California Costume

part 1 | 2
On Friday night, I went to the Halloween party at the Tower Club on Broadway in Sacramento. Their flier didn't mention what the prizes were, but I was excited to see how my costume would hold up. I had a hard time in the small club. There were lights and decorations hanging around where the top of the my costume was, so my roaming (and dancing) was somewhat restricted.  In any case, the costume held up well, the crowd loved it, and I won the prize for best men's costume: a $50 gift certificate to Ikon Boutique on K Street.


On Saturday, I was really excited about the big-money contest at Cal Expo.

I was at Home Depot that morning, buying some paint and lumber for another project, keeping my eyes open for people buying funny materials for their costumes. 

It took me a minute to realize: Normal people don't buy stuff for their costume at Home Depot.

Night fell and I loaded California into my car. I figured I could squeeze one regular party in before heading off to the Zone ball.

I arrived at Kelly and Sarah's dance party around 9:30pm, peeped inside to check the height of their ceilings and marched inside. I had a great time and managed to break only one thing lumbering around their house in my giant costume. By 10:30 the party was getting fun and full but I knew it was time to head to the Zone ball for a chance at that prize money. 

I arrived at the Zone ball, presented my ticket and made my way to the party entrance. The main event was in the C/D building at Cal Expo, there were hundreds of people there, and my costume was a big hit.

My first goal was to locate the costume signup table, so I got inside and started asking around. I was directed toward the "spanking stage", but couldn't locate the signup table. I started getting worried, but kept hunting around on my own.

I had no luck tracking down the place to register my costume, but I was getting tons of fantastic attention! Lots of cameras and admiring comments. It was awesome.

Eventually I found a group of really bad-ass costumes standing outside near an rollup door. I had found the costume finalists. I took a place among them, thinking I had found the place to register for the contest.

After a few minutes of sizing up the competition, a woman with a clipboard approached me, "May I help you?"

I explained that I wanted to be in the costume contest, but she had terrible news, "signups for the  costume-contest are closed. They were supposed to close at 11, but we kept them open until 11:15 to catch the stragglers".

I had somehow missed the deadline for the contest. I checked my watch.

It didn't make sense. I stood there in disbelief. How had I missed it? I wracked my brain, I protested.

Standing there with the finalists, a small crowd of people approached us and took photos. 

Two young women ambled up and asked me about my costume.  I complained about being left out of the costume contest and they looked at each other with a "we should do something" look on their faces.

"California has to be in the contest!", they exclaimed, and left to consult someone with influence.

They moved toward the building and talked to a man outside the stage door. He was dressed like Speed Racer. 

In a few minutes they returned with sad faces, "he won't let you in, he says it wouldn't be fair to the other finalists".

I was pretty frustrated at this point, wondering what I should do next.

I approached Speed Racer myself and argued my point personally. He would not let me in the contest. I was too late and it wouldn't be fair to the other contestants, he repeated.

I left him alone and moved back to where the other finalists were standing. There were some pretty nice costumes there, I'll admit. Still,  those top prizes was what got me here, and now I was missing out on a good chance at a valuable 1st, 2nd or 3rd prize.

One of the great costumes was a trash man carrying a metal garbage can. In the can was a perfect Oscar the Grouch puppet, controlled by his real arm inside the can.

He turned to me, "Hey, you're Rob Cockerham! I'm a huge fan of your website... great costume!"

It was Scott Holden, a guy from Sacramento who I'd emailed in the past, but had never met. It is really fun to get recognized in public, by the way. I told him they weren't going to let me into the contest.

"Oh, that is ridiculous! Your costume is awesome... here, take my finalist wristband. You can go in my place." 

Yep! Scott offered me his place in the costume contest. Amazing!

I was eager to accept his offer, but I wanted to make sure that was going to be OK with the contest dictator. We walked over and ran this idea by him.

"Sorry, we can't do that," he explained, "Oscar the grouch has already been through the security check".

We stood and pestered him for 4-5 more minutes. "Look garbage man, it is time for the finalists to go on stage. You can either go or stay, but California can't take your place."

I wished Scott luck and he went inside.  I stayed outside, defeated, but in awe that someone would be so willing to give up his place among the finalists for me.

Relieved of any nagging contest duties, I resolved to make the most of the night by drinking a lot of beer and ogling the bounty of beautiful and half-naked women roaming around the fairgrounds.

It was fun! Most everyone loved California, and some of them REALLY loved California.

At around 1:30 am, I ran into Scott again. Like me, he had spent the evening being flagged down every two minutes so someone could take his photo. I asked him how he did in the contest.

"I got first place", he beamed. We both laughed and gave each other hi-fives.

How great is that? He offers to give me his finalist wristband, his place in the contest, then goes on to win first prize! He almost gave up his $1,500 prize! What a guy!

We hung out and made a pact to work together on some kind of project in the future. Heck, I might just name my kids after him. 

It got late and I finally left. When I got home, I double-checked the Zone ball website. Sure enough, it said costume contest auditions were from 9 to 11:30pm. I had been screwed.

The next morning I surveyed damage to the costume. There were a few little tears, but nothing a little contact cement couldn't fix.

Gluing latex foam to itself is simple.

  1. Brush contact cement to both edges to be glued
  2. Let the glue dry for 15 minutes
  3. Press and hold glued edges together for a few moments



This is also the method I used to connect the separate panels of the costume, just on a larger scale.


A few nights later it was Thursday, October 31st, and I trucked the costume out to the Castro district in San Francisco. The crowd was reportedly 250,000 people strong.

I ran into Daniel's posse, but missed Daniel. 



It was a great, free time. People were super nice and very polite about taking my picture. 

One helpful partier helped me tie my shoes, and two people were kind enough to share a can of beer.


This young woman found an abandoned shoe. This is a sure sign it was a good party.

I found out later that six people were stabbed that night, but I would never have guessed that by the mood of the crowd.


Here I am posing with one of the members of "team STD".

Soon after this photo, I headed back home to Sacramento. Traffic on the bay bridge was a horror story, and I didn't make it to Sacramento until 5:30 the next morning.

A few days later I wrote a sour letter to the management at the Zone radio station in regards to their sloppy contest rules. I got a polite, understanding call back from Karen, their Marketing Director. She also sent two gift certificates to Cabo's restaurant.

I am all done with the California costume, and I don't think I'm going to sell this thing on ebay. Drop me a note if you have any good ideas. It is about 7 feet tall.

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Nov. 19th, 2002.  

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