Going All-In on David Pumpkins

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I was slow to the David S. Pumpkins party. I haven’t really watched an episode of Saturday Night Live in at least a decade, finally succumbing to that stage of life where you find yourself tut-tutting, “the show isn’t as good as it used to be.” I don’t know these kids on SNL, and damn are they annoying. (I’ll be yelling at a cloud next.)

I was in a burlesque show with my wife, a tribute to the great Tom Hanks. All Tom Hanks-inspired acts. My wife and I did a little duet inspired by The ‘Burbs. This was one of the last shows we did in Los Angeles before the big move, in February, a decidedly un-Halloween time of year.

The last act of this particular show was typically an improvised striptease to a randomly chosen song. This time, they sprung David S. Pumpkins on the unsuspecting crowd. It’s difficult to put into words exactly how they pulled off a striptease version of David S. Pumpkins, and I’d hate to deny your imagination the chance to run with the concept. All I can say is, it was baffling and hilarious.

Naturally, the wife and I immediately searched out the clip of David S. Pumpkins from SNL. It was as baffling and hilarious as we could have hoped. Later that year, SNL broadcast the animated David S. Pumpkins special, and we were in stitches for days. Reviewers were not so kind to the special, but I sincerely hope it becomes a holiday staple. (Ironically, the chief complaint seemed to be that SNL went “all-in on David Pumpkins.”)

Mass-Produced Novelty

Why my devotion? Because David S. Pumpkins is the embodiment of everything wrong with Halloween. Whether intentional or not, Bobby Moynihan, Mikey Day, and Streeter Seidell created a scorching satire of the over-trendiness of Halloween. It’s always been a commercial holiday, at least as long as I’ve been alive, but sometime around the turn of the millennium, Halloween became truly manic.

Halloween became blowing out your house decorations with “Hollywood” special effects, sexy version of everything costumes, Spirit Halloween Stores popping up like toadstools after a rainstorm, and the haunted house mazes–MY GOD THE HAUNTED HOUSE MAZES!!!

And yet, with all the mania, there is a certain generic quality that has creeped in. I think it started before the 2000s. From the late 70s into the 80s, filmmakers gave us idiosyncratic icons of horror. Freddy Krueger, Jason, Michael Myers, Pinhead, Chucky, Killer Klowns. They had their own verisimilitude, and a commitment to high concept that sometimes defied any attempt at logic.

1996 rolled around, and Wes Craven, one of the great filmmakers of that movement towards whimsical horror gave us a new nightmare: Ghostface of Scream. A boogeyman born from an off-the-rack, unlicensed, generic halloween mask. Don’t get me wrong, it’s brilliant. Scream is brilliant. But, it heralded the place we find ourselves today, where the same person who begged their parents to help them make a dinosaur costume in the 80s can casually drop $60 at Walmart for an inflatable T-rex costume.

I hope this doesn’t come off as cynical. I do adore the absolute nonsense that lines the racks this time of year. I can browse a Spirit store for hours, marveling at the quality of the wares, and the assortment of costumes and props both licensed and clearly not licensed while obviously that thing from that show everyone knows. I also never get tired of sexy version of everything costumes.

As much as I adore the novelty, it’s a mass-produced novelty. Novelty in bulk. Penn Jillette once opined that “Halloween is for amateurs.” He’s not wrong. At the same time, “amateur” literally means “someone who does something for the love of it.” Love is good, and I would never look askance at those who are enjoying themselves.

The Spirit of Party City Halloween

I do reserve the right to find Halloween mania ridiculous, however, and in David S. Pumpkins, I have a new sort of idiosyncratic icon. This icon is born of the mass-produced novelty that has sanded off Halloween’s edge. He has no carefully crafted backstory. He’s his own thing, man. His motives are inscrutable. His sidekicks are “part of it.” He is the spirit of Party City Halloween.

Pumpkins and his two skeleton friends are as off-the-rack as you can get, like amateurish, postmodern descendants of Ghostface. They fully commit to the gag in a way reminiscent of the transcendent scenery-chewing you could rely on from Robert Englund. The anti-humor of Pumpkins is an echo of the absurdity of 80s comedy horror, from the Evil Dead flicks to Killer Klowns. By somehow bridging the gap between bespoke horror and mass-produced novelty, David S. Pumpkins is also the embodiment of everything right with Halloween.

He can be enjoyed ironically and unironically at the same time. It’s a joke we’re all in on– that might not actually be a joke. It’s ephemera of substance. A straightforward paradox. I’ve gone all-in on David Pumpkins.

Any questions?

Have Confetti Cannon … Will Travel!

Davy Crockett is on the hunt! MNT presents: MEATFEST 4: Skin at the Monday Night Tease! Photo by Andrija Bloom.
Davy Crockett is on the hunt! MNT presents: MEATFEST 4: Skin at the Monday Night Tease! Photo by Andrija Bloom.

Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee, the greenest state in the land of the free, raised in the woods so’s he knew every tree, kill’t him a bear when he was only three …

You can’t have Davy Crockett without Beautiful Betsy, his rifle. If you’re toting a prop rifle in a burlesque show, it had better do something fabulous. Hence: My Betsy is a confetti cannon. At least, half the barrel is — the rest of the “gun” is just for show. I’ve been meaning to post a tutorial on this for some time.

A disclaimer: THE CONFETTI CANNON WORKS ON COMPRESSED AIR. You can easily injure yourself or others if you don’t use common sense! Only use this to blast confetti, and NEVER POINT IT AT PEOPLE, ANIMALS, OR FRAGILE OBJECTS. In fact, now that I think about it, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO BUILD THIS THING. I’M A (self-trained) PROFESSIONAL.

When I perform the Davy Crockett number, I aim the rifle at the ceiling, above the audience. The blast of confetti looks awesome, and then it drifts down onto my adoring fans — double awesome!

Here we go …

The Pieces Parts

Here are the ingredients for my confetti cannon:

  • a length of 3/4″ PVC pipe
  • 1/4″ (inner diameter) vinyl tubing
  • 3/4″ male – 1/2″ female reducer
  • 1/2″ male – 1/4″ barb hose adapter
  • a tapered inflator nozzle (comes in a blowgun or air pump kit, along with a mattress inflator, sports ball needle, etc.)
  • CO2-powered bicycle tire inflator with — VERY IMPORTANT — screw-on Schrader fitting.
  • A couple of small hose clamps.

If you squint, you can almost make out what this is a picture of.

And here’s why you need a screw-on Schrader fitting. You’re going to attach that tapered inflator nozzle to the CO2 inflator. Attach one end of the vinyl hose to the nozzle, and hose clamp that sucker in place.

Look, I’ll be honest with you. You may not actually need the hose clamp. I’m a Nervous Nancy, however, and I want to make sure my connections are as tight as possible.

I'm a Nervous Nancy

Place (and by place I mean “shove”) the male end of the reducer into one end of your PVC pipe. I used a little E-6000 to glue it in place because, again, Nervous Nancy.

Here’s the genius of my confetti cannon: The hex head on the reducer keeps it from entering the pipe. Meaning there is no risk of accidentally propelling a hard brass fitting into the air when you activate this thing.

Insert the barb hose adapter into the reducer, put the hose on it, and clamp it. (Note: you’re going to want to put the hose through the hose clamp before you attach the hose to the adapter.)

Fill the PVC pipe with confetti, and activate the tire inflator. Huzzah! confetti cannon!

Now here’s a problem: My Beautiful Betsy is 50 inches long. I want to fit it into a standard-size suitcase for air travel. It needs to be collapsible, and so I’ve accomplished this with the addition of a couple of pieces of hardware.

Step One

Here’s what the connection at the PVC looked like.

Step Three

And here’s what it looks like now! I unscrewed the barb hose adapter from the reducer, and inserted a 1/4″ quick connect coupler and male plug with 1/4″ female plug. Now this part of the confetti cannon breaks apart …

Step Two

Like so! The gun stock is being broken into three pieces that I will assemble after I arrive at my destination. I’ll source the CO2 cartridge locally so I don’t have to travel with a compressed air cartridge. (I don’t know if it’s legal or not to travel with CO2 cartridges — I don’t really care. I like the idea of showing up in another town and looking for a bicycle shop. Gives me a chance to take in more local flavor.)

So there you have it: an inexpensive confetti cannon that can be built in a couple of hours.

On the Care and Feeding of a Showgirl

As published in the Spring 2013 issue of Bachelor Pad Magazine.

By Mr. Snapper

Congratulations! You managed to land yourself a showgirl, garnering the envy of every man. Now, how do you keep her? The showgirl is really no different from any other girl, minus one crucial thing: the “show.” Pull up a martini and take out your notebook, fellows. Mr. Snapper is going to tell you how it’s done.

1. HOUSEWORK. You have won the romance lottery. Why bicker over who washes the dishes? Every minute she spends in an apron over sink full of sudsy water is a minute not spent putting rhinestones on a g-string. A relationship is give and take, and I’m not saying you need to become her manservant. I’m saying fold some laundry from time to time. Women are attracted to men who know how to take care of themselves, and that includes cooking and cleaning. Remind her that you know how to do those things, especially if she’s in the middle of building a corset or choreographing a fan dance.

When it’s show time, attend to her dinner needs. She has enough on her mind without having to figure out what to nosh on. And the way artists work, she may actually forget to eat, and won’t feel it until the adrenaline from the performance wears off. And believe me: there are few things worse than a starving, worn out showgirl at 2 am.

2. CARRY THE CASE. After a show, she’s exhausted. Her feet are killing her, she wants to take off those false eyelashes, yet she still has to keep on a bright face for her adoring fans. Unburden her. In spite of all that feminism jazz, they still appreciate it when you offer to carry their case. If you are in a relationship with a showgirl, you don’t even have to ask. Just put your hand out for the case, and she’ll hand it over, relieved to be free of it. You know why all the ladies love Mr. Snapper? I carry the case. If I had a nickel for every time some showgirl saw me carrying the case and said, “I wish I had a Mr. Snapper,” I could retire to Costa Rica.

3. CONTRIBUTE. Does she need a prop for her next number? Do you happen to know how to sew? Can you learn the difference between a Crystal AB Preciosa and a Korean-made Clarus? Congratulations, pal. You can help cement things with the showgirl by helping her get things done. You have the rare backstage glimpse at how much work goes into a three minute-long number. Offer to knock a couple of those “to-do’s” off her list. But remember: It’s her act. There’s being helpful and there’s imposing your opinions on what she’s doing. Get to know the difference.

4. DON’T BE AN IDIOT. Too many times I hear about a guy who has taken some showgirl off the market, only to insist she “tone things down” or quit burlesque altogether. Idiot! Remember what attracted you to her in the first place? Why would you want to shut that down? Don’t let jealousy cloud your judgment. Know that what she does on stage is mere fantasy; you get the real deal in the privacy of your own bedroom (or dungeon, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

On a related note, don’t smother her. She’s a human being, and human beings need room to breathe. If the relationship is happening, you can ease back and let it happen. If you obsess over her, there won’t be enough room for both of you in the relationship.

5. DON’T BE A CREEP. Become romantically entangled with a showgirl, and you will have gained some entree into the backstage lives of other showgirls. Remember: Their eyes are on their faces, and just about any joke you want to make will be inappropriate. Be cool and be friendly. And if you hit on her friends, you’re a tool who doesn’t deserve any girl, show or not.

In conclusion: make her life a little easier. Part of this is “The Golden Rule,” and part of it is common sense. Make yourself an indispensable part of her team and you’ll be picking glitter out of your chest hair for many years to come. Start acting like a clingy, stifling jerk and you’ll be back in the peanut gallery drowning your sorrows in cheap whiskey.

Hollywood Burlesque Festival!

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Tonight begins the First Annual Hollywood Burlesque Festival. I’m proud to say my wife and I are among the few who have been involved in this shindig since the very beginning. The culmination of years of efforts hits the stage at the Hayworth Theater in Hollywood mere hours from now.

Last night a group of us paid a visit to one of the Festival’s sponsors, the inimitable Richard Simmons. We presented him with a pair of Snapper-built burlesque fans as a thank you for all his generosity:

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I absolutely adore Uncle Dickie. There are few people I have met who are as unabashedly caring and giving. He’s pretty much the top.

Tonight Red Snapper performs, and tomorrow night, Mr. Snapper & Mr. Buddy take the stage. There’s something like 200 performers from around the world performing this weekend through Monday night. (I exaggerate, but only slightly.)

There may still be tickets available. If you can make it out, do so!