Becoming Magnum

We were invited to a birthday party the other night. The catch was that it was an 80’s costume party. I have to be honest, I’m not the most creative when it comes to costumes. Last Hallowe’en, I went as Steve Jobs. (too soon?). I had a black mock turtleneck and jeans, and I think that was pretty much it. I planned on wearing my reading glasses, but I forgot them at the last minute. A friend pointed out with glee that I wasn’t “wearing the right kind of shirt”. I’m not sure what she meant. I guess it wasn’t really a mock turtleneck? It was kind of ribbed, maybe Mr. Jobs didn’t do ribbed? Well anyway, to most people at the party, I was just some dude who didn’t bother to wear a costume. This was hurtful, especially because all my wife did was stick on a pink wig and a sequined dress and everyone thought she was Katy Perry.

I think I got my lack of creativity from my parents, because growing up my Mom really hated to sew (still does!) and the thought of coming up with something creative each year for Hallowe’en was beyond her. As a result, we had this ugly old clown costume that my brother and I hated, but the rule was that one of us had to wear the clown costume one year while the other kid got to choose his own. This way, my Mom needed to only help one of us. That was manageable to her.

So every second year I had to go off to the school party with his stupid ugly clown costume and make-up on. I probably looked like an extra from a Fellini film or something. As an aside, the years that I didn’t have to be the “sad clown of life”, I was always Indiana Jones! That ruled. I had a cool hat, and I took one of my Mom’s brown leather bags, and wore brown pants and a white shirt. I even painted stubble on my cheeks and built a whip out of duct tape. For the record, when my brother wore the clown, he was more of an angry rather than a sad clown. We each brought something different to the ruffles.

Okay so back to me and the 80’s costume party. My first idea was to go as a Ghostbuster. Why? Because Bill Murray is awesome. But then I realized I had to get a grey jumpsuit (not a problem) and a Ghostbusters’ logo (a bit more a problem, considering the party was just days away).

I’m not sure how the idea of going as Magnum P.I. came about, but when it was suggested, it just seemed to fit. I’ve had a beard since Christmas and was thinking of shaving it for the summer anyway, and here was a perfect way to have it go out in a blaze of glory. I would shave everything but the moustache, I already owned a Hawaiian shirt, and the only thing I really needed was a Detroit Tigers ball cap.

Before: I was going for a sort of “Fidel Castro meets Alan Moore” kind of vibe, I guess.

You know, it’s really a lot harder to find a Detroit Tigers cap in this town that you might think.

The first sports store I visited acted all suspicious. “What do you want that for?” was the clerk’s response. “Um, it’s for a costume.” He reluctantly took me to the back of the store and showed me what he had. It was a golf visor! There’s no way Magnum would wear a damn golf visor, would he? The next store had ball caps, sure, but the logo was off-centre. It was either a manufacturing error (unlikely) or some hipster thing, but either way it wasn’t very Magnum. (I’m saying this without ever have actually watched an episode of Magnum P.I. I freely admit).

I was directed to a specialty hat store in the mall. They had everything you could possible want to stick on your head, including fitted ball caps. They had Detroit, but they were like $40. Is that the going price these days? I didn’t immediately buy it. I came home and mulled it over. Is it really worth $40 for a 2 minute sight gag? But the hat served two purposes. First of all, it really was a signature piece of Magnum’s wardrobe. If I didn’t show up in it, I’d just be a guy with a creepy looking moustache and Hawaiian shirt. Secondly, I don’t really have lustrous dark curly hair like Tom Selleck did, so this hat would conveniently hide all that. I decided I wasn’t going to Steve Jobs this costume, I was going to do it right. I marched back to the mall and picked up the cap.

For the rest of the week, I thought I should do some homework on my character, seeing that I don’t consciously remember ever having seen a single episode, (although I can hum the theme song flawlessly).

Magnum P.I. ran from 1980 to 1988 on CBS. Tom Selleck played Thomas Magnum, a Vietnam Vet and Private Investigator (that’s the P.I. part, friend!) who lives as a guest in a reclusive author’s house. I think he lives there for free and in return he provides security in addition to having  his weekly adventures. It seems crazy and far-fetched, doesn’t it? But I guess if you put together nice scenery, hairy chests, and mysteries you’ve got a winning combination.

Here are some fun facts I discovered about Magnum P.I. as I did some research for my role.

1. Tom Selleck was cast to play Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but had to back out due to his committment to Magnum P.I., a new show at that time. The role of course, famously went to Harrison Ford. So wait a sec, you mean I’m going to dress up as a character that Tom Selleck made famous, and all through my childhood I dressed up as a character that Tom Selleck missed out on because of this other character? This is what we call in the business a convergence.

2. Magnum P.I. began production the year after Hawaii 5-0 ceased production, and in many of the early episodes there were references made to the other series, treating Magnum P.I. as an almost unofficial spin-off. This was mostly because CBS was reluctant to close it’s Hawaiian production offices. I guess a bunch of TV executives got used to the idea of surfing every day. They managed to milk that teat for another eight years.

3. There exists in the world a Tumblr account called “Selleck Waterfall Sandwich” which is just a series of composite photos. Each one contains a picture of Tom Selleck, a waterfall and a sandwich. Customarily, the sandwich changes in each picture and the type of sandwich is noted in the caption. I found this site repulsive and yet oddly entrancing.

4. Orson Welles was to be shown as the reclusive author, Robin Masters, but he died before the producers could work this into the show. In early episodes, you can hear Welles’ voice as Robin Masters.

5. The series was to end after 7 seasons with Magnum P.I. being shot dead by mobsters. The public outcry was so great when this was found out, the network greenlit a unprecidented eighth season, effectively “bringing Magnum back from the dead”, Empty House style.

Okay, enough with the Magnum trivia. The day came to transform myself. (Incidentally, my wife was going as a “generic 80s person” with the hair and the starched white shirt and the brooch. In the end she kinda looked like Molly Ringwald circa “Pretty in Pink”. I tried to convince her to go as Angela Lansbury, since Murder She Wrote and Magnum P.I. had a couple of crossover episodes, but no luck.)

“I’ve made a terrible mistake!”

First of all, the moustache looked awful. There’s a fundamental difference between growing a moustache and growing a beard. When you grow a beard, you just stop shaving. That’s it. Once it comes in, sure, you can trim it a little and keep it looking tidy, but you’re pretty much saying to the world “I’ve got a beard and I don’t care about anything”. A moustache, on the other hand, is actual work. You’re not saving any time in the morning, because you’re actually shaving everywhere else. In fact it’s probably costing you more time because once you’re done with the shaving, you’re probably going to have to take some time trimming and sculpting. Who has the time? When you grow a moustache, you’re saying to the world “I look at myself for a long time in the mirror every morning and your opinion of my appearance is important to me.” To make the moustache more “Sellecky” I was going to dye it black with the “Just for Men” beard and moustache dye. I rang into a couple of snags. The tubes of dye and whatever look like miniature toothpaste tubes. You’re supposed to open one and put a line down in the plastic tray, and then do the same with the other one. You mix them together with the provided brush and then brush the goop into your hair. You are to leave it in for exactly five minutes (the instructions are very clear on this point) and then hop in the shower and make sure all the dye is washed out.

The likeness was uncanny. UNCANNY, I say.

Well, I couldn’t for the life of me get the caps of the tubes off! Neither one budged! My wife tried too and we were royally stymied. I suppose we could have cut the ends off with scissors, but I began to read some of the warnings and I got a little freaked out. Apparently you are supposed to do an “allergy test” 48 hours prior by sticking some of the goop on your arm and see if you break out in hives or something. I didn’t know that! The party was just a few hours away. More troubling was the fine print that said in rare cases the skin under the dyed area may stay dyed, or even worse: you could lose skin pigmentation altogether! Was it worth the risk for a two-minute sight gag at the party? Looking back on it, I’m glad I didn’t dye the ‘stache, because I was probably going to go ahead and dye my eyebrows to match. A friend later remarked, “Um, you DO realize you’re not shaving your eyebrows afterwards, right?” I didn’t even think of that at the time, but she was right. I’d look a bit off for months.

Just for Men? More like Just for Suckas, am I right, people?

So the end result was that I think I vaguely looked like Magnum P.I., especially if I squinted, for some weird reason. The hat was key, as was the Hawaiian shirt. I probably would have looked more legit if I had a fake black moustache, but I think the fact that I had a real moustache added some street cred. I undid a couple of buttons on the ol’ Hawaiian shirt, but I’m not sure it added much.

At the party, the hosts were delighted with my get-up. They even had a moustacheless picture of Tom Selleck taped to the wall with the plan of playing a round of “Pin the Moustache on Tom Selleck” later. I won the “best costume” prize, so I guess it was worth the effort. It was the night of the supermoon, and I was just glad I wasn’t pulled over by police going to or returning from the party. It wasn’t that I was intoxicated (I wasn’t), it was that I think I would find it very hard to explain why I was dressed the way I was.

Unless of course they were pulling me over because there was a case they needed a little extra help with. That’s what Magnum did, right? He solved crimes? I’m not entirely sure. Oh, and just for funners, here’s my own Selleck Waterfall Sandwich:

For those keeping score, the sandwich was peanut butter. (The waterfall was the bathroom shower. We’re on a budget here, people!)


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