Even more so than “Monster Mash” or “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah,” Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” is the Halloween song. If you go the day without hearing it at least once, your Halloween is incomplete. I’m sorry, but it’s true.
Fortunately, I live in a city that not only embraces this quintessential Halloween song but also encourages people to rock out to it on Main Street. The Thriller! Parade, which has been going on for about nine years now, features six different groups of approximately 1200 dancing zombies and, you guessed it, six different Michaels. Hundreds of people daub on their best zombie costumes complete with fake hatchets, burn marks, and babies bursting from very real pregnant bellies and shuffle, jerk, and dance down the street to the bouncing tune of “Thriller.” And this year I got to be a part of it.
For several years now, I’ve wanted to join the shuffling throng but always found an excuse not to – oh, I’d missed the deadline; oh, I just didn’t have time in my schedule; oh, I wouldn’t know anyone else. Instead, I would stake out a spot in a parking garage and watch the procession, bobbing up and down in time to the music, thoroughly convinced that I’d never be able to do that. This year, however, I had the great pleasure to meet some girls who were Thriller veterans, and they convinced me and some other friends to join them. I am never looking back.
The initial practice sessions are faintly terrifying, comprised as they are of at least 40% veterans who can just gyrate, boogey, and growl on cue. But there’re always people there who don’t know what they’re doing, and we were all glad to be able to find each other and make fun of ourselves. Repetition eventually pounded out our nervousness and most of our awkwardness, and a ton of make up did the rest. Come parade night, we were ready.
There was so much nervousness lying on the cold concrete faking death as people took pictures. I kept my eyes slightly cracked, watching the fire dancers, marching band, and floats as they wended their way past, eagerly anticipating Vincent Price’s part in the song. Would I fuck up? Would I embarrass myself? Would my mustache stay on (I was Zombie Mario.)? Would I miss the cue?
But once you get in there, all of that goes away. It has to because you’re concentrating too hard making sure you’re scaring kids, staying in step, and straining to hear the music. Yes, you can get distracted, especially if you end up on the outside next to the audience, but that just makes you try hard, growl deeper, and scream louder. And then you shuffle on for a few paces and do it again and again and again. And then you’re done.
It was amazing. Absolutely incredible. It was fun and silly without being drunk or stupid. So many people wanted to take pictures with me, and I made so many little kids scream-laugh. I’m already planning on doing it next year, and, yes, I still remember my moves.