How Max Headroom and a Ninja Star Made My Favorite Halloween Ever
When I was growing up, my favorite thing to do at Halloween was to make my own costume from scratch. Scratch usually meant cardboard, duct tape, spray paint, and electronic components repurposed from toys and household appliances. If I could make it light up, or make sounds, I did. My favorite of these costumes was Max Headroom, and it was the year I got a NINJA STAR in my trick-or-treat bag.
It was Halloween of 1986. I was very excited about my ‘Max Headroom’ costume. Max Headroom, in case you don’t recall, was a ‘computer generated’ (most of it was done without computers) TV host that had 15 minutes of fame in the 1980’s with a TV show and commercial endorsements. To make my Max costume, I slicked my hair back, wore sunglasses, and a jacket and tie. I made a ‘TV’ out of a cardboard box, and wore it so that I faced out of the ‘screen’. I put some battery-powered lights behind me in the box, and carried a small keyboard/sampler with me to make the stuttering voice effect. I was a real nerd about it, but was very happy with the results.
So I’m out trick-or-treating with my brothers, explaining to half of the adults answering the door exactly who I am, when we finally get to the Brewsters’ house.
The Brewsters were a family in my neighborhood that were probably as envied by the children of the neighborhood as they were distrusted by the adults. The Brewsters had two boys: Bill who was a couple years older than me, and Scott, who was a couple years younger, and two sisters. Bill and Scott’s mom was a single mom, and either seemed to be out working, or home sleeping, which left the boys up to their own devices.
Bill’s big thing was those Japanese throwing stars, like you would see Ninjas throwing in a movie. Somehow, Bill had a way to order them through the mail (this was years before the internet), and would always have several of them of different sizes. We would hang out in his garage, and throw them at the wall, making hundreds of holes in the sheetrock. It was awesome. I would constantly ask Bill to order me a star I could buy from him, but it never happened.
So we get to the Brewster’s house, expecting one of the sisters to answer the door. Instead, it was Bill, in a wolf mask. He sees that it is my brothers and I, and tells us to hold on. He comes back to the door, and reaches toward my trick-or-treat bag. He puts his hand into the bag, and pulls it out. I feel the instant weight of something more than candy in my bag. We walk away from the house, and instantly I realize what he did, HE TRICK-OR-TREATED ME A NINJA STAR! My mind started spinning with the possibilities of my new weapon. As excited as I was, I knew I had to be cool. My younger brothers would rat me out for sure if they knew what I had just received. I left the star in my bag, feeling it through the cloth, it was a big one. Sharp too.
We make it home, and I have to figure out how to get this Ninja star past my mother. I knew she would look through our bags, so I carefully palm the star, and put it in my jacket pocket. I figured I would wear the jacket to my room, where I could stash the star.
This is the point in the story where either my memory is a little fuzzy, or my Mom pulled some kind of Jedi mind trick. She could tell I was hiding something and before I knew it the star was out of my pocket, and in her possession. I had to lie and tell her I found it on the ground, or Bill’s mom would have gotten an angry call. She didn’t seem too worried about the possibility of a band of ninjas roaming our neighborhood, dropping their throwing stars for teenagers to pick up, so it ended there.
When I think back to my favorite Halloweens, that one comes to the top. I learned that day that I could never be a ninja. I also learned that my Mom just may be one.