adventure store in the East Village would be closing permanently, another casualty of the quarantimes. For those of you not from New York, it needs to be stressed that this was more than a simple pop-up store, another hole in the wall selling cheap costumes every autumn. It DID sell cheap costumes, of course – well, not THAT cheap, this is New York after all – but it sold more elaborate pieces as well, along with theatrical make-up and magic kits and prop weaponry and gag items of every imaginable variety. The store took up an entire city block, a dark and labyrinthine wonderland crammed stocked with the contents of everybody’s inner thirteen-year-old’s gleeful imagination. It was an institution, and there was nothing like it.
Since it was open year round, it was a mecca for theatre folks needing props and make-up, especially for those of us toiling in the low-budget world of Off-off Broadway. My make-up is still stocked with purchases I made from that store; any false mustache I needed came from its stock. (I couldn’t always grow my own, you see – there was this one time I played a bodiless head who only had a mustache in one of his three vignettes. It was the nineties.) I’ve stocked a one-act of mine with blood packs from its shelves, worn at least one of its wigs onstage, and spent the better part of a summer picking feathers out of my laundry that came from a feather boa I needed to pick up there as a prop, for reasons I can’t even remember any more. I’m sure it made sense in context.
I’ve been going there for a long time, in other words. And that’s what’s throwing me for the biggest loop as I process the news of this closing. For you see, everybody who’s mourning this store is mourning the loss of a tradition, a fixture of the theatrical scene for as long as anybody can remember.
But the physical store I’m talking about, that macabre shrine on Fourth Avenue, only opened in 1996.
In other words, it’s been around the New York theatrical scene as long as I have. (Slightly longer, in the name of strict accuracy – I moved back to my home town in spring of 1997).
It’s strange to think that an institution has been around as long as I have, or if you prefer, that I’ve been around as long as that institution. And it SUCKS to think that the institution in question, which once again is my age, has reached the end of its lifespan.
It’s got me in a macabre frame of mind. And now I don’t even have a place to buy a suitable costume to suit the mood!