When David and I saw Logan last weekend I did something I’ve never done – I dressed up for the premiere. For years David has asked me to embrace mutton chops for the opening night of an X-Men movie but I never did either because I wasn’t feeling it or I didn’t remember soon enough to grow them in all their glory. However, to honor Hugh Jackman’s final performance, as well as the seventeen years he spent playing Wolverine, I did it. I went full on Wolverine! There were no claws of course; I didn’t need to make things awkward for the theatre staff as they understandably ask for no toy weapons at these things. But I did my best to capture the rest of his look. And it was a lot of fun!
I’ve always been impressed by the commitment and creativity of people who dress up for the opening night of movies. Not only are the professing their love in a fantastic way, but they are making our night more enjoyable too. The best David and I have ever seen had to be this fantastic Nagini made up of seven people who moved as one, in serpentine patterns, the entire night of Deathly Hallows Part 1. They even made sure to go to the bathroom together! It was soooo cool!!!! The earliest I remember seeing costumes at the movies would be the 1997 release of the Star Wars Special Editions. Of course Revenge Of The Sith in 2005 was epic, as people really committed for what we all believed would be the final Star Wars film. And now costumes have become par for the course for everything from superhero movies to The Hunger Games (I particularly liked the costumes from The Hunger Games as they were derived almost exclusively from the book with the movie just coming out). I’m proud to say, with David’s urging and to honor Logan as best I could, I’ve now joined the ranks of costume-clad moviegoers.
All the credit for the actual production of this hairstyle goes to Erica, who cuts my hair. I took care of the beard work myself but then I went in, the afternoon of the movie, with a handful of pictures of Hugh Jackman from the X-Men films and she did the rest. How great is this?!? I can’t even begin to remember the mix of products she used to make certain it stayed like that but it didn’t move all night and it was a HUGE hit at the theatre! There was this one guy in particular who was there with a group of eleven people. He exclaimed, “NICE CHOPS!” when he saw me and urged each of his friends to, “Check out this guy’s chops!!” as they sat down. Another fan told me, “You are my favorite person in the world!” So yeah, it was a success. While the hair deservedly got the most attention, as David pointed out, the rest of the outfit subconsciously added to people’s overall reaction. Would the hair have been as impressive if I was just wearing a Wolverine t-shirt? Maybe. But I think the whole thing worked together.
It’s worth noting that Erica is the perfect facilitator for my wild ideas. Each time I go in to the salon with some odd request she gets excited and then does a beyond-brilliant job of pulling it off. She worked for about half an hour to get my Logan hair right! She’s also the one responsible for the Rebel Alliance symbol I wore in my hair for the premiere of The Force Awakens and the Iron Man that declared my devotion to Tony Stark for the opening night of Captain America: Civil War. My head has been captured on a lot of random people’s phones because of her work. I keep going in with crazier ideas and she keeps pulling it off!! Naturally this means my mind keeps thinking of grander plans. I have no idea what I’ll come up with next but I’m 100% positive she’ll make it look even better than I imagine it in my head. I have to say the full-on Logan costume did make opening night more fun too! I see why people do this.
Opening night for a new movie has always been a tradition David and I share. My earliest memory for an opening night extravaganza is 1990’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We were HUGE Turtles fans growing up and Mom and Dad made sure to take us to see it as soon as we could possible go. I remember coming home every day after school and David and I would cross off another day on the calendar as we counted down until opening night. Then the night finally came and we got to see the Turtles on the big screen. It. Was. AMAZING. I will never forget that feeling – the anticipation, the excitement, the wonder of seeing how what was produced met up with my expectations. It was unlike any other movie experience I’d had. These were our Turtles but on the big screen. And in real life!! Ahhh, it was something…
There’s just something special about opening night you know? I know we live in a culture of streaming but I’ll take the movie theatre over my couch any chance I get. There’s an energy in the air. Dad often comments of the surreal experience of watching Star Wars films on opening night. “Everyone is swinging lightsabers and quoting lines,” he says, “and it’s wild. But then, as soon as the movie begins, it’s absolutely silent. No one says a word. No one wants to miss anything! There’s bursts of applause and cheering but no one’s talking during the movie.” I love that reverential tone. I like seeing the movie as soon as I can too. I’m not exclusively an opening night person but if it’s something I’m excited for, something I’ve been waiting for, then I have to go. I’m still proud of the fact that I bought the very first tickets for The Force Awakens sold in Erie.
In addition to being my first vivid memory of a film’s opening night, you can also trace the inspiration for the first creative, hand-crafted costume I ever wore to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As I said, when we were kids we loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In that spirit, Grandma (who passed away in 2002) made Ninja Turtle costumes for David, myself, and our cousins. I am not a good enough writer to adequately describe how epic they were but you can see for yourself. WE WERE SO COOL. The bandana/belt sets were from the store but she made the green suits and shells. I mean, I’m impressed by them now but can you imagine what it felt like to be able to strut around in these when we were six or seven?? The shells weren’t attached to the green suits either so we’d often just play with the shells and bandanas on if it was too hot for the whole costume. It was truly the stuff of legend.
It’s weird, especially given the nature of this post, but I’ve never considered myself a costume guy. I never get dressed up for Halloween as an adult. At least, I don’t just for the sake of getting dressed up. I was a Youth Minister for six years before I started teaching Theology full-time. My Youth Group was comprised of a middle school group and a high school group but I worked a lot with elementary kids too. Every year the kids – especially the younger ones – would ask what I was dressing up as for Halloween. I never wanted to but I didn’t want to let the kids down. When you combine that mentality with the fact that I’m a if-you’re-gonna-do-it-do-it-right kind of person (who also likes to one-up himself) I ended up putting together a few impressive costumes over the years.
This Jedi one was a personal favorite. I mean I look like a freaking Jedi Knight. How could I not love it?!? The outer robe was sewn by the same Grandma who did the Ninja Turtles garb for us. She made it for me when I was in eighth grade for a presentation I did on movie special effects. Since she wisely (and accurately!) made the robe big and flowy, I was able to reuse it as an adult. The tunic and everything under the outer robe was sewn by Aunt Judy when I got the idea to be a for-real Jedi as a Youth Minister. She looked up so many different patterns to do it right! The boots were “official” Star Wars products but she did everything else by hand. It was a big hit. I was able to reuse the whole costume back in November when Hannah and I started teaching our Star Wars and Contemporary Myth-Making course. Because, if you have a Jedi costume why wouldn’t you wear it on the first day of a class like that?? Honestly, I would question my ability to teach the course if I didn’t wear this. So I donned my Jedi robes and Hannah put on her Darth Vader dress and we kicked off the class in a fashion befitting Lucas’ brilliance.
However, I wouldn’t say my Obi-Wan inspired robes were the height of my adult costuming adventures. No, that would come in 2010. On the heels of Tim Burton’s trippy Alice in Wonderland, I’d decided to embrace my inner Mad Hatter. I committed. I was going all out. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right! I started working on this two months before Halloween. The hat, wig, and fake eyebrows were all official Disney-licensed products. You can’t fake the hat and the hair you know?
The rest of the costume was either created or cobbled together from what we could find. I say “we” because this was truly a team effort. I like to credit this look to the work of “my team of costume designers.” David scoured thrift stores and the mall with me. Aunt Judy once again brought her magic to bear creating the gloves and flowing cuffs of the ensemble. My friend Kelly patiently sewed the bobbin sash for me, tying together dozens of individual bobbins. And Mom? Mom gets total credit for the make-up design. I bought all the make-up and gave her about eight pictures of Johnny Depp from different angles. She then spent an hour and a half that morning before work painting my face to resemble to Hatter. For real! It took me two hours to get dressed for work that morning and an hour and a half was spent in make-up. But it was TOTALLY WORTH IT.
Honestly, I was relieved when I got the job at Mercyhurst the following summer. Of course I was so excited to finally enter the classroom fulltime for so many reasons…but I also had no idea how I was going to top the Mad Hatter!!! Where do you go from there? When I interviewed at Mercyhurst for the teaching job and we came to the point where they asked if I had any questions I didn’t ask about pay or vacation days. Instead I said, “Yes, uh, do you dress up for Halloween here?” I was so happy when they said no! As I said above, I’m the type of person who likes to top himself but I didn’t know how to do that after 2010. The Mad Hatter was able to serve as my flamboyant finale, my official retirement from costuming. And I was going out on top!
Well, I was retired until Logan that is. I don’t know if this will be a one-and-done situation or if I’ve let some sort of genie back out of the bottle. I also don’t know if maybe I need to revise my opinion of myself. Maybe I am a costume guy after all. Also, does this mean I do cosplay? It wasn’t a thing before but it sure is now. Do I do it? I guess I do. Anyway, special thanks needs to go to David, Erica, Aunt Judy, Grandma, Kelly, and Mom for all their help in inspiring these wild ideas and then helping bring them to life through the years.
I also have to thank Kalie…for going out in public with me. She endured the Rebel Alliance logo. She endured the Iron Man face. And, while she wasn’t back in town when David and I saw Logan on opening night, she was back in town after we got out of the theatre and legitimately went out in public with me to Coffee Culture looking like this. It’s also worth noting, I’m still wearing the mutton chops! I kind of think the look works for me. To Kalie’s credit, she’s signed off on them as well. When my hair was no longer up in Logan-fashion she said, “You know, with your hair down and wavy like that you sort of look like a character from a Bronte novel.” When your significant other approves of ridiculous facial hair like this, you have to run with it! Now I can see how long the mutton chops last until I get some other wild idea!