“This has been a very dead year as far as political stuff goes,” said Sandra Duraes, manager of Backstage, the Capitol Hill emporium. “We really don’t have Sarah Palin. Nobody’s asking for her.” Duraes spoke wistfully of 2008, when the Alaska governor burst onto the political scene just in time for Halloween celebrants to embrace her red suit, updo and spectacles.
The following Halloween saw a local boomlet for the Salahis, whose combo of sari-style dress and tux made for a no-frills, gate-crashing gag. And last year, ersatz Christine O’Donnells took to their brooms alongside bands of Chilean miners roaming the pumpkin-strewn sidewalks.
In 2011, however, the political gloom lies too heavily across the land, according to Ron Faucheux, a local pollster who surveyed 1,000 Americans and found that they would rather dress as Lady Gaga or the Geico Caveman than Palin or President Obama.
“There’s so much negativity. There’s so much money. There’s so much polarization that it’s not something that people can step away from as easily and poke fun at,” said Faucheux, who was surprised by the results.
In this grim year, satirical minds recoil at all the touchy subjects. “A few people asked for Arnold Schwarzenegger masks,” said Duraes, wanly, since the Governator’s travails summon thoughts of his wife’s heartache. Charlie Sheen’s excesses have been drained of their mirth, like a hangover. (And yet, what the heck, his glasses and various goddess-y accouterments are still selling at Spirit Halloween on Wisconsin Avenue, according to retailer Tyisha Kirby.)
As for happier allusions, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and Beyonce Knowles added baby bumps to their almost spectral silhouettes, though many women balk at the immodest challenge of impersonating such glamazons. Then there are Capitol Hill exhibitionists, such as former representatives Chris Lee and Anthony Weiner, but to do them justice (or injustice), impersonators need similar corporal assets. Otherwise, the joke is on you. (Advisory for those doing SEAL Team 6: Months of push-ups are more important than camo fatigues.)
Scanning the world headlines is hardly fruitful. Anything related to Japan’s cascading catastrophes is as funny as cesium-induced organ failure. Dictators had a bad year, but could anyone draw laughs as Hosni Mubarak, wheeled around in a bed-cage? Duraes has seen a run on black curly wigs and mustaches, in service to Moammar Gaddafi get-ups, but the Libyan despot was hard to look at in his last cruel hours, and Duraes said that customers have amended the look to make it more pop-culty: “They’re doing zombie Gaddafi.”
On the political stage, neither Obama nor House Speaker John A. Boehner is a study in sartorial outrage. But one suggestion has emerged: Pair up with a friend and portray them with golf garb and cigarettes.