Arts editor Robert Faires offered that the Oompa-Loompa were constantly offering choices in their chants, and Bush seemed stuck on whether or not he was going to just run for governor or, after winning, run for president. Everyone applauded Faires' stretch, but it earned little respect. Art director Taylor Holland suggested the real reason: because we have an article on oompah bands this issue.
Enthusiasm for the Halloween mask cover had been lacking this year. We hadn't found a cover candidate that generated any excitement and had more or less settled on Bush, but how to portray him? Desperate for some hook, this connection came up -- Oompah bands, Oompa-Loompas, and Bush on the cover -- no matter how tenuous or illogical, we grabbed it. Now, thinking about how to justify it to our readers, I realized we were on much weaker ground. Then Nick looked at me, laughed, and said it was my problem, because I'd have to make the connection in "Page Two."
In the beginning, the Halloween mask covers were of monsters. The first one was for Halloween 1982, our second year of publishing. Knowing of filmmaker and cinema legend Robert Burns' obsession with Rondo Hatton, we interviewed him for a short story on the actor and asked Guy Juke to do a drawing of Hatton as a Halloween mask cover. The drawing was gorgeous -- still is -- and inside, Burns helped demonstrate how to cut the cover out and make a mask.
Hatton suffered from acromegaly, a pituitary disease which results in excessive bone enlargement (though it is now completely controllable). Hatton's face looked monstrous, though he was a sweet, gentle man. At first he was mostly a bit player in movies, but after playing the Creeper in Pearl of Death he became a B horror monster star, appearing in Spider Woman Strikes Back, Jungle Captive, House of Horrors, and The Brute Man(inspired by Hatton's life). Unfortunately, Hatton died not long after the first two were released.
In 1983, our cover was "Grandpa" Al Lewis of The Munsters, who is currently running for governor of New York on the Libertarian ticket. Again it was Juke who drew him. The next two years, we offered Elsa Lanchester as The Bride of Frankenstein (1984), and Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1985), both by Juke, with Chainsaw actor Ed "The Hitchhiker" Neal modeling how to cut out and wear the Leatherface mask.
In 1986, though we had a Halloween-themed cover, it wasn't a mask. The next year began a series of political masks with City Manager Jorge Carrasco as a vampire, drawn by Baby Lucas, aka Paul Sabal. (Carrasco resigned days after the mask ran.) This was followed by a Day of the Dead mask in 1988 produced by an art collective.
Political figures as masks resumed in 1989 with Baby Lucas' Mark Weaver, an anti-porn crusader who had just gotten the Chronicle kicked out of the HEB stores. After the mask, Chronicles were again distributed at HEB and soon after, Mark Weaver left town. The next year was Clayton Williams (1990), favorite for governor against Ann Richards, who lost a few days after the mask was published. (We are not implying any connections in any of these instances.) Then came Gary Bradley as the Developer of the Black Lagoon (1991) by Roy Tompkins, H. Ross Perot (1992) by Doug Potter, and a photo mask of Jim Bob Moffett by Alan Pogue in 1993. As to the fortunes of those three after these masks were published, draw your own conclusions.
We admit, in recent years we've run low on ideas. (At one time, people actually wore these covers as masks; you could see lots of them on Sixth Street.) 1994 was supposed to be Vampira (star of Ed Wood Jr.'s Plan Nine From Outer Space) but artist A. J. Garces didn't draw her emaciated enough, so she looked more like an expressionless Elvira. This was followed by Memnoch the Devil (1995) from Anne Rice country, drawn by Nathan Jensen, and the modern mythical border bogeyman Chupacabra (1996) by Roy Tompkins. Last year we did a map of the Triangle development as a mask -- a nearly impossible task cleverly rendered by Jason Stout.
This year we approached mask time with a now-familiar dread. Many ideas were tossed out; many were rejected. When the Oompah bands/Oompa-Loompa/George Bush connection came up, we grabbed it and ran. And there, kind readers, is the explanation for our cover. Make of it what you will.
The Chronicle staff and friends would like to extend our best wishes to Louis and Jan Karp and family, who have just moved to Boulder, Colorado. From the early days of Waterloo Records through the Round Rock Bluegrass Festival, Louis and Jan were active participants in Austin's culture and development as a scene. They will be missed.
The Austin Chronicle offices will be closed at 3pm on Friday, October 30, and reopen for business at 9am Monday, November 2.