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From Lamb Chop To Chopped Liver

Above: Lamb Chop (AKA Tammy Carpowich), These Days hosts Gloria Penner and Dan Erwine and KPBS staffer Rick Aviles at the America's Finest City Parade in 1995.

As a kid, I loved people in costumes. Santa. Mickey. Shamu. I saw the characters at Disneyland and aspired to be part of the cast. I had just graduated from college when I finally got my chance. My boss (current station manager Deanna Mackey) asked me to dress up as Lamb Chop for the America’s Finest City parade. I was elated.

Tammy Carpowich hugs a costumed character at Disneyland circa 1983.
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Above: Tammy Carpowich hugs a costumed character at Disneyland circa 1983.

When I signed up for the job, I hadn’t really thought through the logistics. First of all, the parade route was at least an hour and a half, during the hottest part of the summer. Then there are the rules. The actors must take breaks every 15 minutes and must drink water at every break. For good reason, it turns out. Those suits get really, really hot. I was young and optimistic, so I figured an additional 75 minutes in the costume wouldn’t matter. I was wrong.

Now, more than 15 years later, I don’t remember much about how uncomfortable I was. I am mostly reminded of the fun I had that day. Kids cheered and waved when I walked by. I was a celebrity! Behind my mask I smiled the entire time.

Of course, not all stories have a happy ending. Mine goes downhill from here.

When it was over I took off my costume, tired and dehydrated (remember those breaks I was supposed to be taking). Even so, the experience gave me such a rush that I was still smiling and waving to kids as they walked by, forgetting that I was no longer in character.

The children were not delighted by me at all; they were frightened. I was a sweaty stranger grinning wildly and waving at them. Without my costume, I was nothing.

Apparently those kids are not alone. My friend Kriste York grew up with my obsession, and has always felt differently:

Video

The Case Against

The Case Against from 2020 project on Vimeo.

Above: Digital storyteller Kriste York makes the case that costumed characters are creepy.

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