Sunday, February 28, 2010

Week Forty-Two: Birthday Party

Solomon Grundy was born on Monday
In the long, long ago.
Someone else was born on Tuesday,
Perhaps ‘twas you, we do not know.
But come to our Birthday Party
Next Thursday night at eight,
And we will celebrate your birthday,
No matter what the day or date.

So we begin this party with the tale of a man alive only a week; famed in nursery rhyme, and now film. But that last name sounds familiar. Makes me wonder if he’s related to this guy. Not quite. But for a flipped consonant . . .

As far as decorations go, Cokesbury leaves it up to you to decorate per the whims of the host and hostess and the season in which the party is held. But, to conform to Cokesbury norms, make sure you have a lot of crepe paper.

Then there’s the matter of gifts. Cokesbury is very specific that the gifts – or gift, if the group is buying one together for the honoree (or honorees, as the case may be) – be distributed before the refreshments, and passed about the group along with the card from the person who offered the gift, so all can coo and brag and get jealous and perhaps start a brawl because at the last communal birthday party, the only gifts passed around were cupcake wrappers filled with nuts. Just in general, be on the lookout for any tension buildup in the room. Like this:

And if you invite Milton, make sure he gets cake first. The poor man deserves it.

Now, we all know most of the fun at a birthday party comes in the games. And we also know from childhood (and young adulthood) that the games should be as traumatic as possible in order to build long-lasting memories. I still have vivid memories, for example, from the 8th birthday party I attended for Sue Lynn Plazier, where I was too timid to pop a balloon by sitting on it in order to discover the prize or fortune or whatever it was written on the slip of paper inside the balloon. Sue’s Mom eventually had to pop the balloon for me, with me standing in a corner with my face to the wall, holding my ears against the noise of the imminent explosion. Then there’s the debilitating injury I suffered – and still suffer from – during a game of “Do You Love Your Neighbor,” when, as a 260-pound individual I knocked knees with another weighty soul as we bolted across the room.

Fortunately, Cokesbury’s game elements are much more staid, calm and less fraught with risk than the birthday activities of my youth. For instance:

Obstacle Race. The game is very suitable for a large group, as only for our five on each team are to take part while the others are spectators. The company should be divided into two or more groups and a team selected from each group. If the party is large, have four groups, Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. A number of obstacles have been arranged on different sides of the room, and the teams line up on their side and wait for the blowing of the leader’s whistle. When the whistle blows, they are to run to obstacle number one and do as directed by the sign on it. These may be arranged in any way, and the cleverness of the one who lays out the course is largely depended upon. The following obstacles are suggested:

1) On a table have a paper and one pencil. Each one of the four must write his name, address, and the month of his birth. They may have this instruction in advance, or a sign may tell them what to do at each obstacle.

2) Remove tie and replace it. Other suggestions are: Take off your coat, turn it wrong side outward, and put it back on.

3) Get down on all fours and run like a rabbit to a goal. The second must not start until the first has reached the goal.

4) Eat three crackers (one eating at a time) and whistle, at which time another begins.

5) Hop to next goal on right foot, holding the left foot in right hand. One must reach the goal before the other starts.

6) A folding chair is here. Each one is required to unfold it and sit in it and then fold it back up. Then the next one does it, until all have finished.

7) Run to the next goal, taking three steps forward and two back. This is done one at a time and no mincing of back steps is allowed.

8) Have a suitcase full of old clothes, and better and funnier, women’s clothes. Each one must put on these clothes, run around the chair or table three times, and then take them off and give them to the next.

9) Provide paper bags, about four for each player. They must inflate and pop these, one player doing this at a time.

10) Walk to the goal, advancing only the length of the foot at each step. This is done by placing the heel against the toe at each step. This must be done one at a time, and when the last one gets in, his side is finished.
You know, maybe this will end in violence. I participated in a similar party game while living in France. I and another participant were blinded, then led to a room filled with shoes. We had to find as many matched pairs as we could. I quickly decided that I could win the game not by finding matches on my own, but by stealing matches from the other player. Violence, as Cokesbury would probably say, resulted.

Now that your guests are biffed, gouged, panting and nursing fingers pinched in the folding chair, onto the next game, which encourages them – even the clumsy ones – to play with fire. Inside your house.

Birthday Candle Race. The different groups line up for a relay race; and if there are four groups, they face four tables on which has been placed lighted candles. The players, one at a time, must run to the candles with a candle in their hand which has been given them. They are to light their candle from the lighted candle and race back to the head of the line. Then they must extinguish their candle and give it to the next one in line. If the candle goes out before they get back, they must go back to the table and relight it. When one has run, then he must take his place at the back of the line.
(Go to about 4:19 of this clip for some classic Tim Conway/Don Knotts candle shenanigans.)

One more brief game mention, one that pulls us out of Cokesbury Land and into reality. One game suggests having guest, assigned numbered cards, make up dates the host shouts out. It’s staggering to remember that in 1932, many of these events are not history, but nearly current affairs. Viz:

1906 – Earthquake in San Francisco
1912 – Sinking of the Titanic
1914 – Beginning of the World War
1917 – America enters World War
1918 – End of World War
1927 – Lindbergh’s flight to Paris

Yes, the World War. It was not World War I. Just the World War, in that bygone, innocent era when the war was fought to end all wars.

There are more games, of course, but this suffices for now, because it’s refreshment time:
For the observance of the birthdays of a large group, serve individual cakes with a candle on each cake. Ice cream should be served with the cake, or punch, chocolate, or coffee should be substituted. If an individual birthday is being celebrated, by all means use the proverbial birthday cake, with candles for each year of age. The honoree should cut the cake for each guest present.
Bon app├ętit.

And next week, something extra-special for the observance of Armistice Day, Nov. 11: A Cootie Party. It is not quite, but almost, what you think it is.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Who better – well, aside from Guy Lombardo or Tom Jones – to sing a Happy Birthday song at your Cokesbury Birthday Party than Weird Al Yankovic?

It would be fun to get him live, of course. But since you're using this party as an excuse to celebrate everyone's birthday at once, you know you can't afford him.

May as well sing this song while you're at it. Cover all the bases, see.

You know, harking back to a previous post, i have to wonder if Jerry Colonna contributed to the Alice in Wonderland ride at Disneyland. Part of me hopes so. Whether it's true or not, I'll never look at that ride as boring again.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Coffee Achievers

In addition to ice cream and sandwiches, one of the more popular Cokesbury Party foodstuffs is the ubiquitous cuppa joe. That got me thinking of this:

So next time you think you're hip sipping a cup of mud, just remember: Hip is extremely relative.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Week Forty-One: Progressive Hearts Party

We like to make a big deal this day and age about viral marketing. We’re so savvy, so tuned in to the way the Plastic Fantastic Madison Avenue Scene plies us with messages to buy buy buy, we just ignore them. Or not. But when someone comes up with a clever way to advertise, such as posting little digital ad boxes all over Boston and thus inciting fears of terrorist activity, we applaud such efforts. And buy buy buy.
End result: Madison Avenue or viral, it’s all the same.

So it’s no surprise that in announcing its Progressive Hearts Party (no, this is not another political movement) that Cokesbury should seek – and win – permission from Parker Brothers, of Salem, Massachusetts, to use and promote its six-pack of Hearts Dice in its party description.

Parker Brothers of Salem, Massachusetts. That sounds awfully quaint these days. A mom-and-pop (or at least a trio of brothers) game shop. Wow. How times change.

So here’s the game, a la Cokesbury:

Heart Dice is played with six cubes on which are written on the six sides of each the letters in the word “Hearts.” These are thrown all at one throw by each player, and the player is only allowed to throw once, after which he must pass the dice to the player on his left. When four play at a table, the players across from each other are partners for that game, and when one of them scores, both can mark the score and it counts for both. However, as one changes partners after each game, each must keep hiss core separately. So the game proceeds, each throwing the dice one time, until one couple gets a hundred, at which time they yell “Game,” whereupon all stop and count up their score for that game. Then all winner at each table, that is, those who had the highest score, progress to the next table, except the winners at the head table, who keep their places while the losers go to the foot table.

Worried you can’t find Hearts dice? (You should be, because I couldn’t). Buy some Boggle games and steal the proper dice out of them. Or just use regular dice (once again, screening your dice-shunning friends) and have fun.

Or just go with some other hard-to-find retro Parker brothers game. Like this:

Scoring is done thusly. (I’d reproduce Cokesbury’s scoring, but it’s the same as referenced on this web page. Besides, it’s less for you to have to read. On this page. Ha ha.)

And that’s about it. You play Heart Dice until you’re sick of it, or until one or more of the following happen:

Prizes. Prizes should be given, a first and second, to the two players making the highest scores.

Simple enough. And:

Refreshments. Have a bonbon dish filled with heart-shaped candy at each place. Get ice cream in heart mold and serve with cake at conclusion of play.

Once again, Cokesbury at the end of the party drops all pretence of articles and begins speaking in this odd patois. Can’t be helped.

Anyway, get ready to have big fun at Cokesbury’s next extravaganza: The Birthday Party, in which you get to celebrate all of your friends’ and acquaintances’ birthdays at once, once again proving what a cheap bastard you really are.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Turn on Your Heartlight

Watching this kinda hurts in the way. The feathered hair. the layered sweaters. So '80s. So very '80s. But it's a good prelude to next week's Progessive Heart's Party. Get your guests all warmed up inside.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ten Parties Left

It's been a long, odd year here at the Cokesburty Party Blog. Well, almost. But toward the end of May is when we'll celebrate together the passing of a year and, very likely the passing of this blog. I'm running out of parties from the Cokesbury Party Book.

I know, I know. It's a shame. Why couldn't this book be twice as long? Well, maybe it's a good thing it's not. But I'm sure I can find another book to skewer for another year. I've already got a few candidates waiting on the bookshelf, including a girls' camping book my wife inherited from her grandmother. I believe it was published at about the same time as the Cokesbury Party Book, so it ought to be good for something.

Will I rename the blog if I move on to a different book? I don't know. I've spent literally tens of hours over the past year building the Cokesbury Party Blog brand, familiar now to dozens of the most discerning readers on the World Wide Web, especially you folks from Belgium and Florida. I have no idea why the Belgians keep coming. Gasparilla might be why I get many hits from Florida.

So stay tuned. Something magical may happen when that last party goes up. Then again, maybe not. But I've had fun. That's what counts.

You know, this kind of reminds me of listening to the student-run radio station at the University of Idaho when I was there working on the paper. One evening while a few of us were working late, we had the radio tuned to good ol' KUOI. The DJs were holding a contest, inviting people to call in to win tickets. NO ONE CALLED. They kept asking, "Come on, somebody call! Somebody call! Is anyone listening?" Nobody ever called. Not even their compatriots from the newspaper. Well, they were tickets to a rotten concert.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Week Forty: Radio Party

It’s funny, what the older generations will do to the younger. And what the younger generations will learn to be thankful for.

My mother, at the time in her sixties, introduced me to Spike Jones and the City Slickers thanks to a neighbor, then in her eighties, who had a Spike Jones cassette tape. Mom also introduced me to the likes of George Burns and Gracie Allen, Fibber McGee and Molly, and dozens of other radio show stars. These were her childhood, she said, and she wanted to share them with her kids.

As far as I know, I’m the only one who took the bait. And I think I’m richer for it. What’s old is new when you listen to it for the first time. I love listening in anticipation for McGee to open that famous closet. Despite the blackface roots, I enjoy listening to the antics of Amos and Andy. Bob Hope and Jerry Colona have a wonderful chemistry together.

So it’s no surprise that Cokesbury’s Radio Party should be a popular one with me.

But Cokesbury seems to take radio for granted and the party, I have to admit, is a disappointment for dyed-in-the-wool radio fans. Of course, this was in 1932. The shows I mention weren’t on the air then. But something had to be. True, Cokesbury does mention Amos ‘n’ Andy, but that’s the only – the only – program they mention. It’s like talking about television and only mentioning Seinfeld. Sure, Seinfeld was immensely popular. But what about all the others?

Could Cokesbury have been worried about copyright, even way back then? Can’t be. Why mention Amos ‘n’ Andy then? It’s a mystery for the ages.

So just as Seinfeld is a show about nothing, Cokesbury’s Radio Party is a radio party about, well, the radio. As you’ll see.

Here’s the invitation, finally, after my long preamble:

At our Radio Party we want you all,
Endeavorers short and Endeavorers tall.
The Social Committee has made a decision
To entertain you with radio and television.
Come to the social room on Friday night,
For we promise you an evening of real delight.

Now, without preamble, we get into the radio part of the Radio Party. Literally.

Part of the program should be a radio program. So construct a large radio out of a large box or make a frame and cover it with dark cloth of dark crepe paper. Arrange it so that parts of the program may come over the radio – that is, an improvised radio. Of course, the performers will be the guests. Those taking part should stand in the radio or behind it to perform, so that the program will appear to the guests to come over the radio.

Some of the program may be television and may be acted behind a screen of white sheets, with a light behind it so that a shadow will be cast on the screen. A reader may read the story while the actors dramatize it. Some suggested stunts that might be used are: “The Supreme Sacrifice” and “The Mellerdrammer,” from Handy, by Rohrbough, and “The Delectable Ballad of the Waller Lot,” “The Ogre of Rashamon,” and “An Indian Massacre,” in Stunt Night Tonight, by Miller.

It is our thought that the above suggestions about the radio and television programs should form only a part of the evening program. The party should proceed in the usual way, and the program occupy only about forty-five minutes at the end of the program.
So. Two books I need to look up when I run out of Cokesbury parties this May: Handy Playparty Book, by Lynn Rohrbough, and Stunt Night Tonight, by Catherine Miller Balm. But as I’m at the mercy of whatever books people toss to the local thrift stores, who knows what’ll happen next?

And, really, Cokesbury. You demand a lot from your readers. If this were a modern radio/television aprty, folks would come with their digitized Fibber McGees or DVD box sets of Hogan’s heroes and make a night of it. At most they might play some televison-oriented trivia game. But make shows of their own? Act them out? Build a box big enough to resemble a television or radio in which to perform said pantomimes? Not hardly. You were indeed a hardy folk in 1932. I doff my hat to you.

And for you planning such a party today, maybe find somebody with a cargo container. Or just stage it in the driveway, using the garage door opening for your “television.” That might work.

But back to the party. Or the next, exciting radio-themed game:

Opening Mixer: Radio Stations. Hang around the neck of each guest a card six inches by six inches lettered with the initial of their last name. A string should be tied in each of the corners on the upper side that will slip over the head. Guests should wear them all the evening, for they will be needed in the radio program at the close. Ask each guest to write his name on his card as well as having his initial on it.
Each guest is given a paper and pencil, and the leader explains that the guests are to form the call numbers of radio stations such as WJZ and WEAF, New York; KDKA, Pittsburgh; WAPI, Birmingham; WLW, Cincinnati, WIOD, Miami, etc. When three or four players can get themselves into formation so that they form a call number of a radio station, each of the four may write down the call number of that station. The best radio fan will probably know a large number of stations. Give a prize to the person having the largest number.
You can tell already that anyone with the initial W or K is going to become very popular during this game. If you can get your guests to play, that is. Seems kinda lame to me.

And yes, it might have been possible for you to hear such distant stations, especially at night. Go here for more info. This is the Cokesbury Party Blog, not Radio Amateurs.

But ponder this: Radio was kind of the last truly magical technologies. You could sit in your living room, tinkering with the knobs, and hear, if you were lucky, stations from far away. Radio is still mysterious and magical today, with numbers stations and the ability to broadcast yourself on a microstation. TV doesn’t hold that magical sway. The Internet is kinda like that, but the noise to signal ratio is really high. And aside from GeoCities, do people really get nostalgic about how a web page used to look?

Whoah. I guess they do.

On to the next game.
Names of Radio makes. Give guests blank sheets of paper and pencil and tell them that when the whistle blows, they are to write the names of all the makes of radio they can think of. Some of the makes now on the market are:

Atwater Kent
General Electric
Stromberg Carlson
Give a prize to the one having the largest list. Five or six minutes should be the time limit of this game.
This game is one of my favorites from the book, because it reminds me of the early days of computing when you had your Colecos, your Commodore 64s, your TRS-80s, your TI-994As, and even your Ataris. Sure, we still get that kind of variation today, but nobody – I guarantee nobody – is going to have as strong an emotional attachment to a Lenovo or a Gateway than they would with a Commodore or a TRS-80. It’s just not possible. Computers of today will never love us. Computers of that era did.

Okay, now it’s time to put on your own radio program. Here’s the setup:

We assume that some of the radio program has been arranged in advance, such as a reading or recitation, vocal solo, orchestra, and Amos ‘n’ Andy. A song leader should also be secured in advance who will know how to lead the songs for the sitting-up exercises.

Two of the radio features, however, should be impromptu. The leader selects two stations, WEAF and KDKA. Those having the letters WEAF and those having the letters KDKA to represent the initial of their last name get together and are assigned the task by the leader of “poking about” among the guests for advertisements and news. Let them write this out and get it up so that it can be given over the radio. The leader should take care in making the selection of those wgo are going to do this work, and it might be well go give some notice in advance. When they have finished, let the radio program start as indicated below, and let them take their aprt on the program. One from each of the stations should read the advertisements and news.

Then we go on to the “sitting-up exercises,” which includes singing enormous slabs of syllable and rhyme squeezed into tunes familiar and unfamiliar, such as:

Smile awhile and give your face a rest,
Stretch a while and ease your manly chest,
Reach your hads up toward the sky
While you watch them with your eye
Jump awhile, and shake a leg there sir!
Now step forward, backward – as you were
Then reach right out to someone near
Shake his hand and smile.

This is sung to the tune of “Smile the While You Kiss Me Fond Adieu.”
Now, on to the news. Advertisements. A reading – Cokesbury suggests a story from the Gipsy Party or – for the Amos ‘n’ Andy skit – something from the Cokesbury Minstrel Show, which will be handled with much delicacy later this year on this blog. Then, my favorite:
Orchestra. Gazoo orchestra could be substituted if a real one is not available. See “Kitchen Cabinet Orchestra” in Index. Or just go here.
Now to the refreshments which do not appear to be coffee and cigarettes, the most popular radio station snack I’m aware of:
Refreshment suggestions for this party would be Waldorf salad, sandwiches or wafers, and coffee, or iced or hot tea, depending on the season in which the party is given.
So I was wrong about the coffee.

Hope you had fun. Tune in – ha – next week for a Progessive Hearts Party. The party involves (whisper) dice, so you might want to consider once again screening your dice-fearing friends.

But before you go, Jerry Colonna – who has a face and voice built for radio – has this parting shot for us.

And while we’re speaking of the venerable Mr. Colonna, I never realized this:

But it’s certainly easy to pick out that radio voice, isn’t it?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

. . . Sigh . . .

My wife and I are in the study. Me on the computer, obviously. She's scrapbooking. We're listening to the BBC. Ah, the BBC.

Now, this isn't going to be some snotty, Euro-wistful rant on why the BBC is better than anything we have in the United States. Well, maybe a little.

They have shows on the BBC. And not the politic slop, fat men or skinny women screaming and ranting and foaming about what we should believe. Nor the tweedy snots of National Public Radio smarming about what we should believe. Well, maybe a little of that. A lot of that, if you listen to the BBC news.

But we don't. We listen to the comedies. They have comedy programs on BBC radio. Fun stuff. Quiz shows. Situation comedies. Odd little science-fiction bits. Comics. American radio is a wasteland of music. Around here, anyway. I've written about Bob Ziel before. He's the only thing that approaches a radio show here, and bless him for that. But other than that, nothing. I can only handle pop music for a little while. Classical music a bit longer.

And don't point out things like Prairie Home Companion or Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. Shades of the real thing. Kellior gets uglier in face and mein every year. And Wait Wait is so dull it can't compare to what the BBC offers.

But we used to have it. In the world of Jack Benny, Fibber McGee, The Shadow, Orson Welles, Burns and Allen, and the rest. They all went to television. Why, I have to wonder? Television was new, yes. But boring.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Radio Memes and the Radio Party

Before the Internet had memes like the Heineken Looter, radio had memes (of course, before radio had memes, cave paintings had memes as well, so let’s not all bow at once over creating them or we’ll bump heads).

Here’s one of radio’s memes, translated into film, which seems odd, but so it goes:

I’m sure the young set out there has no idea what this is. And after I explain it to them, not many of them will care. But this was big, baby, big. Fibber McGee opens his infamous closet and – whoooo – all that stuff falls out. Hilarious. Really. I promise.

Yeah. So if you don’t get that, maybe Cokesbury’s Radio Party isn’t for you. But it should be. Those who ignore the past are not only doomed to repeat it, but also doomed to miss out on a lot of great comedy.

This was the “Pants on the Ground” of the day. All done WITHOUT Internet distribution. We didn’t need fancy desktops or wi-fi or iPhones or the iPad. We had radio and that’s all we needed and we liked it!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Week Thirty-Nine: Halloween Party

Do you remember the killer spook alley you put together with your friends in your Dad’s garage when you were eleven years old? Remember how cool that was, with the eerie sound effect recorded playing in the background as your friends wandered through, getting spooked by your closer friends in dopey costumes, fans blowing gunk in their faces, and such? I hope you kept the plans. . .

. . . because you’re going to need them:
Initiation. Guests should be met at the door by a witch and conducted through a dark passage with a flashlight which is turned off most of the time. This passage should be infested with strange noises like grunts and groans and screams and the hooting of owls. A witch or ghost in the passage extends to the guest a hand which is a glove stuffed with ice-cold sawdust. An electric fan may be arranged in the passage so that it will blow strips of paper into the passing guests. Dress up someone as a dog, in crepe paper, with an improvised tail and false face. This dog should jump out and bark at the passing guests. Weird noises can be made by dragging chains over the floor. One of the ghosts may use a feather duster to tickle the faces of guests. A ghost on stilts has a terrifying effect. One of the ghost guides tells of the death of a friend and directs the hands of the guests to parts of the body. These are placed on plates, and the plates are on chairs or tables. The eyes are represented by two hulled grapes, the tongue by a raw oyster, the heart by a piece of liver, the lungs a wet sponge, the brain a dish of spaghetti.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Perfect party planning involves, first of all, getting together the proper items needed to have the party go without a hitch. This is what you’ll need for Cokesbury’s Halloween Costume Extravaganza, in addition to friends willing to show up in costumes:

One raw oyster
Charlie Brown Halloween sheet
Chewing gum
A box of toothpicks
Spanish moss
One glove, electrified
Ice for the sawdust

And what better way to augment that epic list than with two epic and traditionally irksome Cokesbury party invitations?

If friendly ghosts you’ve never seen,
Come to our house on Halloween
From seven to eleven the hours to stay,
Dressed up in such as unfamiliar way
That we won’t know you from we don’t know who,
But over your costume don’t worry and fuss,
Just dress in a way that will puzzle us,
Either spooky or fancy or all in a muss.
Our home in the trees with fun we will fill,
Reply if you please. Yours, Mildred and Bill.

Remember, for the sake of rhyme, it’s better if you and your spouse go change your names to Mildred and Bill right now. No, I don’t care who you call Mildred.

For this next invitation, Cokesbury says, you’ll need some “small owls and witches” from the five-and-ten-cent store. I can only assume they mean paper owls and witches, since I refuse to believe that, even in the 1930s, such items could be purchased in bulk outside of Hogwarts. Nevertheless, place one owl at the top of the page, with two witches at the bottom. Ink your invitation thusly:

On Friday evening, October twenty-third
The intermediate Endeavorers will meet this wise old bird.
At the witch’s den you’ll meet your fate,
At eight o’clock. Now don’t be late.
One hundred thirty-five Atlantic Avenue, Palm Beach,
is where you’ll have this Halloween treat.
Wear a mask to hide your pretty face,
And be on hand to take your place.
There’ll be cats and ghosts both great and small,
And a jolly good time will be had by all.
Cordially yours, The two (pictures of witches).

This second invitation presents several problems to the would-be party-thrower. Though Palm Beach sounds nice this time of year, it’s hardly practical to throw a Halloween party there when you live in, say, Firth, Idaho. And it’s always a red flag warning to me when someone has to say in their invitation that you’ll have fun if you attend the party. To me, that’s a given, unless, of course, you’re going to a party hosted by SpongeBob SquarePants. Or Roseanne Barr:

Wait a sec. @ 1:03, who decided to invite this guy:

On that note, it’s time to introduce your friends to the ghastly ghouls you’ve also invited to the party, viz:
Meeting the Queen of Halloween. After the guests are brought into the room where the party is to be held, hey should be directed to the Queen of Halloween. The Queen of Halloween is seated on a high chair and has a battery connected to her hand charged with a slight shock. When they shake hands they receive a shock. This will be very amusing to those who have proceeded and will cause much merriment.
Bluebeard’s Den. Have an adjoining room for Bluebeard’s Den. Get some girls or women to pose as Bluebeard’s seven murdered wives. They are arranged behind a shoot through which holes have been cut large enough for them to get their heads through. Red paint or red coloring of some kind should be sprinkled over the sheet. The faces of the girls should be powdered so that they will look ghastly. The light should be dim. Bluebaeard is impersonated by a man who pantomimes the way he killed his wives. He may kill one with a hatchet, cut off one’s head with a butcher knife, shoot one with a toy pistol so that it will make a report, choke one to death, stab one, etc. As he goes through the motion of killing each one in turn, they let out a scream. This screaming and the report of the pistol attracts the attention and excites the curiosity of the guests in the adjoining room. The guests should be brought in about four at a time. If the number of guests is not large, bring them in two at a time.
In other words, it’s kind of like a live version of a Scooby Doo episode, but without the chase scene in which the gang flits from door to door in a hallway, barely missing but eventually encountering and de-masking the villain. Oh. And no bad ‘60s pop music, either. Unless you really want some.

Your next game should make the germophobes in the clan happy, especially if you suggest a model-swap and chew afterwards.
Modeling. Give each guest a piece of chewing gum. They are to chew this gum. Give each one a cardboard about four inches square on which is written the name of something they are to model. Pas around toothpicks which are to be used as tools with which to do the modeling. Some suggested models are: airplane, automobile, lame, horse, cow, church, witch, jack o’lantern, turtle, cat, etc.
Next, Cokesbury insults you be assuming you don’t know how to divide by four:
Apple Contest. Divide into groups of four each. This can be done by counting off 1,2,3,4. Give each No. 1 an apple and a paring knife. No. 1 is to peel the apple and pass it on to No. 2. No. 2 must quarter it, No. 3 core it and drop it into a bowl of water. No. 4 must take it out of the water and eat it. The quartet that finishes first wins.
This is true: Your party planning has reached a nadir if you engage in this game in a non-ironic manner. If, however, you have a lot of guests and a lot of apples you want converted into apple pie filling for bottling, having the game repeat several times and having your guests count off by three so the apple eater is eliminated could help you get out of a rather nasty fall chore.

And speaking of nasty, now, we get to the lard of the matter:
Floating a Needle. Give each couple needles. Provide some lard to great them with and bowls full of water. See which couple can make their needles float. After the needles have floated, it is humorous to watch them. They will do strange things that will cause merriment. They may cling together or go to the opposite sides of the bowl.
Ever notice how much stuff that goes on at a Cokesbury party “causes merriment?” Now, I’ve been to a few Halloween parties, and I can think of many things that “caused merriment” that didn’t involve greased-up needles, including the post-Halloween moment when one of the more drunken attendees woke up the next morning in bed with a bearded man. Neither one of them were too happy, especially after the photos surfaced. Good thing this was in the pre-Internet days, or I might be able to find them even as I type.

One more game to round out the evening:
A List of Bad Omens. Give a prize to the one who can write the longest list of bad omens or superstitions. Have the one who has prepared the longest list in a given time to read his list. Others may be asked to read other superstitions not read by the winner. The following is a list:

1) Don’t wipe on the same towel with anyone else. It means you will fight.
2) Don’t start anything on Friday. You will never finish it.
3) It is bad luck to return to the house after you have left it for a journey.
4) It is bad luck to hear a dog howl at night.
5) Don’t kill hogs on the decrease of the moon; they will fry into grease when you put them in the pan.
6) Throw an old shoe after newlyweds.
7) If you put on any garment wrong side outward, it is bad luck to change.
8) It is bad luck to sneeze before breakfast.
9) It is bad luck to rock an empty chair.
Of course, the worst omen possible would be that the host consulted the Cokesbury Party Book (or this humble blog) as a guide in planning his or her party.

Some of these omens confuse me. Did the believers in No 3, then, believe it was better luck to torch their house and, upon returning from their journey, buy a new one? Or was there a kind of statue of limitations on the omen. Suppose I went back home after two weeks. Would that be okay, as opposed to returning after only 15 minutes’ absence? The anal retentive and gullible need more clarification. And as for No. 6, am I allowed to hit the newlyweds with the shoe, or is that considered bad form? And is bad form worse or better than bad luck? And No. 5 deserves a peer-reviewed scientific study, not like the stuff they’ve done at the MET or for the IPCC.

Now, on to the details. Cokesbury includes the next item almost last, which seems kind of backward, but then again, I’m not a party-planning genius from Palm Beach circa 1932. They must have had sentient pumpkins and cornstalks back then, too.
Decorations. At this season of the year there are always decorations on sale at the bookstores and the five-and-ten-cent stores. You will want crepe paper in orange and black with some red. Black cats, skeletons, and paper jack o’lanterns should be in evidence. The lights should be dimmed with crepe paper or by the use of colored bulbs. In sections where they can be obtained, cornstalks and pumpkins will aid in decorating. In tropical sections use Spanish moss.
Now it’s refreshment time:
Refreshments. Serve any convenient refreshments. Pumpkin or apple pie would be good. Use Halloween napkins. Paper plates of Halloween design may also be secured. Orange and black candy may be used as part of the refreshments. Ice-cream may be secured in Halloween colors. Cookies in shape of moon, cat, or witch may be used.
That’s right. Go ahead and use some of the apples your guests just peeled, cored and quartered for you. They did the work, so they deserve a little pie.

Wow, boys and girls, wasn’t that scary? Whooooo, I thought so. Almost as scary as Count Floyd’s spooky chiller story, “Slinky: The Toy from Hell.”

And be sure to tune in next week – literally – for Cokesbury’s romp with that amazing, funky new technology at its Radio Party. So be ready for some static, I guess.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Spooky Chiller Halloween Party Preview. Owooooo!

Somehow, given Cokesbury's track record on parties, I get the sinking feeling that their Spooky Chiller Halloween Party is going to turn out something like this:

Cokesbury's opening lines for the party kind of set up the lameness of the whole evening:
Halloween affords a splendid opportunity for a delightful party. As unconventionality is the keynote, the occasion is conducive to a genuine good time. Withces, ghosts, devils and elves have their inning and wander about at will.
Wow. Can't wait. Sounds like your stuffy old junior high school English teacher trying to get you excited about reading "Silas Marner." I hope Ed brings his entire Count Floyd's Scary Stories collection on VHS.

NOTE TO STUFFY ENGLISH TEACHERS: I have read, and quite enjoy, Silas Marner. I'm also rather partial to Steve Martin's adaptation of this delightful George Eliot novel, "A Simple Twist of Fate." So back off.