Happy (Not Hellish) Sixth

Today is the sixth anniversary of Hellish Holidays. This begins our sixth season of accepting the reality that is Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day and more. We wish you holidays that are not the least bit hellish - but encourage you to embrace your memories of those that were.

Halloween's Black Friday Equivalent

The day after Thanksgiving - or more accurately, later that night - everyone piles into the hybrid SUV with the now-defunct election bumper sticker and heads to the mall for the Black Friday sales. For many people, post-holiday shopping is more important than the holiday itself. Turkey? Feh, not interested. They're too busy scrolling through the Black Friday ads and making a plan of attack for 5:00 a.m.

I am not one of these people. While I love a bargain, I do not love a bargain more than I hate being with other people. Seriously, I run a website called "Hellish Holidays" - do I sound like someone with unconditional love for her fellow man? Of course not. I am someone who prefers shopping online and going to the grocery store mid-morning. I live for the reverse commute (not that such a thing exists any more in Los Angeles) and sitting next to an empty seat on an airplane (something else that doesn't exist any more).

But there is one post-holiday sale I cannot resist, and it is the November 1 candy extravaganza. On Halloween, while my son parcels out Fun Size whatever-I-had-a-coupon-fors, I scan the ad circulars of the local chain drugstores and supermarkets. I prioritize and plan. And the morning of November 1, I set my alarm and go. If I found a line outside of CVS, I would wait in it. Because through that automatic door is candy. And not just any candy - half-price candy! The most delicious kind of candy you can buy!

There aren't many kinds of candy I don't like. Over the years I have even learned to love the Almond Joy bar, and I'm not crazy about coconut or almonds. It could be because the song from my youth ("Almond Joy's got nuts - Mounds don't") still rings in my head the way Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson never could.

Naturally I have my favorites - black licorice All-Sorts (no one ever gives that), Butterfingers, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. But really, I'll eat anything that's 100 calories a bite. I feel about candy the way Jerry Seinfeld did when he was a kid. Apparently he got over it. But I didn't.

Last-Minute Mask

Too lazy, cheap, disorganized or disinterested to have your Halloween costume together? Don't be too hard on yourself - we've all been there! If you have a color printer, click here to solve your procrastinating problem. Enjoy!

Halloween Snark (Videos)

Leave it to Joe to take snark to its highest level. These costumes aren't just politically incorrect, they give bad taste a bad name.

"Halloween is not an excuse to be a slut" - WHAT?! Good thing no one told me this in my 20s.

 Is it snarky to call her out for her overplumped lips? This isn't Gawker, after all... 

Hellish Halloween House Halted

According to the Huffington Post, a "dazzling Halloween lights show" in Riverside, California has been shut down by the local Homeowners Assn.  Hard to blame those who live within 100 decibels...or 1,000 lumens...or however you want to measure the noise and light pollution. The 2,000 visitors can't have been fun to navigate  around either!

Reasons to Stay Single, Halloween Edition (Videos)

I'm going to let these speak for themselves.

I could go on and on...

The Black Friday Price Match

In response to having their stores used as showrooms by consumers who then by online for less, brick-and-mortar retailers are fighting back

Target will match online prices at Amazon, Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Toys R Us. The program will run between November 1 and December 16.

Best Buy will price-match 20 online retailers this holiday season, as well as offering free shipping on items not available in stores. The new policy, likely to go into effect starting Sunday, November 4, will not be in effect the week of Black Friday through Cyber Monday. A more critical caveat: Best Buy customer service representatives are permitted to honor the policy at their discretion.

Get ready for some hellish tales. Price-matching can be awkward, and staff training critical. Let's hope Target and Best Buy are holding classes now!

A Very Political Halloween (Videos)

"Binders Full of Women"

Candy Redistribution

Sarah Palin Halloween Costume Options

Halloween for Morons (Videos)

Duh, what kind of bowl should I put my candy in?

Seriously, X-RAY your kids' candy? Check FRUIT?? (No one gives fruit!)? Eat it all at once? Hard to identify the dumbest part of this one.

I'm all for deviled eggs, but do these looks like eyeballs to you?

Dumb Things People Do on Halloween (Videos)

Build a Theme Bong

Don’t Play with Fire

Word to the wise: when some dude yells, “Do it again, man!” - DON'T.

Halloween Pet Costumes

New puppy training method: Dress them up as Princess Leia and Darth Vader and make them sit still while you shoot video of them.

Nutty Halloween Neighbors (Videos)

These houses make great videos, but not so great neighbors.

Perfect Theme Song

Welcome Home!

So This Is What Halloween Looks Like!

Extreme Costumes (Videos)

Sexy Halloween Costume Guide

What's the best Halloween costume for a woman to wear? Well, that depends. How sexy do you want to be? No, you're not thinking hot enough. How about asking this guy for some guidance?

Dick's Inappropriate Halloween Costume Shop

Don't you hate all those people who try to be edgy and offensive by wearing inappropriate costumes each Halloween? You know, that guy who went as Osama Bin Laden in 2001? Here's a costume shop for them!

Halloween Costume Surgery

A more permanent approach to the annual dilemma of what to wear for Halloween.

Halloween Costumes: 60s Vs. 80s

Two women with no ego problems debate the best era for Halloween costume development.

Halloween Costume Advice

A self-proclaimed Halloween expert relives some memories and offers unnecessary advice.

Politically Incorrect Halloween Costumes

French maid? Sexy nurse? Penis head? All cliche and politically incorrect, but not flat out creepy the way these 69 are. (Yes, I'm sure they chose that number with care!)

Halloween in L.A.

In Los Angeles you can celebrate Halloween all year round. There's the fabulous Hollywood Forever cemetery - home to both Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone, Rudolph Valentino, Fay Wray and "Alfalfa" from the Our Gang comedies - which is hosting Ozomatli on Dia de los Muertos! There are plenty of other spooky spots, too: Check out this custom-designed tour.

Black Friday Sales

It's never too early to start planning for Black Friday mayhem. Believe it or not the Black Friday ads are starting to trickle out; more will be posted as they are available.

Southeastern U.S. discounter Fred's has a 45-item Fred's Super Dollar Black Friday ad along with a 4-page Fred's ad. Their Black Friday sale starts at 5am and is one-day only. The four released pages represent pages 17-20 of the Fred's advertisement. 

Let's hope when we see the word "doorbusters" it doesn't actually mean Black Friday crowds will actually be breaking down the doors to get inside. But it wouldn't be the first time Black Friday caused in-store breakage.

Harbor Freight has a 35-item Black Friday ad and a 4-page ad.

Worth noting: Harbor Freight is letting their Inside Track Club members ($30/yr for membership) enter the store a full hour before regular customers (6am vs. 7am). Hope this does not become a trend among other stores!

"It's Almost Not Quite Halloween"

It's the most wonderful time of the year: no holidays yet! Nice to know that I'm not alone in thinking Thanksgiving can be hellish. According to Christina Applegate on SNL, here are things to be happy about: "No decorations, no cards, no weird family tension. And not every single thing tastes like pumpkin." Sigh. It's bliss time!

Black Friday 2011 (Videos)

It wasn't just about one pepper spraying incident. At Walmarts around the country - and one deadly Target - Black Friday really was dark.

The Police Party Plane

Last night, I went to The Moth to tell a story with the theme "Duped." My name didn't get picked from the hat, so I couldn't share my tale with the crowd at Zanzibar in Santa Monica. I share it here instead.

In the summer of 1983, I worked in New York at Billboard covering MTV in its heyday. Back then, MTV held amazing contests – they actually gave away a little pink house to promote John Mellencamp! Houses were cheaper then, but still…a house! We’re talking BIG.

MTV had a corporate PR person I dealt with all the time – I’ll call her Cheryl. Cheryl invited me to go along on the Police Party Plane. In this contest, a winner got to take 25 friends on a private plane – with an MTV veejay – to see the Police anywhere in North America and meet the band. They advertised it as a party in the sky, better than first class. On the plane, they would watch the new movie National Lampoon’s Vacation – and they’d all go home with a Colecovision video game system.

The contest winner was an engineer at the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia. He was married, around 30. He chose to see the Police at a festival in Montreal that also featured Talking Heads, English Beat and Peter Tosh.

The plan was that VJ Martha Quinn, some MTV executives including Cheryl, someone from the Police’s management office, a couple others and I would go to Philly in two limos to join the winners on their flight to Montreal. None of us were paying attention – and apparently neither were the drivers – because at one point someone looked out the window and noticed we were well into Delaware. We got off at a rest stop, where Martha Quinn was mobbed at the Burger King. The drivers got new directions. It turned out we were about 100 miles off course.

We got to the airfield more than three hours after the contest “winner,” who had been trapped on the plane with his 25 friends the entire time, unfortunately without any food other than pretzels, but with a full bar. They were all drunk, and they were all pissed at having to wait for us. Apparently an MTV lawyer was afraid that if they took off without a veejay, the guy might sue for not getting the full value of his prize. So they were stuck until we got there, and that meant the winner missed a big chunk of the festival that was his prize.

It was a short and unpleasant flight to Montreal. Sure, we were all given cool jackets merging the MTV and Police Synchronicity logos, and there was a huge round bed that slept about five, with a giant seatbelt, but otherwise there wasn’t much to enjoy. I interviewed the winner, who complained that he had to pay a fortune in taxes for the value of the prize: renting and staffing a plane, concert tickets, the movie, 26 Colecovisions…it all added up. His friends had chipped in, spending hundreds of dollars apiece on, so far, just a lot of waiting around for a bunch of unnecessary strangers. No offense taken – I’d have been a raving lunatic in his position.

When we landed we were herded into a bus and taken to Montreal’s Olympic stadium. We’d missed two out of the four acts, and were rushed past the band with no time for pleasantries. When we got to our seats, they were…crappy. I mean, there aren’t a lot of good seats in a stadium, but these were pretty damn far away from the stage. To make matters worse, MTV had put its executives and guests right IN FRONT of the winner’s group. It was like one more slap in their faces. Some of us decided to go the concession to get some food, but guess what – they didn’t accept American dollars or credit cards!

While Talking Heads played some Tom Tom Club material that I never felt was their best work, the winner and his wife, who were sitting directly behind me, started fighting about what a waste of time and money this was, how they’d been duped by MTV. It escalated, until she said “Go fuck yourself,” and he responded, “If I could do that, I wouldn’t have had to marry you!” Silence fell over our group.

The Police put on a great show in those days, but honestly, I don’t remember any of it. In part that’s because – believe it or not – we had to leave early to get back to the plane! Yes, we missed the end just like we had the beginning. I think Cheryl was afraid we’d get stuck in the crowd if we stayed to the end. We trudged to the bus during the encore, not even objecting at this point, and back to the airport, where the private airfield was, yes, locked. We ended up waiting more than an hour in the bus, behind a chain link fence, while Cheryl argued with somebody. Let’s just say no one suggested singing a few songs. By the time we got on the plane, it was probably 2AM.

The flight back was much longer than the flight there. Why? Because the MTV lawyer insisted National Lampoon’s Vacation be shown in its entirety, to avoid a potential lawsuit. We circled the airport for an hour, Chevy Chase occasionally waking us up. Just to make the night complete, we were harassed by Philadelphia Customs agents suspicious of a private plane coming in from a rock festival in the middle of the night. I can still see the prison matron-type taking Cheryl's mascara apart looking for drugs.

I got home in time to change clothes and turn around to go out again to work, where my phone was ringing as I got to my cubicle. It was Cheryl, begging me not to write anything, or even tell anyone else what had happened. She promised to reward me with another trip if I kept quiet. I was immediately reminded of that W.C. Fields joke where first prize is a week in Philadelphia and second prize is two weeks in Philadelphia. I said another trip wasn’t necessary - really! And I never did tell or write the story – until now.

The Fifth Stage of Divorce

Happy Valentine's Day! Hope yours wasn't too hellish. I did something different tonight: Went to a Moth "Story Slam" and told a "Love Hurts" story. (Yes, I have hellish tales in multiple categories.)

I had to go first and I came in second - not bad for a storytelling virgin. It was exhilarating, except that even now, almost three hours after I spoke, I still feel like throwing up. Public speaking doesn't scare me, but it does sort of make me sick.

Without further ado, here is my story.

In 2007 my marriage of 19 years ended and I had to confront the five stages of divorce. I’ve made it through the first four:

Bargaining and

I think of this as a sort of Rip Van Winklevoss period – that’s where you wake up to find that someone shockingly young has stolen something valuable from you. You do get compensated, but somehow, no matter how much you get, it never feels like enough.

And now I’m in the fifth stage, dating. I’ve adjusted to the differences between dating in the ‘80s – the last time I was single – and dating now. They seem mostly related to hair removal and dating technology. I’ve learned how to write a compelling online dating profile. What I haven’t quite figured out yet is how to read between the lines of others’ profiles. I specialize in the unemployed masquerading as the high achiever, the obese masquerading as the “height-weight proportional,” the alcoholic masquerading as the social drinker, the married masquerading as the single.

I’ve done a lot of dating since my separation, the vast majority what I call one and dones, because once is definitely enough. But even given the low bar, only one gets the distinction of being the worst of the worst.

It happened in Laguna Beach in the summer of 2009 where a friend and I were spending the weekend. I was pretty discouraged by dating in LA at that point, so I figured I’d give the OC a try. I went on OK Cupid and hit it off with Mark, whose picture showed him with a golden retriever – and a baseball cap, to indicate he was bald. He threw me a little when he said we looked like we might be cousins and asked about my ethnic background. I told him my ancestry was English, German, Irish and Italian; he was full-blooded Scottish. And so, potential incest off the table, we scheduled coffee, at a little bakery across PCH from my hotel.

We met at about noon. His golden retriever looked just like her picture, but I can’t say the same for Mark. Yes, he was wearing a baseball cap. But his face had three or four little bandages; he said he’d just had some “things” removed. But I didn’t care - it’s not so much about looks for me. It’s the conversation I was interested in.

After some small talk about the dog and Laguna and Michael Jackson’s recent demise, he started telling me about himself. He was a retired foot surgeon. He lived on a golf course in a gated community just south of Laguna and had sold his practice just before the recession hit. He was quite smug about it: his timing had been great and now he didn’t have to deal with anyone unless they could make it past his gates.

It was clear that Mark and I, a devoted Democrat, were not soulmates. Hell, I liked his dog more than I liked him. Even asleep under the table she had more personality. I was listening politely and plotting my escape when this came out of his mouth: “To quote Hitler, we used to have a Jewish problem, now we have a Muslim problem.”

I’d like to tell you that I leapt to my feet, threw coffee at his bandaged face and yelled, “You’re a facist asshole!” before fleeing down PCH. But I didn’t. I just sat there, stunned, then angry – yet still polite. It took at least five minutes before I could stammer out something about how I had to get back to the hotel, and left, his original question about my ethnicity replaying in my head.

I called my friend as I walked back to the hotel. I told her I was starving and needed food and especially a drink, and that she wouldn’t believe what had just happened. She promised we would start drinking as soon as I got there, and we hung up.

I got to the crosswalk leading directly to the hotel, checked for cars and stepped out. I almost made it to the double-yellow line when suddenly an impatient driver whipped around a waiting car and hit me. I don’t remember the impact, but I vividly remember the lifeguards swarming around me once I came to. Someone told me there were nine of them. They asked me if I knew what day it was, and I did; if I knew my name, and I did. Then they asked me if I knew who the president was. I actually yelled, “Yes! Barack Obama! I have his sticker on my phone!” I wanted those OC-ers to know I wasn’t one of them. They were obviously trying to kill me, all those lifeguards aside.

After a trip to the ER and the kind of tests that might have saved Natasha Richardson, I spent some time limping and in pain, but I never complained. As bad as I felt, at least I got out of Laguna, and I never had to see Mark again.

After almost five years of dating, I’ve reached the real final Kubler-Ross grieving stage, acceptance. At my age, being picky – in other words, holding out for someone honest and self-supporting and not racist – means I might die alone, and I accept that. Just please don’t let it be in Orange County.

A Skewed Look at Valentine's Day (Videos)

Dating Losers

Vintage clips from a video dating service. Even in the '80s these guys must have looked dated...although it's unlikely they ever did. Some of the most unintentionally hilarious material ever recorded.

Love Hurts

Watch out for cupid's arrows.

Worst Valentine's Day Gifts Ever

Flowers were hurt in the making of this video, when really it should have been her man.

Love Is the Drug

The dark side of love: chemical imbalance, mental strain, addiction and depression!

Happy Chinese New Year!

I have a dear friend who is a qi gong master and a devotee of Chinese Astrology. She informs me that one's Chinese astrological sign is not just an animal (such as today's New Year of the Dragon) but also an element: fire, water, etc.

I looked into it and learned that I was born in the year of the Rooster and that my element is Fire. How hellish is it that my astrological sign is a burning cock!