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    Halloween is Boo-tiful!!!


    I LOVE COSTUMES! I always have. Dressing up appeals to my imaginative sensibilities and though it is not historically documented, I am convinced that gay people “invented” Halloween. Who but the most illustrious of us would make the most of a night of masquerading that ranges from butch drag to femme fantasy, leather to luxe, bear to bare, and everything in between.

    When I relocated to the Bay Area in 1980 and strutted my gayness in the streets of San Francisco, I quickly learned that Halloween is the real NATIONAL HOLIDAY!

    Halloween or All Hallow’s Eve — as it was known back in da day — was adapted by Celtic-speaking people as an elaborate pagan festival of the dead, brought to America in the 19th century by Irish and Scottish immigrants. Today, it is celebrated by people of all social, racial, and religious backgrounds, and relished by those of the gayer persuasion. Trick-or-treating by children in costumes did not gain popularity in the U.S. until the 1940s, where the Irish / Scottish tradition of dressing up, carrying jack-o-lanterns, and going door to door to obtain food and gifts was part of the ritual that continues until this day.

    Though not of any Celtic origins that I know of and raised in the housing developments of the Southeast Bronx, I enjoyed trick-or-treating with my brothers and sisters. Our costumes were often home-made and simple. I remember when my youngest sister, who was about 3 or 4 at the time, was dressed up as a ghost. She wore a white sheet with holes cut out for her eyes. Her “Boo!” was angry and her mood melancholy because she wanted something more elaborate than a bedsheet for her costume.


    Kate Clinton and Karen Williams PHOTO COURTESY OF KAREN WILLIAMS

    This Halloween I attended a party in full princess regalia, wearing a pink feathered tiara and carrying a matching magic wand borrowed from one of my young granddaughters. Upholding my family of origin’s tradition, my outfit was home-made and skillfully put together. The combination of a long dressy skirt, over-the-top lingerie, and a shoulder-length brunette human hair wig with ombre tips was the perfect disguise since no one at the party knew it was me — Karen Williams — dressed up like a “fairy godmother” — as one party-goer described me.

    My galpal masqueraded as a revolutionary, complete with enormous Afro wig, black leather jacket, and “Black Power” buttons adorning her dark turtleneck. We called ourselves “The Princess and The Panther” as we tried to figure out some of the costumes. I managed to stay away from the clowns…the only characters that strike more fear than the laughs they expect to generate. There were abundant treats and the only trick I got to perform all night was keeping my body parts in my costume.

    Here’s hoping that wherever you enjoy All Hallow’s Eve, that you adapt the holiday spirit of San Francisco! Be bold! Be boo-tiful! Be proud! And don’t forget to say “Trick or Treat” and to stick around to see what you get!

    Karen Williams loves trick-or-treaters. Contact her at to find out your treat!