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|Beyond the Berm||
|Exploring the world outside of the park|
|Spooky, Not Bloody|
decided about what to do tonight for Halloween? Does forty
dollars plus for a theme park experience (plus parking and snacks) seem a
bit rich for your budget right now? Are you (and maybe your family) put
off by all the ever increasing blood and gore some venues seem to be
pumping by the gallon lately?
If those are some of the questions you're asking yourself this morning, you may not be aware there are Halloween alternatives available to you in the Los Angeles area tonight. For the price of a small voluntary donation (or in the case of one city's celebration, just showing up) you can enjoy a different kind of Halloween, with haunting grounds more spooky than gory, ghouls more musical than you ever imagined, or a parade of costumes that have folks more decked out than you ever could have dreamed of.
Heck, even if you just stay in, if you have cable or satellite there are even some wonderful things being broadcast tonight you may want to curl up on your sofa (with the required black cat of course) and enjoy.
Below is a quick listing of some really worthwhile Halloween alternatives, including links to their official sites for more information. Keep in mind that the two first listed are smaller set ups than you may be accustomed to, so plan for the expected Halloween crowds, and be prepared to park a few blocks away and walk to them.
The Hallowed Haunting Grounds
What can I say about Gary Corb's Studio City Hallowed Haunting Grounds that others who have visited before haven't? This is the 30th year for this remarkable installation, and the special effects continue to amaze and delight, if not just outright astound.
The best way to enjoy this place is just to take your time and wait for things to begin to happen - as you will be rewarded each and every time with an elegant and unique effect. What I found especially appealing about the set up is the focus on ghostly apparitions - and the emphasis on spooky rather than bloody.
It's all in the details here - thunder and lightening are perfectly synched, bats are hidden away up in a tree, a ghostly harpist plucks stings that light up as she disappears. I thought I knew all the tricks and how they were done - this place still had me scratching my head. It is a tech head's dream.
The only sad thing to note is that this set up is of a very short duration, three days this year, with tonight 7 PM until Midnight, being the last night weather permitting.
It's located at 4343 Babcock Avenue, Studio City, California (One block west of Whitsett Avenue, just south of Moorpark Street). Although they are quiet about their donation box, I would suggest you stop by the ATM on the way there to make sure you can make an offering. These folks deserve a payment.
For those of you who won't be able to make it this year, they do maintain an exhaustive website at: http://www.hauntinggrounds.org/hhg.htm Besides more detailed instructions on how to find the grounds, they also have a complete photo tour of this year's set up, including sound files of some of the soundtracks used to help put you in the proper mood.
The Fright Gallery presents Hazelwood Manor
Ok, you do the Haunted House thing in a suburban neighborhood just behind the Walt Disney Studios but you want more. So you expand your operation into city parks. Then you decide to give it all up and explore the concept of Halloween lawn art back where you started at.
One year (perhaps haunted by the spirit of Broadway star Nathan Lane), you do a little musical number to brighten up the lawn art installation. The audience responds mightily. It turns out that Burbank hungers for horror musicals, and darn it, Rocky Horror just didn't satisfy that craving. It's time to shine baby.
The Fright Gallery answers the burning questions: What if Mickey and Judy were to put on a show on a front lawn in Burbank? And what if they had just as much ambition and more sheer talent than Andrew Lloyd Webber and Rudy Frimmel all wrapped up in one? With a wicked wit as a cherry on top, and MGM production style to boot?
Well the answer to those questions above is the Abba/Mamma Mia Broadway show inspired "Hazelwood Manor." I have to confess that last night when we dropped in for the last show, I hadn't visited this location since it was in it's lawn art phase. What I found instead was a mini-musical production that could give some of the "Broadway" shows I've had to endure a run for their money. And on a front lawn no less.
The audience gasps during this show, but not from fright - they are agog at the huge stage that has a spectacular effect (which I won't spoil for you) and the singing and dancing. The jokes are fun, the wicked new lyrics to some of Abba's hits are charming, witty and urbane. The production is remarkable in its professionalism - lighted, miked and mixed to a "T." These folks adore what they are doing, and the audience (standing out on the sidewalk and in the street) can truly feel it.
Amazingly they do six shows a night - and here's a lucky break for those of you who can't make it on Halloween, they also are performing the same schedule the night after, November 1st. They are located at 454 S. Lamer Street in Burbank, just a few blocks east of the Disney Studios. Their website at http://www.thefrightgallery.com details just how to find them, where to best park, and showtimes. (They also share with you some of their past productions - including one spoof of the Little Mermaid I would have killed to have seen.)
Again I would suggest you stop by the ATM on the way there to make sure you can make an offering once the show is over as they pass around the jack o' lanterns.
The City of West Hollywood's Halloween Carnaval
According to the city of West Hollywood, this is the largest Halloween street party in the United States, spanning over a mile in the heart of the city. Starting at 1:30 PM Santa Monica Boulevard is closed between La Cienega and Doheny Boulevards to host over 350,000 attendees who start their evening at 6 PM and stay until Midnight - with the street not reopened until 7:30 AM.
Being West Hollywood, you're going to see the full gamut of costumes, from Disney princesses to, well - how can we put this - people who just about bare it all. In addition, four stages will feature continuous talent, dancing and costume contests, the highlight of which will be the crowning of the new celebrity Honorary Mayor Debbie "I couldn't decently choreograph if my life depended on it" Allen.
This year you can also expect music performances by pop star Pink, the '80s group Berlin and Latin star Paulina Rubio. Even demi-celebrity Anna Nichole Smith is promised to appear - although finding her in a sea, (oh hell, let's be honest here, ocean) of identically outfitted drag queens may be a rather difficult task.
Is this a family event? Well that is entirely up to you to decide. I do see lots of kids from every conceivable configuration of family there each year, and they all seem to have a ball. (Your mileage may vary of course.) Do be prepared though for huge crowds, tight squeezes around stages, and no matter who you are, the occasional pinch on the buttocks.
(Also be prepared for outrageous prices in the carnaval area food booths, you may want to catch an early or late bite at any of the many restaurants up and down Santa Monica Blvd instead - especially between La Cienega and Farifax.)
Since this event has grown so large over the years, as a resident I can offer you the following advice if you want to stop by: Skip work after lunch and get here early, parking (despite the alternatives offered below) becomes scarce, and the area gridlocks at about 9 PM. Before I forget, there is no admission charge to attend.
Public parking for the West Hollywood Halloween Costume Carnaval will be available for $10 per vehicle at the following locations:
Thankfully the city understands how congested things are, so all residential permit parking in the City of West Hollywood will be waived from 5 p.m. on Thurs., Oct. 31 to 7 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 1. Further information is provided on the Visit West Hollywood website and the City of West Hollywood website.
Turner Classic Movies / Fox Movie Channel
Ok, none of the above works for you. You just want to stay home and watch TV. Well, thanks to your cable or satellite hookup, you can be spooked right on your couch if you want to.
Both Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and Fox Movie Channel (FMC) have Horror movie marathons, but TCM's line-up is by far the classier of the two, so I've detailed it a bit more (using their press releases) below. All times shown are Pacific - you may want to visit the TCM or FMC website links below for further details.
As you can see above, there are some wonderful features showing on the two channels, although I do have to ask, when the heck will they show the scariest movie of all, the original 1963 version of The Haunting, with Julie Harris?
I get chills just thinking of it!
So there you have it, all sorts of last minute, not too gory, fun (and mostly free or low cost) alternatives for your Halloween evening tonight.
Whether you choose a mini-musical, a tech head's delight, or just want to gape at Anna Nichole Smith up close (and maybe end up on her TV show) there's plenty to do besides just visit a theme park this year. Heck even cable is good tonight, so you just can't lose.
Happy Halloween everyone!
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