I have a story for you. It’s pretty long, so sit down and for God’s sake close your other tabs.
It’s about ALF.
Gordon Motherfuckin’ Shumway. I haven’t written much about ALF on Dino Drac, but make no mistake, he was my main dude. ALF was my hero and my muse, and his TV show was a can’t-miss affair. My daily mantra basically amounted to WWAD?
Naturally, at the peak of ALF’s popularity, I decided that I had to be him for Halloween.
That would’ve been 1987, when I was in the third grade. To date, it was the only time that I was ever laser focused on any one specific Halloween costume. Nothing else would do. It was ALF or bust. ALF or tear my hair out. ALF or DEATH.
And I didn’t want the shitty baby costume shown above, either. I’d been down that mask-and-smock road before. It was okay for kindergarteners, but I was in the third grade now. My ALF costume needed to be 80 times more legit.
That’s the one I wanted. The one with the full, furry bodysuit, and the mask that doubled as otherworldly taxidermy. Barring NBC loaning me one of their screen-used ALF suits, I would accept no other costume.
And so the hunt began. I’ll start by mentioning that I’ve always had a certain tendency towards obsession. I may not care about a lot of things, but when I do care, I care for keeps. For me, caring is actually dangerous.
So when I tell you that I hunted this costume, I don’t mean it passively. I’m saying that finding an ALF costume was literally the only thing in the entire world that mattered. I’m saying that it’s all I thought about, day and night, for an entire month. Information pertaining to any other subject bounced off of my brain as if it were protected by an ALF-themed deflector shield. (I assume one that blared “Ha!” from its speakers every time something hit it.)
That ALF costume was either a hot seller or in short supply, because no stores had it. None. I drove my family batty, demanding that they take me from one department store to another, and also to every toy store, and every pharmacy, and every supermarket, and every other structure that could’ve conceivably been hiding an ALF costume, up to and including libraries and fisheries.
This went on for weeks.
Eventually, we located the ALF bodysuit at some faraway Toys “R” Us. Just the bodysuit, mind you. The mask was still nowhere to be found. If it wasn’t my white whale, it was at least my brown head.
My parents bought me the headless costume, reasoning that if I found the mask and only the mask later, I’d somehow blame them, and then use an obsolete, haunting dialect to curse them to Hades.
They were 100% right.
(Probably from ’88. Note the Madballs mask on the floor!)
The hunt continued. We visited several more department stores, including that one Kmart from the wrong side of the tracks, with the eatery that looked like Chalmun’s Cantina. Other relatives and even friends of the family were put on alert. Everyone I knew was searching for that ALF mask. We were this close to running a classified.
By October 29th or so, I had to give up hope. We’d been to every store in a 50 mile radius, 2-10 times each. The ALF masks were completely sold out.
Sullenly acquiescing to my mother’s lame-as-hell attempt to cheer me up, I began picking through one last store’s lousy leftovers, hoping to find a replacement costume.
In reality, the whole exercise was just my way to refuel the ol’ pity tank. I planned to leave the store twice as angry. In a world with no ALF masks, spreading misery was my only joy.
But then, something caught my eye.
Was it the ALF mask?
No, of course not!
But it kinda sorta worked as a halfway-decent consolation prize.
I no longer have the mask, but that’s what it looked like. A generic alien, sure, but one who shared several key traits with ALF. The mask was brown, and was even lined with the same fuzzy material as the ALF bodysuit. It had to be the only non-ALF mask that could’ve possibly jelled with a pure-ALF bodysuit. This was the dumbass bootleg version of fate, but it was still fate.
And that, my friends, is how I became…
ALF’s cousin MALPH!
I hated to admit it, but the MALPH costume was pretty hot. It wasn’t ALF, but it was still miles ahead of what most third graders wore for Halloween. I didn’t quite feel like King Shit, but I definitely felt like King Shit’s next-of-kin, who was just waiting for that fucker to keel over.
That year, I was in the Boy Scouts. Or Cub Scouts. Whatever it was called. I didn’t last long and not many of my friends did, because our “den” was more like latchkey, with all of our mothers rotating as apathetic babysitters. We didn’t tie knots and we didn’t rush for badges. All we ever seemed to do was sit around a table and eat pizza.
Fun, yes, but pizza alone was not worth dressing like a Disney sailor every week.
It just so happened that this ALF crisis occurred during my brief stint in the Scouts. That year, there was a huge “Scouts Halloween Ball” that took place in the gym of a nearby Catholic school. Everyone was invited. Scouts of all ages, including dozens that I’d never met before. Scary, older kids from other schools! And their parents, too!
The “Halloween Ball” was not a dance, but rather just a weird sort of dinner with an attached costume contest. It was as if the Scout leaders couldn’t pick between five potential party themes, and just decided to do all of them.
As it turned out, costumes weren’t mandatory. I was 1 of maybe 20 kids who bothered to dress up. I was also one 1 out of maybe 3 kids who wore something that went beyond face-paint and a plastic knife. I felt like a goddamned idiot, but at least I had a cavernous MALPH suit to hide inside.
I told myself that it would all be worth it. Surely I’d win the costume contest, and whatever major awards came with it. Maybe it’d be one of those ridiculous Swiss Army knives with the 200 functions and the ivory toothpick. A little social shame was worth that.
Much to my chagrin, the costume contest was an afterthought. One of the elder Boy Scouts — Man Scouts? — simply wandered from table to table, patting around ten of us on our heads. We were then led onto a makeshift stage, and instructed to “parade in place” (I’ll never forget that term) while random pop music played on a nearby stereo.
It was brutal, but since I was introduced by the emcee as “ALF’s cousin MALPH,” I wouldn’t call it a complete loss. Hearing those words echoed through a beginner’s amp made me feel so amazing, and like I could handle anything. I could even handle “parading in place” while a bunch of strange kids from other schools made jerkoff gestures at me.
I mostly survived thanks to the promise of prizes. I figured I’d take home the grand prize, easily. How could they pick “Rambo” while I was covered from head to toe in fake fur?
Well, not so fast. Instead of selecting first, second and third prizes, we were ALL declared winners, and each of us won the same award:
A Scouts-branded collapsible cup.
A SCOUTS-BRANDED COLLAPSIBLE CUP.
ALL OF THAT TROUBLE FOR A SCOUTS-BRANDED COLLAPSIBLE CUP.
The sad ceremony now complete, I returned to my rusty folding chair, and tried to distract myself with dinner. A pile of mashed potatoes and a slab of what was either pork or turkey. Peas. Warm Pepsi. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a depressed third grader pick through lukewarm potatoes while wearing an ALF bodysuit.
I’m trying to put a bow on this story, but none seem to fit. Life went on. The bodysuit remained in my closet for years. The collapsible cup sat on my nightstand for almost as long, acting as the world’s least effective conversation piece. Eventually, I ditched the Scouts. Later, William Forsythe played Flattop in Dick Tracy.
PS: I finally got the ALF mask.
Found one on eBay and I just couldn’t resist, even despite the severe rips in the latex. And the number of bald spots. And the fact that it just generally smells like frugash, a Melmacian term that loosely translates as “frog ass.” I still would’ve paid twice as much.
I’ve never loved nor hated Halloween as much as I did in 1987.
Collapsible cup. Were they for real?