Who’s Who

By Diane DeVaughn Stokes

Who's Who

I love dressing up! No, I’m not talking about evening gowns and high-heeled shoes with my hair piled high. That I hate. I love costumes. Just the word “masquerade” gets me all excited. Oh sure, Halloween has always been a barrel of fun for me, but it’s more fun to dress up for no reason and command attention. It’s a passion that comes naturally from my mother.

Mom has boxes full of masks, party hats, wigs, comical pajamas and platform shoes just waiting for the slightest opportunity to make an appearance. Over the years, she did crazy things like telling my dad that all the men attending the neighbor’s party were dressing like women. My dad, who was very conservative, would do just about anything mom asked him to do, even though he hated doing it, hence their happy marriage. But of course, when he arrived at the party he was the only cross-dresser! The laughs were always therapeutic for my mom, yet heartburn for my dad.

I was the only kid on the block whose mom dressed up for Halloween. I fondly recall the fashionable bum with dirt-smeared face, dressed in my grandfather’s work clothes, parading beside me as I went door to door in search of anything that resembled chocolate.

Who would have thought that those types of things were genetic? Don’t tell anyone, especially my mom, but I, too, have a huge box of silly props in the attic, easily accessible for any occasion at the drop of a hat. Mardi Gras beads, leis, New Year’s Eve fedoras, fishnet hose, funky glasses, hillbilly teeth, a clown wig, and my all time favorite, an orange and black boa. Even my “Miss Francis Marion University” crown has found a home there amidst the whimsy. And that’s just my box of accessories. You should see my closet full of costumes!

I have several cowgirl shirts I found at a local thrift shop to use on stage when I was Annie in Annie Get Your Gun, a flamboyant red dress trimmed in feathers from when I played Mame, and a nude-colored body suit which I wore doing a strip tease as Linda Low in Flower Drum Song thirty years ago. I just can’t part with these things. Gosh knows, I’ll never use them again. What am I saving them for?

Needless to say, as a result of this obsession, I volunteer at any chance to appear as a costumed character. Back in the seventies I received big-time national publicity for playing Santa, but I’ll save the details for another Sasee article.

Last year, I was hired to hide under a table at a home-builder’s conference with my head poked up through the middle, surrounded by fruit and veggies. Yes, I was the talking centerpiece. When a male guest approached and started to grab one of my offerings, I’d scare the heck out of him by saying, “Your zipper is down, sir!”

During the holiday season, I dress as Jingles the elf, and emcee Christmas functions all around town, as well as wear it on my TV talk show. I’ve been so busy with that gig that I have two costumes in case one gets wet or soiled. St. Patrick’s Day finds me decked out as Lucky the Leprechaun. Last year, I was even hired by a grandfather to go to his grandchildren’s school and sing Irish songs dressed as Lucky, and I loved every minute of it. Plus, I have a roaring twenties dress in case I get invited to a shindig and don’t feel like dolling up in traditional evening attire.

One of my fondest childhood memories was dressing up like St. Lucia. Catholic School uniforms were so boring (I still don’t wear navy blue to this day) that I used any excuse to break out of bobby socks and saddle oxfords. Sister Catherine Baptista asked us to do an essay on someone we admire in the Catholic Church doctrine. I did not want to pick someone traditional that everyone else would choose, so I selected the saint who had the same birthday I had. Then, because of this ridiculous inbred spirit of disguise, I researched St. Lucia and went to class wrapped in a sheet with rosary beads around my neck, my head wrapped in a dish towel, with flip flops on my feet. I knew it was a guaranteed “A” the minute I looked in the mirror.

In 1983, I was convinced by mom to join her for a friend’s 70th birthday party, dressed as women of the night. Since this was probably the biggest story in Marion, South Carolina, the next day’s newspaper featured pictures from the big event. My boss at the television station demanded an explanation, even though he knew it was in jest.

I know all of these things sound really weird to all you straight people, and don’t take that sexually. I’m talking about all you folks who dress the same every day of every year, but it takes a real woman to admit these freaky tendencies and to stand up and say, “Hey world. Here I am.” But, I’m telling you, this is not my fault. My mother did this to me. I don’t know whom SHE blames for her behavior, but I know I blame her, even though I love her and adore her. We are perfect candidates for “Who’s Who?” because you never know WHO we may be tomorrow. I guess the old saying is right: Like mother like daughter. We’re two peas in a pod…I wonder if they have a costume for that?

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One Response to “Who’s Who”

  1. Chris says:

    Diane, we just love you to bits. This year, my eight year old “pink leopard” will be escorted door to door my Mrs. Lovett (of Sweeney Todd) in full regalia. I was born on Halloween, so I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow the joy of masquerading, but it’s nice to know I’m not the only one!

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