Category Live Shows

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios is supposed to be one of the premier horror events in the country. Accordingly, when we packed our bags for LA, I brought an extra pair of pants, in case I had a fear-related accident. However, I should have checked to make sure the extra pair of pants actually fit me. When we went swimming earlier in the day, I’d worn my pants over my suit going to and from the pool so that no one would have to look at my see-through leg skin, but this plan backfired as my pants got quite wet on the way back to the room, creating the appearance that I’d already had a fear-related accident, and my backup hipster pants were too tight to the point of severe discomfort. So I spent the minutes before we were off to CityWalk furiously blowdrying my crotch in the hotel bathroom with the provided hair dryer.

Waiting to get into the park, Jason had his first experience with a Southern California Bro waiting behind us in line. “So, bro, get this, I was dating this chick who turned out to be lame, and she was like, I thought that The Simpsons ride was too long but that the King Kong ride could have been longer and I was like, what, the Simpsons ride is like, a perfect length, and really, how much longer can a gorilla fight a dinosaur? Man, the best part of The Simpsons ride is like, when you go down to hell, I was all like WHOOOOOOA!” …he was suitably impressed with the guy’s bro-itude.

Immediately upon entering the park, it’s clear this event isn’t intended for children, with made up girls in short shorts grinding and writhing in cages to rock music. Once you’ve passed them, you’re into the Klownz area, overflowing with chainsaw-wielding clowns and geysers of flame shooting into the sky. There were so many clowns, in fact, that it was very easy for one to sneak up behind you while you’re distracted by another. One clown was very, very determined to try and get a squeak, a squeal, a screech, something out of me as he followed me through the area, blowing into my hair and dangling some sort of furry mass of something in my face. Really, the one he should have been going for was Jason–there were only a couple of times I was genuinely startled all night. Overall, the actors were very good at finding people who were totally engrossed and scaring them back into the moment.

Terror Tram: Scream 4 Your Life Our first stop was the Terror Tram, as it stops running a few hours before the park closes. We had purchased front-of-the-line passes, which meant that the most we had to wait for anything was a few minutes (compared to the 100+ minutes everyone without a pass had to wait for damn near everything), so we weren’t concerned about having to pick and choose the things we wanted to do most out of fear of not being able to see and do everything–but we didn’t want to get caught up elsewhere in the park and accidentally miss the two things that closed early. The Terror Tram bills itself as a behind-the-scenes look on the Universal Studios backlot of four horror movies currently in production; it’s essentially Universal Studios’ unbranded horror maze. I’m glad we chose to do it first, as it set the scene for the rest of the night. I’m not necessarily certain what I expected Halloween Horror Nights to be, but the Terror Tram absolutely blew all of my expectations away. The only word I can possibly think to use to describe it is “elaborate”. One of the movies was “Zombiez on a Plane”–and we walked past an entire plane ripped up, with bodies dangling out of the seats. I was so impressed by the work and money pumped into this event that I would forget that I was supposed to be scared. One girl was having her face ripped off, and as I was gawking at her makeup, she squirted water “gore” into my face and my reaction was not “ewww”, but “Wow! Awesome!”

The Simpsons Ride Our next stop was The Simpsons ride. It was hard enough for Jason to drag me away from Krustyland the first time to go to the Terror Tram: there was no way he had the strength to resist me again, especially since I’d been wanting to ride this ride ever since I’d first heard it existed. Everything about the area was spot-on perfect, from the references to the “Tooth Chipper” to schlocky Krusty-brand merchandise to the fully-stocked Kwik E Mart. The ride was charming, funny, and had a number of unexpected surprises. Afterward, my cheeks hurt from smiling.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure was an excellent (wait for it) respite for my smile muscles, because it was the only down note of the evening. It was a bunch of juvenile racist jokes with some song and dance numbers…and the main villain was Osama bin Laden. Really, Universal Studios? Wow. Pretty tacky. It did have some pretty attractive scantily clad young people, but I can get that elsewhere, without jokes about Mexicans and leaf-blowers.

House of 1000 Corpses in 3D Zombievision

I’ve always been a fan of Rob Zombie’s horror work, particularly House of 1000 Corpses, so I was definitely looking forward to this maze. Before we went through, we were handed a pair of 3D glasses to wear, which made the maze even more disorienting than it would have been otherwise. They managed to touch on nearly every area in the movie, from Captain Spaulding’s store to the Murder Ride to the house of the Firefly family to the underground tunnels where Dr. Satan resides. The colors, the tone…everything was spot-on perfect.

The Thing: Assimilation The Thing was one of our favorite mazes of the evening. Not only were the special effects amazing (they were created by Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, two people who worked on the film), but they managed to create an atmosphere in which you felt like you may have possibly stepped through a portal into Antarctica, your breath fogging from your mouths on what you know is a warm Los Angeles evening. One of the only downsides is that, unlike the film, you aren’t threatened by the menace that anyone around you at any time could turn into The Thing (which could have been fixed with some line plants…but then again would have increased wait time so I don’t know if the payoff would have been worth it).

Jurassic Park: In the Dark This is the same ride as it is during daylight hours, except in the dark, it has a little more punch. We were told that you would get drenched on this ride, and since we wanted to do everything but didn’t want to spend have the night shivering in wet clothes, we bought two of the ponchos that were available for sale. I recalled all too well the time I’d gone to Six Flags Great America’s Fright Fest (located in Gurnee, Illinois, home of chilly to downright freezing temperatures in October) and ridden the Roaring Rapids ride, certain that all of the water geysers had been turned off, and discovering far too late that I was wrong and ending up soaked to the bone and colder than the White Witch’s nether regions. So I was insistent upon poncho purchase. …we were the only people in line in ponchos. When we got off the ride, our ponchos were barely sprinkled with water.

At least we looked cute.

Alice Cooper: Welcome to my Nightmare This maze was designed with the help of Alice Cooper himself, and contained a lot of references to his music, some of which I caught, and some of which went straight over my head as I’m not the biggest Alice fan. I’m guessing I would have enjoyed the maze more were I a huge fan, but then again, the dingleberry teenagers behind us were clearly fans, and one of them kept shouting at the actors that they weren’t so-and-so, that they weren’t doing such-and-such right, so they couldn’t have been having a great time. Unless they enjoyed taking some of the fun out of it for me, in which case I guess they had a blast. I certainly had fun mocking them afterward. One of the actors in this maze got me good, as he came crawling at me on the floor and I only saw him coming out of my peripheral vision: I tripped over my feet and then Jason’s feet while scrambling away.

Revenge of the Mummy This ride was ok. I mean, I enjoyed the Mummy movies (up to a point), and I always dig rollercoaster-type rides, but it wasn’t anything special or particularly horror-themed. It’s certainly not something I would have waited an hour and a half to ride.

Hostel: Hunting Season On our way into this maze, a group of girls came screeching out of the end, running and screaming well into the night. I thought for SURE this meant that something at the end would be beyond terrifying, but it didn’t end up scaring me, though overall the maze was one of the most gruesome. However, one of the actors squirted me and caught me off guard with more water “gore”, and the guys in the next room must have heard my “EWWW” because they nailed me, too. Or maybe they all like taking shots at girls in glasses, I’m not an expert.

La Llorona: Villa De Almas Perdidas La Llorona is a widespread legend in Mexico about a woman who drowned her two children for the love of a man, who subsequently rejected her, and she now roams the afterlife in ghostly purgatory, weeping for her lost children and seeking to drown other children to join them. I was distracted by the dudebro in front of us who was masking his own fear by walking behind his girlfriend with his arms around her, penguin waddling through the entirety of the maze. For the amusement of the people walking behind us, I did the same thing to Jason, which encited some laughs from the people behind us. Though the legend doesn’t really resonate with me personally, I thought the makeup and everything was very well done–there were a lot of cemetery settings with gravestones and weeping angels, and the actors were painted to resemble stone so realistically you could not tell which were the people and which were the props. At one point during the maze, they had an extra-large Maria head devouring a child in his bed (Freddy Krueger style), and when I drew Jason’s attention to it, saying “I don’t recall that being part of the legend”, an actor crept out of a hiding place, so when Jason turned back, he was so startled he nearly jumped through the ceiling, getting brays of laughter from everyone including myself.

The Wolfman: Curse of Talbot Hall This was the perfect maze on which to end our experience. Not because the maze itself was particularly outstanding, but the people around us enhanced, rather than detracted from, our experience. I’m not easily scared, but if someone fails to scare me, I won’t fling insults at them or be a jackass, and I was surprised to see that so many people WERE jackasses about it. But this time, it was perfect. Just before entering the maze, the group of girls in front of us screeched and said “You please go first, I can’t go first, I’m so scared”. I laughed and said “No fear, ladies, I will hold your hands” and led the way through the maze. I had my fair share of people jump out at me, but there were also some people who targeted the girls at the back, one of whom ran forward into me, screaming “BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLS”. I turned to her, confused, and said “Excuse me, but did you just scream “balls”?” Yes, yes she had. Apparently this is a thing among the youth these days. This maze also contained my maze kryptonite: mirrors. Unless someone shows me the correct way, I will walk back and forth between two mirrors and spend the rest of my life in the maze, often walking into them face first.

Wrap up After we’d seen everything there was to see, we decided to hit the Kwik E Mart and head out early–our front of the line passes got us to the front of every line once, but if we wanted to see or do anything again, we’d have to wait the full time, and there wasn’t anything I was willing to wait in line for that long to do again. While at the Kwik E Mart, we bought some plastic glassware for the house because I can’t be trusted with real glass, a “Duff” and “Flaming Moe” energy drink to go with my Buzz cola, and a big pink Simpsons donut. How big, you ask? Big. Really big.

Delicious, too. We’re already talking about going back next year.

An evening at the PNB with Giselle

The scene is set: A couple of finely-dressed young adults have joined high society to attend the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s presentation of Giselle; one of the oldest ballets. Giselle is set in the Rhinelands during the grape harvest: it tells the story of a young woman, Giselle, her love for a nobleman who has disguised himself as a peasant*, her betrayal and death by grief when she discovers the man she loves is betrothed to another, and her life after death as one of the Wilis–young women who were jilted before their wedding days who take revenge on men by making them dance themselves to death. The artistic director of the show, instead of having the troupe perform the more well-known and recent Russian iteration, went to the oldest source he could find and directed the show to mirror the 1841 original as closely as possible. The beautiful sets and costumes were on loan from the Houston ballet. All in all, it was a powerful, moving ballet experience, save for one thing.

That damn burger rolling around in my stomach from earlier in the day. It wasn’t merely a burger, it was a burger monstrosity. A burger so fatty and dense and calorie-laden, I’d already been forced to take a nap to allow my body to process it. Now, in the middle of the seemingly interminable pantomiming portions of the first act, the burger was making an angry reappearance. The burger was officially ready to Bring the Pain, involving feverish amounts of nonsensical praying to the God of Bowels that can he just please hold off for just a little while, please, anything, an offering of nothing but healthy fibers will be forthcoming if he will just PLEASE keep me from crapping my dress at the ballet. Occasionally, these prayers will be heard, and the evening can proceed as normal. My prayers were, and a mighty offering of fruits and veggies was laid upon the altar of the God of Bowels the next day.

The second act was much more interesting and enjoyable than the first, particularly since I no longer had to focus on a brand new method of humiliating myself in public. What I DID have to focus on was a group of women chatting behind me in Russian for nearly the entirety of the second act. Chatting, giggling, and some form of giggling cry I’d never heard before. I turned and glared, not wishing to be as rude as them or draw as much attention with any vocalized admonition. Jason turned and glared. The man seated next to me in a glittery suit turned and glared. They were impervious; if anything, their volume increased, as did my loathing for them. There is at least one of these people in every crowd and they are ALWAYS seated near me, from the man who would not stop talking during a showing of The Dark Knight, to the couple who would not stop thumbwrestling and chatting while everyone around them was straining to hear the soft-spoken Adrienne King, to the drunken Stephen King lookalike who kept resting his beer-holding arm on my head while shouting to Electric Six to “Play Freebird, fuck yeah, man”–there’s always one. Why, if you want to talk through a show, do you bother attending a show in the first place? Why, in a theater so conscious of the enjoyment of all that it even stresses to patrons to wear minimal perfumes if they must wear perfume, would people assume that talking loudly during the performance is acceptable? Why, if they are always to be seated in my vicinity, am I not given some sort of electronic device to jolt and irritate them as much as they’re irritating the people around them? As much as they’re irritating me? Or if not tasering, why can’t I be authorized for sharp slap across the face when the need is dire? I almost reconsidered praying my illness away so that I might dump on them the way they crapped all over my theater experience, but ultimately decided “assault via poop” is not the sort of recommendation I need beside my name in any publication. Theater-talkers, think on THAT. You don’t know what sort of fury your conversations may bring down upon your heads, so it’s probably better to save the whole thing for coffee after the show. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

*What did this nobleman hope to achieve by disguising himself as a peasant? Was he looking to live a more honest, peasant’s life? In which case, why did he keep his servant? Was he just slumming? Why did he actively pursue a peasant girl when eventually he’d have to marry the woman to whom he was betrothed? Why does Giselle, who dies of shock and grief, mind you, so readily forgive and protect this cad from the Wilis? If these questions have not been addressed in the last 170 years, why do I think someone will suddenly pop up with satisfactory answers?


Upon our arrival in Vegas, Bill picked us up and let us stash our things at his room at the Wynn, as we could not check in at Planet Hollywood for several hours. After seeing the swanky accommodations at the Wynn, we were initially concerned that our room would feel like a dank pit by comparison, but all worries were forgotten upon the discovery that our room was crammed full of Jurassic Park memorabilia, because there’s nothing like a velociraptor sweetly watching over one’s slumber.

As Saturday was our only entirely self-directed day with zero wedding obligations, we decided to spend the afternoon in a leisurely fashion at our respective pools, meet up in the evening to have dinner at the Wynn buffet and then take in a show. As it was over one hundred degrees outside, the time in the pool was especially refreshing, and I even spent a bit of time sunbathing afterward since summer had not yet arrived in Seattle and my body was starved for some vitamin D. All too soon, it was time to meet up for dinner. The Wynn buffet was reputed to be one of Vegas’ best buffets, but as, shall we say, buffet connoisseurs, we were all disappointed. What was there tasted fine, but it was underwhelming in size and variety. For the money, I think any of us would pick a rodizio meal over this starch-stravaganza. After dinner, it was time to attend Don Arden’s “Jubilee”, the 28-year old classic and supposedly last authentic showgirl revue in the city.

My expectations of the show may have been colored by seeing “Showgirls” more than a handful of times, but we all left the show not quite knowing what to think of it. The sets were elaborate and amazing, the costumes were impressive, the performers were undeniably beautiful, and yet the show never rose above the mediocre. In my opinion, the show suffered from not knowing what it wanted to be. At times, it felt as though I were watching one of those interminably boring beauty pageant song-and-dance numbers, only with boobs. A portion of the show, detailing the story of Samson and Delilah, was enthrallingly well-done, and had the entire show been at that standard of quality, I would have been entirely pleased. The show started to sink right about the time they did a segment on the Titanic, after which it could not recapture my attention after losing it so thoroughly. Lesson learned: “classic” does not always imply “good”.