I watched the first hour of a movie last night. I decided that I was too old to watch the rest in one sitting. I will try again later in the week. The story line was mildly interesting. A young man, somewhat reminiscent of Orson Wells played by Thomas Jacob Black, wants to make an epic movie, but the whole project quickly begins to fall apart. By the time I got to the 59:48 point in the film, the soundman and one of the other production assistants had been brutally murdered. “A fine movie for Halloween,” I said to myself. Then suddenly, I realized that I recognized one of the actors. I was not certain who it was, but I knew that I had seen him somewhere else. The interesting thing was that the character seemed completely out of his element; that is to say, I was suspicious that his normal venue was not high drama. I stopped the movie to look at the case and discovered that I was right. The fellow normally plays outrageous comedic characters in the movies. Those of you who are his fans already know that Thomas Jacob Black is professionally known as Jack Black, the star of “Shallow Hal”, Nacho Libre”, School of Rock”, and many other comedies. In filming “King Kong”, Peter Jackson did little to disguise one of his major stars. He correctly surmised that Black’s acting talent in a serious drama would be sufficient to persuade the audience that “Carl Denham” was in the movie and not Jack Black. For my money, both Jackson and Black succeeded.
Oddly enough, I thought about the notion of effective disguises throughout the whole night. I probably dreamed about it, too, but I cannot recall everything that my brain serves up to me during those magical hours. I decided, however, that there have been four times in my life that I have disguised myself so effectively that no one was certain who was beneath the disguise.
The first time happened when I was twelve or thirteen years old. The community where I grew up had long before decided that if they wished to minimize the ancillary damage associated with Halloween they had to get the kids to a party with high-energy activities so as to burn them out before midnight. They were only marginally successful. During my thirteenth year, mother and sister thought that it would be funny to dress me up in a frilly dress that had been handed down through the family and, with the application of copious amounts of makeup and a wig, pass me off as Judie’s cousin who was visiting for the holidays. I was equipped with the usual prosthetics (oranges) and taken down to The Oaks where the party was raging. I was shy, somewhat demur I suppose. Judie had no trouble introducing me to all of the kids. I don’t remember what kind of costume she was wearing, but it didn’t make her shy or demur. The charade went on for about an hour and then I couldn’t take it anymore. It wasn’t the notion of being a cross-dresser; that word hadn’t even come into the language yet. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy not being recognized; I love a mystery as well as anyone. It was the way that the boys, my closest friends, were looking at me. They thought I was a girl. They looked at me as if I were a girl. I did not like it. I wondered if I had ever looked at a girl the way those boys were looking at me. I wondered if girls were aware enough to know how boys looked at them and if they knew what those looks meant. I decided as a young teenager that there must be a better way to appreciate women than merely ogle them.
The second effective disguise took place while Trillium and I were living in Garden Grove, California, as relatively young marrieds. We were invited to go to a friend’s house for a rather large party; scores of our close acquaintances were going to be there. I thought to go as Frankenstein’s monster, but that would have been typecasting and not much fun. I couldn’t manage shy and demur under those circumstances. Then Trillium came up with an idea. “Why don’t you go as a pile of leaves?” She brought an orange sheet, pinned hundreds of paper leaves to it, and then stuffed twenty or thirty large balloons underneath with me. By crouching down and shuffling along, my costume and I were no more than three feet tall. Just as we got to the front door, I climbed underneath the sheet, waited until Trillium was safely inside, and then rang the doorbell. Our hostess was startled by my appearance. I did not say anything, but she invited me in anyway. I made my way over to a corner and waited…. and waited…. and waited. After about an hour I gave it up. My costume was more than effective. No one had any idea who was beneath the sheet. On the other hand, I was starting to get cramps in my legs from crouching down. Additionally, I had not been able to talk to anyone the entire time, nor had I had any refreshments. A great costume, probably the best ever invented, but my brain had made promises that my body couldn’t keep. At least no one was ogling me.
The third instance happened at Purdue University. I had been responsible for helping to organize a “50s” dance for Halloween. I had all of the appropriate records and the DJ equipment. In order to make the event more fun, the committee announced that the famous DJ “Wolfman Jack” would be at the party. I eventually acquired all of the appropriate clothes, wigs, and facial hair to make the disguise work. The party started and for an hour and a half I introduced all of the records using the famous “Wolfman Jack” gravelly voice. Throughout the evening everyone around me was asking “Where’s Zaphod? He’s supposed to be in charge”. One of my conspirators, probably Trillium, spread the rumor that I had come down with the flu and was home sick. Eventually I stood up and said with what was left of my voice, “Well, I’m done!” Everyone was surprised and fun was had by all. I quit because the wig and the facial hair were driving me crazy. I was hot and sweaty from the wardrobe as well. “How does Robert Weston Smith do this every night?” I asked myself. Adding insult to injury, I was stuck with WMJ’s voice for about two weeks thereafter.
The fourth instance actually happens every morning when I get up and look at myself in the mirror. “When did this all happen?” I say. “Where is the guy who used to look back at me out of the mirror? This guy looks like he is wearing a fat suit, and it is really life-like. Someone should get an Academy Award for this!”
I guess that I am now officially in disguise at age 67. We had friends visit us a couple of years ago, friends whom we had not seen for more than twenty years. The first words out of Velda’s mouth were, “Why, Zaphod, you haven’t changed a bit! You look just like you did when you showed up on our doorstep in 1961!” I replied, “Why, Velda, you have really changed a lot. Back then you could actually see with those eyes!”
I went with the Young Men and Young Women in our neighborhood to visit Temple Square a while back. I was sitting off to the side, listening to one of the lady missionaries give her little lecture, when I was approached from behind. “Dr. Beeblebrox? Hi, I’m Seth Jones. I was in one of your classes at the University two years ago. This is my wife Jan and our baby boy, Jamie.” I said that I was happy to see him again and wished him and his family the best. On the spur of the moment I asked him how it was that he recognized me from across the Tabernacle with my back to him. “Oh! That’s easy! No one has a head shaped like yours, especially from the back.”
Who knew? I guess I am going to have to eat foods that will pad my skull if I really wish to be incognito.