I found it at a thrift store. The mask is dated 1987 Herman Toys.
This is a rare item and my mind is completely reeling as to how this cheap plastic mask could have survived this long–23 years. The plastic was so thin and fragile on these 80s masks, that you were lucky if your mask survived the day you wore it to school for the Halloween parade. And if it did, it hardly stood a chance surviving the night, Trick or Treating. Even slimmer were it lasting the rest of week, where you no doubt tried to put it on the dog. And yet, over the years, it has survived the trashcan, yard sales, from being crushed in boxes, moths in the attic, and even the brutish handling of Value Village workers.
I can’t even say now that I’m entirely sure it wasn’t just God who didn’t walk up and hand it to me.
This has happened once before. Over the summer, I saw an 80s ALF mask at the thrift store, in perfect condition. I deliberated over buying it for twenty-odd minutes, but in the end, I decided not to. I asked myself, what will I do with this ALF mask? What a stupid, foolish question. I’m kicking myself now. When God tries to hand you a present, you take it, no questions asked.
Peewee is clean, as perfect as the day it came out of the box, which likely had a Peewee smock–a sheet of plastic you slipped over your head with a suit and bowtie printed on it. The nose of the mask has a few creases, but there are no rips, no cracking, no fades. The thin rubber band is securely stapled to the ears. It’s a miracle, a true Halloween miracle.
The question was always about gunning for store-bought costume, or having Mom help you pull together your own. I remember rummaging through the basement for old clothes and various pieces to make up our costumes. For instance, my mother had a poodle skirt that she sewed to fit my sister for a sockhop costume one year. I remember watching her sew, the strangeness of old things, the felt poodle, exotic and funny. I was a pirate, and we went digging through the old clothes for pirate stuff. We found a bandana–from the 70s, which made it better–and a clip-on earring, which cut off the circulation in my ear lobe and caused a headache, though I didn’t dream of taking it off.
Still, the crappy plastic store-bought costumes mesmerized me. They were brightly-colored, licensed with my favorite characters. It was like the difference between a home-cooked meal prepared from scratch and McDonald’s. I always wanted McDonald’s.
One year I chose a skeleton smock/mask combo at the pharmacy store. It was a skull mask and plastic smock with printed bones. To class it up a bit, I got a plastic top hat to wear as well, thinking I could tap out a little Putting On The Ritz. I have always had a little Vaudeville in me.
And I totally had this Disney cartoon in mind:
So there I was in my crappy smock and mask, which I had to hold to my face because it kept sliding down. Moisture from my sticky candy breath grew inside the plastic mask, and I coudn’t see out of it because the holes allotted for my eyes were not enough. Even that top hat sat unevenly on my head.
I was decked out in plastic, but I was a skeleton–a Vaudeville skeleton. Nope, this wasn’t a costume lovingly sewn together by Mom as she smoked long Virginia Slim 100s–it was just some crap that we bought at Rite Aid. But I loved it.
And it ripped. The smock snagged straight down the center on a branch, which I didn’t see, because I couldn’t. Before the end of the night, the rubber band snapped on the mask. And as for the top hat, it fell off my head, landed in front of my foot, and crunched.
DAMN IT. I was going to be the skeleton the rest of the year! Around the house! While playing Nintendo! DAMN IT.
And so that, THAT is the reason the survival of the Peewee Herman mask is such a miracle. Because childhood is hard, life is utterly unfair, and this shit was cheaply made.
Finally, as I was photographing the mask, I noticed a cool optical illusion:
Even though you know it’s concaved on inside of the mask, can you make your brain see it so it appears convex?
Alright. Now that’s giving me a headache of pirate-earring proportions.