Got that déjà vu feeling again? That sense that you passed the exact same 'scare'-acter last year? You did. Hollywood and the theme parks have exhausted the formula. Fortunately, this town gets into Samhain like no other. There are plenty of places to go for the macabre if you're not afraid to wander off the beaten path:
All Hallows 10-for-the-Fringe The Orlando International Fringe Festival usually has some weirdness associated with it, and this fundraiser channels it into spooky weirdness. Ten acts, each 10 minutes long, focus in some way on the spirit of the holiday. With works from Voci Dance, the always-intriguing Empty Spaces Theatre Co. and the always sexy VarieTease, they've got the makings of a deliciously terrifying stew. (7 p.m. Oct. 16-17 at Lowndes Shakespeare Center; $10; orlandofringe.org)
Howling Halloween One of the problems with the theme park fright nights is that, in the park, you know someone is controlling all the factors. Throw yourself into Forever Florida's 4,700 acres of wilderness and then talk about fear of the unknown. Their party at 'Hell's Ranch' (which prominently mentions 'cold beer') seems like a guaranteed freakout, even with the kids zone. (7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 23-31, at Forever Florida, St. Cloud; $10; www.foreverflorida.com)
Zombie Dance This is the party where the dead get wasted and shake their booties. The men and women of the local Zombie Emergency Defense will be on hand to keep the outbreak from spreading. The costume contest will feature characters from DC Comics' Black Lantern stories. (9 p.m. Oct. 30 at Back Booth; $5; www.acomicshop.com)
Dead Poets Slam Sometimes the dead have something to say. On this night, the phantoms inhabit the bodies of local poets who take on their personas. Every deceased wordsmith from Wordsworth to Tupac is invited onto the stage in this séance of rhymes (or not), then the living judge them. Will the winner again be universally acknowledged worst poet in the English language William McGonagall? (9:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at Stardust Video & Coffee; free; www.brokenspeech.com)
- Trevor Fraser
Big gay October
Orlando has the distinction of being frequently gay. Not only is our local Disney a reflexive gay fetish for the pudgy Peter Pans, it also hosts Gay Days in June, which means that our Pride celebration had to be bumped back to October to spare us gay overload.
Initially, Orlando's Pride events were a smattering of barely audible hurrahs, then celebrants doused their giggles with booze. Now, Big Gay October has become an assault of entertainment and bank account draining. What it may have lost in charm, Orlando's Pride party has gained in prestige. Like cute jeans that used to be cheap, now it's expensive and busy with embroidery.
Kicking it all off this year is the 20th annual Headdress Ball (www.headdress ball.org) Oct. 3 at the Hilton Orlando, featuring backtracked 'performances' from circuit regulars Kristine W and Jennifer Holliday, along with chandelier hats on drag queens, money and black ties. Tickets are donations to Hope and Help, so they are largely priced, ranging from $2,000 to $25,000 per table of 10.
From there, it's a 'heroes'-themed Come Out With Pride frenzy starting Oct. 8. The official kickoff at the Orange County Regional History Center — featuring comedy and food — will set you back $20. That's followed by a lesbo-centric recasting of downtown's preppy Wall Street as a Studio 54 glitter ball (minus heroic Bianca Jagger atop a white horse): Club 54: A Night at the Disco won't set you back much, only $7 advance and $10 at the door. From there, it goes all wobbly: a $20 party for military heroes Oct. 9; a screening of Milk at the downtown Plaza Cinema Café and a Fantasy Island party at the new 310 Lakeside on Pine Street Oct. 10 (both $15 at the door); and a panoply of similarly themed events elsewhere, including, gasp, RuPaul at Parliament House Oct. 10 ($10). Wherever you are, it will be gay.
Everything wraps Oct. 11 with the parade, which should draw about 20,000 revelers to Lake Eola, because it is free for the plebes (or $60 if you want VIP tent access). Musician Ari Gold will perform, with grand marshal duties going to Harvey Milk's nephew, Stuart Milk.
The whole week is 'here to recruit you.' The question is: Can you afford it?
' Billy Manesfeedback@orlandoweekly.com