Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What Halloween Means To Me '13 Day 30: Russ Streiner and Judith O'Dea

Russ Streiner and Judith O’Dea are literally the first voices I hear every Halloween.  You see, Russ and Judith played Johnny and Barbara (as in “They’re coming to get you…”) in Night of the Living Dead.  Russ was also the producer of the film.  One of my longstanding All Hallows traditions is popping in NOTLD (sometimes a pristine DVD, sometimes my ancient, grainy VHS copy) as soon as I wake up on October 31st.  NOTLD happens to be my favorite movie of all time.  In addition to being an incredible flick, it’s the first horror film I ever watched.  I caught it on TV late one October night when I was 12, and it started me on the journey into the macabre that I’ve been on for the last two decades.  It was a profound experience.  At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I consider the first time I basked in the glow of monocrome flesh eaters my awakening; the moment when I discovered who I really was.  It was also the first horror movie I ever bought, starting my horror collection off right.  That’s why, on the final day of the 2013 What Halloween Means To Me countdown, it is my extreme honor to present to you two of the people responsible for, in my mind, the greatest horror film ever made, a film that changed my life, and a movie without which it just wouldn’t be Halloween.  So, Johnny and Barbara, I mean Russ and Judith, what does Halloween mean to you?

Note: Judith O’Dea will be appearing at the Walker StalkerCon in Atlanta on Nov. 1-3.  If you’re a zombie-phile, it is an event not to be missed!


 “When I think of Halloween, I think of Mary Poppins, my childhood, and that of my children Jenni and John. 

     Why Mary Poppins, that wonderfully supercalifragilisticexpialidocious nanny popularized in film by Walt Disney?  Well, when I was a kid, those magical books by P. L. Travers were my absolute favorites.  One of the stories took place in autumn right around ‘All Hallows Eve’ when the chill London breezes blew leaves off the trees that carried secret messages for the Banks children of Cherry Tree Lane.  Oh, how I loved that story and wished I could have been there to take part in all the magic.

     Another childhood memory was that Halloween signaled the beginning of the whole wonderful autumn and winter worlds of Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I could feel summer being pushed aside…could smell it in the air and feel it on my skin!  A perfect time of year!

     I can remember trick or treating using an old brown paper grocery bag.  Baby Ruth candy bars were one of my all-time favorites.  We kids never did anything mean or destructive.  The best we could muster was ringing a doorbell or two and running away like crazy not wanting to be caught. 

     My most memorable costume was as an old organ grinder with a blow-up rubber monkey sitting on top.  My dad made the portable organ grinder out of a cardboard box and an old sawed off broom stick.  I wore the whole contraption around my neck and could turn a wooden crank on the side of the box that I pretended could make music.  My blow-up monkey came from a trip to the circus that happened earlier that summer.  Boy, did I love that little guy!  I also loved wearing my dad’s old clothes and shoes along with one of his fedora felt hats and a glued-on mustache.  No other costume that I can remember ever compared to that one.

     Then, years later, when my own children were old enough to go trick or treating, I can remember making my son what I thought was the coolest costume ever.  We were living in Santa Monica, CA at the time.  I took a paper grocery bag; made a false bottom in it, filled the top half with a variety of empty food cans and boxes…cereal, macaroni, and veggies, then slipped it over his head.  He and my daughter Jenni went trick or treating that night and afterwards I took them to Norm’s Restaurant for a whopping 4-course dinner…salad, soup, entre, and dessert, all for less than $6.00! 

     We were a team back in those days…or so I thought.  Maybe, looking back on it now, it was all more in my head how cool those times were…how cool I thought the kids thought they were.

     It really doesn’t matter though.  The memories are some of the best in the world for me.  I’m sure my kids have their own versions.  But the fact is HALLOWEEN was one of our favorite holidays.  And is to this very day…especially for my daughter and her family who carry on tradition in their own unique ways.  How grateful and happy it all makes me feel.

Thanks for letting me share…"

“When Nathan and Son of Celluloid asked me that question- I must say that what immediately flashed into my mind were my three (now grown) children.  If I am disappointing any Son of Celluloid readers, I apologize- but please bear with me, I may have some juicy memories in a moment.

Although I have wonderful memories of my own Halloween’s from my growing up years and sharing Halloween with my cousins and friends, my most fond (and meaningful) memories come from doing Halloween with my own children.  When my kids were young, the whole concept of helping them pick out what they wanted to dress up as, then buying or helping to make their costumes, doing their make up and then taking them trick or treating hold the most fond memories for me.

Being the romantic person I am, I think Halloween has always signaled the start of the Fall and Winter holidays, and I have always liked the year-end holidays.

Both for me when I was a kid and later when my kids were dressing up there was always this sense of “hiding” in the costume and make up of another character and (almost) no one knew who you were at least for a few hours.  So dressing up in costume was like a walking around hiding place.

Some times my kids costumes were modest and other times they were very elaborate- but they were always fun and the close time spent with my kids are my most prized memories.

On the more juicy side- two Halloween happenings stick out.  The first happened just last October (2012).  John Russo and I were invited to be the co-Grand Marshalls of the 10,000 person Toronto Zombie Walk.  Looking out from the stage of Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square at 10,000 people all gathered together “hiding” in full view in their zombie make was such a RUSH!  That was very memorable.

Another outstanding Halloween memory reaches back to Halloween Night - 1968.  Night Of The Living Dead™ had been release about 30 days earlier and George Romero and I decided we would go to a bar in the Shadyside area of Pittsburgh.  No, we were not in costume.  We had a few drinks and talked back and forth about whether our newly released movie was going to be accepted by the public.  Now, 45 years later, that question seems to have been answered.”

1 more day ‘til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  1 more day ‘til Halloween, Silver Shamrock!

1 comment:

Caffeinated Joe said...

Quite awesome! So nice to hear from both of them.

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