Stop Me Before I Quip Again!

Austin Dispatches
No. 58
Nov. 2, 2003

For this issue, I’ll take a break from the usual allotment of bile and woe to tell you about some of the recent fun. Not that I want you to forget about my troubles, which seem all the more disconcerting within the longest Indian Summer I’ve ever experienced, instead of the usual deepening Autumn gloom of October.

Anyway, for the first time, I actually spent my own pocket money for Halloween appearances – almost $2. I walked to my neighborhood convenience store and bought the cheapest cigar I could find (64 cents) and picked up some black costume makeup (99 cents). I printed out a photo, taped it to my bathroom mirror and checked it as I applied the makeup to my eyebrows and upper lip. I skipped the gel and parted my hair in the middle so it looked wild and silly. Soon enough, Groucho Marx was staring back at me.1  I threw on a black coat and tie and I was read for A Night on the Town.

And what a night it was. I’d listed a half-dozen parties in my weekly planner, only a fraction of the events. I warmed up along South Congress Avenue,2 running up and down with Groucho’s distinctive gait3 as diners in swanky bistros did double takes.

I stopped at Jo’s coffee house as the customary costume contest was ending, and the karaoke performances began.4  Somebody did a Neil Diamond rendition of  “The Hokey Pokey.”5  That was the most ridiculous thing I ever heard.

Then it was off to the highlight of the night. My friend Jessica Caplan and her roommates hosted a party at their house, under the jaundiced glow of the neighborhood street lamps.

When I was in costume, I was in character.  I waggled my eyebrows, cracked jokes incessantly and leered at women. (Like I need a costume for any of that.) Marina Neale was skeptical, but most of the puns and one-liners I uttered that evening I came up with on my own, instead of quoting Groucho’s famous lines.

And I stayed in character, just as when I portrayed Christopher Walken from “King of New York”6 I spoke in Walken’s distinctive, halting cadences the entire time,7  and when I played a Rat Pack hanger-on, I sounded like one of Frank’s flunkies (“Hey, t’anks, dollface.”)8

I wasn’t alone in portraying the famous or semi-famous real or fictional. I met the king of France, the king of England, Don King,9 Alan King,10 Burger King,11 King Kong,12  and some guy who looked like the King of Kings13  (really Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski).14  And it’s good to be the king.15  I whined to the king of France that he didn’t bring any wine and he was cheesed that he forgot the brie.

Other people opted to appear as Kurt Cobain,16  Marilyn Monroe,17 Alex the Droog,18 Mia Wallace,19 Medusa, the Phantom of the Opera,20  the Lone Ranger,21 Audrey Hepburn,22  Britney Spears,23 and Stevie Wonder circa 1973.24

And of course, there were various ghouls, mummies, fiends, pirates, doctors, angels, pimps, hookers, thugs, flappers, gangsters, punks,25 Goths,26 zombies, dominatrices, cross-dressers, freaks and blood-spattered corpses.  Soon the entire property was as crowded as the stateroom scene in “Monkey Business.”27

I’ll go so far as to say this was my best adult Halloween ever. My best childhood Halloween? That’s a tough choice, because I’m just old enough to remember when adults still gave out full-size candy bars.28  However, I’ll say the best year was the last year I went trick or treating, when I’d refined my approach. I hit a 30-square block area, quadrant by quadrant. I collected enough candy to last through New Year’s. Nothing in adulthood compares, unless I didn’t hear about it being standard practice to visit people’s houses and get free gourmet food, home electronics, European designer fashions, and CD box sets.


I’ve obtained several free dances lessons around town: Arthur Murray Dance Studio (rhumba and cha-cha), the Austin Ballroom Dancers (samba), and Go Dance and Footworks Dance Center (salsa). I skipped this year’s Salsa Festival at Waterloo Park, unwilling to pay $12 to tromp in the mud, but I did attend the free official after-party dance at Spiro’s. The place turned into a Puerto Rican social club. I immediately realized I was out of my league. I thought it best not to prove that to everyone else. So I just stood around in a green silk shirt,29 sipping a Cuba Libre30 and trying to pick up new moves by watching the men – not an easy thing given their dance partners. The payoff happened on Oct. 30 at Miguel’s La Bodega.31  I danced multiple times without embarrassing myself, even venturing into combination steps. It was my first visit there in months and the most satisfying yet.

On the stationary side of things, I finally caught Parliament-Funkadelic at Stubb’s on Oct. 4.32  I listened to the band outside the venue, same as with David Lee Roth this summer.33  George Clinton even led his group through a cover of “I’m the Slime,”34  which leads us into the Zappa Hoot Night at Cactus Café on Oct. 8.35

The Democratic Party held a free rally at Fiesta Gardens on Oct. 20. By showing up early, I enjoyed a free buffet surprisingly heavy on meat and home cooking. I guess the Democrats were good for something after all. Unfortunately, they also served a bad California chardonnay. If it’d been a GOP rally, the Republicans would’ve charged for it.

Neighborhood News

Capitol Metro will pay $12.2 million to buy 28 acres of industrial space off Burnet Road south of Braker Lane for a depot for its bus fleet.  There goes the neighborhood. Meanwhile, Jack Brown Cleaners lost its lease at the Stonehollow Place strip mall.36

A new newspaper, Silicon Hillz Exchange, has arrived in local distribution racks.37


1 Arce, Hector. Groucho. New York City: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1979: 112.
2 AD No. 29 (Sep. 4, 2001).
3 Arce, op. cit.
4 Chisholm, Barbara. “Calendar: Halloween and Día de Los Muertos.” AC 31 Oct. 2003: 74.
5 Grossman, Alan, Bill Truman, and Roy Oki Yamanaka. Neil Diamond. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1987.
6 King of New York. Dir. Abel Ferrara. Caminito/Rank Film Organization/Reteitalia/Scena International, 1990.
7 Christopher Walken: Movie Top Ten. Ed. Jack Hunter. London: Creation, 2000.
8 Levy, Shawn. Rat Pack Confidential: Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter, Joey, and the Last Great Showbiz Party. New York City: Doubleday, 1998.
9 Newfield, Jack. Only in America: The Life and Crimes of Don King. New York City: William Morrow, 1995.
10 King, Alan, and Chris Chase. Name Dropping: The Life and Lies of Alan King. New York City: Scribner, 1996.
11 Tenenbaum, Mark Dean. Franchising: With Special Emphasis on the Burger King Corporation. Diss. U of Texas at Austin, 1983.
12 Pascall, Jeremy. The King Kong Story. Secaucus, N.J.: Chartwell Books/Phoebus, 1977.
13 King of Kings. Samuel Bronston Productions, 1961.
14 The Big Lebowski. Polygram Filmed Entertainment/Working Title Films, 1998.
15 Mel Brooks’ History of the World: Part I. Brooksfilms Ltd., 1981.
16 Cross, Charles R. Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain. New York City: Hyperion, 2001.
17 Mailer, Norman. Marilyn, a Biography. New York City: Grosset & Dunlap, 1973.
18 A Clockwork Orange. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. Hawk Films Ltd./Polaris Productions/Warner Bros., 1971.
19 Pulp Fiction. Dir. Quentin Tarantino. A Band Apart/Jersey Films/Miramax Films, 1994.
20 Phantom of the Opera. Polydor 831273-2, 1989.
21 Van Hise, James. The Story of the Lone Ranger. Las Vegas: Pioneer Books, 1990.
22 Paris, Barry. Audrey Hepburn. New York City: Putnam, 1996.
23 EAD No. 9n15 (Oct. 23, 1999).
24 Swenson, John. Stevie Wonder. 1986. Rpt. New York City: Perennial Library, 1986.
25 “Punk.” alt.culture, 192-193.
26 “Goth.” Idem., 94.
27 Monkey Business. Paramount Pictures, 1931.
28 Bryan, Wendy, and Bruce Elliott. “Halloween Candies.” Retro Hell, 86.
29 Zawinul, Joe. “The Man in the Green Shirt.” Weather Report. Tale Spinnin’. Columbia 33417, 1975.
30 Boston’s, 93.
31 AD No. 50n20 (May 14, 2003).
32 Vincent, Rickey. Funk: The Music, the People and the Rhythm of the One. New York City: St. Martin's Griffin, 1996: Pt. V, and passim.
33 AD No. 53 (July 30, 2003).
34 Zappa, Frank. “I’m the Slime.” Over-nite Sensation. Discreet 2149, 1973.
35 Austin Liberator 22 Sep. 2003: 2.
36 “Cap Metro Approves Land Purchase.” AAS 28 Oct. 2003: B2.
37 Andrews, Wade. “From the Editor.” Silicon Hillz Exchange Sep. 2003: 2.