Dance with the Devil

All Hallow's Eve isn't exactly a Clubbed family tradition. Mom wasn't the Grinch who stole it or anything, but as kids we never had much holiday spirit.

"You ain't gonna be puttin' on no mask and runnin' 'round like a fool. That's for Satan," she'd say. "Trick me and I'll show you a treat all right."

But don't misunderstand Mom. She let the kids have fun on all the good Christian holidays. Hiding eggs just like the Joneses. And Christmas was great for Milton Bradley games. But we were sure to turn off the lights when the neighbors came a-knocking on October 31.

There was one incident when a buddy tapped on the door and everyone sat still in the dark while Mom peeped through the curtains.

"I see you in there," exclaimed the persistent playmate, determined to score at least a Snickers bar.

"I ain't hidin' from you anyway," Mom replied, a devout Christian scarier than any witch. Nuff said, kid. No candy for you here.

Needless to say, when the daily "Hello, how's Momma's baby doin'?" call came while Clubbed was out shopping for a costume, there was a moment of awkward silence.

"No, Mother. I am not going to be doing any of that stuff," Clubbed mumbles so that his date can't hear as he rifles through the rack. "It is bad. It is evil and Satanic. You raised us better than that."

Aside to date: "Should I go as a mummy or the Prince of Darkness?"

"Yes, Mother. I have always agreed with you that we would all be a lot better off if we spent our time more productively. Yes, it is ungodly. No question about it."

"But I need fangs to be a vampire, right?"

How bad can it be? This Halloween party is a restoration benefit at and for Vizcaya. Three thousand adults going out to a historical and beautiful Italian botanical setting for a good cause. The last time Vizcaya showed up on this big kid's radar was a field trip back in high school. It was fun and educational back then. What could have changed? Evil spirits can't ruin that.

Well, best not to mention anything to Mom just to be safe.

Besides, this whole conversation is embarrassing in front of a date.

"Yeah, listen, I've gotta go and um, do some prayer and meditation."

Lying to dear ol' Mom. What evil has Halloween wrought?

La Lega dei Viscayani is hosting its sixteenth annual Halloween Sundowner on the grounds of the Villa Vizcaya to raise restoration money. Young professionals and people who just like to play dressup come from all around South Florida in everything from Kid Rock costumes to Marie Antoinette getups. Adults still run around in their jammies and pretend to be superheroes. There's Superman and the Caped Crusader, Batman as well. Big kids at heart. The people all seem nice enough and there is free alcohol and food, so let's just get to it.

At night the gardens are breathtaking. The Italian Renaissance-style villa is bursting with life and the undead as attendees take in the sights of landscape architect Diego Suarez.

Visitors are not exclusively Miami locals. There are a slew of jet-setters from Germany, Italy, and England. The Harlem Globetrotters are boogying down too, but not to the sounds of "Sweet Georgia Brown" (these yuppie Gableites don't look to be from Harlem either). Haunting sounds from the ESQ band are howling in the night air as it grooves its rendition of the Godfather of Soul's "I Feel Good." Gilligan and Dr. Evil are singing along with a host of Dr. Seuss characters.

Mom, it's just clean fun.

Feed the face with some goodies from Sidewalk Salads and Crepe Maker. Or stuff up on some Pasta Maker. And once the sponsored Bacardi and Budweiser get going, ESQ cuts into Marie Antoinette's theme song for the night, Nelly's "Hot In Herre." There is no way that the Florida humidity isn't burning this Queen of France up.

"I am always pretty cooled off anyway," she says.

Sure. She looks to be sweating bullets in that outfit, even without a head. (Okay, she has a head.)

Clubbed's vampire draws a few compliments, but these folks are all just drunk off of Bacardi Silver or something. Mom definitely has a passage or two from the Good Book detailing the evils connected to that.

The vampire pales (pun intended) when compared to some of the extravagant ensembles that might do some damage in the costume contest. Italian nobility circulates, dolled up for some kinked-out masquerade ball. Goblins and witches creep. Stilt walkers circle DJs. Captain Morgan smokes a cancer stick.

Mom would definitely disapprove of the guy in the mammogram costume who greets women by generously offering free breast exams through a cardboard cutout, which would conveniently place a healthy pair right smack on his nose. This is the type of moral decline that has Mom shaking her head.

Down in the garden the DJ pumps house. However, there isn't a whole lot of dancing going on. Besides the hired hip-wigglers onstage, most of the nobility stand aloof. The dancers must have come dressed as newborns, in birthday suits and all. But hey, who is complaining? All eyes are on them. Even the third, fourth, and fifth eyes of some of these ghostly creatures. Now is that a trick or a treat?

Cartoon characters snuggle with pirates, freaks, and pop icons in the shadows of live oak trees beneath the night moon. The free liquor stirs ghosts and goblins. It's time to wander back to the main stage for another peek at ESQ before the winners of the costume party are announced.

It's nearing the witching hour and the spirits are still a-flowing. A few of the party volunteers look on to ensure that the spells and potions are kept in moderation. At the main stage a couple affectionately known as the Trash Cans take first prize. The husband is the refuse and the Mrs. wears sanitation-worker gear. If they weren't married, that would be a real pickup. As it is, the trashy couple takes home a hundred dollars cash and tickets to the Viscayani's New Year's Eve bash.

Clubbed heads home too, past a suffering soul doubled over at the entrance, apparently bested by the demon spirits. Otherwise, this pagan ritual has done no harm.

All grown up now and beyond the reach of palm upside the back of the head, Clubbed will be back next year to dance with the devil again. Just don't tell Mom.