It was Friday, June 20th; we arrived at 8 PM with an hour to spare. We rolled up in Beast’s (Mark De La Paz/photographer) Metallic Orange compact car, otherwise known as The Great Pumpkin with bad drum brakes that we fearlessly and stupidly drove down I-90 – 94 to the Bottom Lounge on Lake Street and Ogden Avenue in Chicago. As soon as we saw the big flat green bus with zombies pouring out of every door, we knew we were at the right place.
We walked up to the bloody crowd not really sure what to do first. I started asking people where I could find my contact Renee, who I had been emailing back and forth with for a few weeks. I walked up to one tattered zombies and asked, “Where can I find Renee?”
The blood drenched zombie answered promptly, “Do you see her over there?” he was pointing in the direction of about ten zombies, “She is the shortest one here.”
I looked over and from behind a woman standing about 5 foot 3, I saw the 4 foot 10 woman giving orders to the hoard of undead workers like she was 7 feet tall. We went over to her and she immediately started giving us the tour. I leaned over to her and said, “You sounded taller over the phone,” she wasn’t really amused with my attempt to break the ice.
Renee showed us the various spots in the club except for the VIP area. We weren’t allowed to touch that area as she told us. She took us down a long hallway to the last door by the garbage. It was a tiny Green Room with just enough space for the two of us; the life of a journalist is so glamorous. “So when are we going to be able to get our interview with John (LaFlamboy, owner of Zombie Army Productions)? I see it is getting dangerously close to start time.”
“It will be about 5 minutes.” She replied. “Would you like to just do the interview in here?”
“That should be fine.”
What we didn’t realize at first was that we had no lighting rig for the video camera that we needed desperately. We spent the next four and a half minutes trying to figure out a lighting solution that would work. The half a minute gave us enough time to pack the camera back up and get ready to confidently tell John that the ambiance out in the party room would be much better. We went out to do the interview where the Prom pictures were being taken; they had a good lighting rig for us to utilize.
We saw all of the zombie creatures and creations as they walked through the door dressed in their best poofy prom dresses, shredded and bloody. We made our way over to the makeup area set up in the far front corner of the club. “Who should we have do my makeup Beastie?” I asked as I looked at the different artists.
“You might want to pick the one who has the best lighting,” Beast continued and pointed at the girl who was set against the wall in a booth, “she has some extra lighting.”
She did have some extra lighting that we watched her fight with. It was a tall lamp with three separate bulbs on a thin stem that kept trying to topple over on the guy getting his makeup done. “That seems legit to me.” I said, “I’m going to get a beer. Do you want one?”
“I’m good.” Beast said.
“You sure, it’s going to be a long night and this thing just started?”
“I’m good, hungry, but good.”
I made a straight line for the dark wood bar, ordered up a PBR Tallboy. I wasn’t ready for the cute blonde bartender to hand me the tallboy and ask for $4.00. I went back to the makeup artist area where Beast was setting up for the shot. “Hey Kidman, you’re up next.”
“They just charged me four dollars for a Pabst Blue Ribbon!?!”
“Well, it is the city.”
“No, no! This was the Hipsters driving up the price of a perfectly decent, cheap beer. It is just like when we Punks, back in the day, drove the price of Mickey’s Big-mouths up over the average price for malt liquor.”
The makeup artist who introduced herself as Whitney came up to me asking me if I was ready. We started fidgeting with the lamp to make sure that we had some kind of lighting for the video…making sure that it wasn’t going to fall on my head. Whitney proclaimed, “Alright, let’s zombiefy you!”
I laughed, “Zombiefy?”
“It’s going to be a buzz word, it will happen.”
Zombie Prom was like John Hughes puked up The Munsters after drinking a vintage, George Romero Bourbon in an all-night bender…in a good way! The whole crowd was jumping around, having a great time as Wedding Banned blew the doors off the place with a cover of the classically pop-tastic “Footloose.”
As the night went on Beast and I just moved into party mode; we just let ourselves enjoy the party for a while. We went outside to join the rest of the devilish demons basking in the nicotine filled smoke in front of the club. I met these two people outside; the guy was a grizzly looking zombie with dreadlocks, munching cleverly on a hospital issued medical I.V. bag, that he might have stolen. The girl was very statuesque with a wide smile that could melt the heart of a nun.
We stood outside for a while talking, finding out that the guy actually works for JBTV. The statuesque girl was actually stood up by some guy who obviously had the eyesight of a dirty little mole and the personality of a garbage can. Her personality was so infectious, that you just found yourself flirting without even realizing that you were doing it.
It is an insane kind of feeling when you realize that you might be the sane one in the crowd. Every time you turned your head there was another character. We happened to look over and saw a girl with her pretty blood-drenched prom dress, with her wobbly drunken legs open two shoulder lengths apart, fanning her rickety crotch. “What are you doing?” I asked, already realizing that I had just started a conversation that Beast was now a reluctant participant of.
The friend walked over to us stumbling and slurring, “She is airing it out.”
Beast starts shaking his head, “Your friend is a dirty bird!”
The girl replied quickly with no sense attached to her statement, “I said it was dripping!”
“She is just airing it out; it gets hot under there,” I reiterated to Beast. “It is either that, or gonorrhea.”
The girl’s name, which we never got coherently, we will call her The Tottering Pignut. Beast and I started talking to each other about what shots we needed next, the itinerary and when our interview with the band was; all the while, The Tottering Pignut kept talking to us, not even noticing that we weren’t talking to her anymore. Needless to say, I’m pretty sure someone was holding her hair back for her later that night.
After talking with a few more zombies outside we headed back into the ballroom to catch our interview with the Chicagoland cover band, Wedding Banned.
As the night rolled on, our eyes were glued to the stage. We got to share in a moment that most people don’t get to see in their lifetime. We witnessed a zombie marriage proposal. The mohawked zombie got down on one knee and proposed to his zombie bride to be with hundreds of eyes and cameras all gazing upon them. I have to be honest…I got a little choked up. What can I say; I love a good freakshow.
The stage fun wasn’t over with the marriage proposal. That surprise led right into the crowning of the Zombie Prom King and Queen festival. The five couples were introduced with little back stories for their respective zombie characters. These character introductions included cute little dead puns, blood packets and a lot of stage groping. The King and Queen went to a Queen and a Queen. The winners were a lesbian couple that went up on stage as Jesus Juice. The makeup was wonderful and it was the first time that the honor went to a lesbian couple.
The prom ended late into the night. We said our respective good-byes and I got the usual questions about when the article will be up and I gave my usual vague answer of, “soon.” We packed up all of the equipment and set out down the expressways in the middle of the night under the glow of the orange streetlights and visions of the undead dancing through our heads.
The ride home gave me time to reflect a bit about the Prom and the people that put the show on. It wasn’t just some hokey kind of production like your Mom’s Halloween party with her friends from her arts and crafts class or your neighbors’ ugly sweater party. No, no! This was something special! From the location to the drinking, the elaborate makeup designs; you had severed bodies hanging from the ceilings and a lot of love. I’ve been to a lot of events, but I’ve never been to an event where the owners/promoters cared so much about how much fun you were having at their event. John LaFlamboy and his Zombie Army Productions put on a true family affair with booze and that takes a lot of love.
Photo Credits: Mark De La Paz