I used to run out of the room when the opening theme came on, with the very 90s night-filtered montages of empty row boats and swing sets, the match lit up under the show title. But something about him, the way the Ghastly Grinner came out of the microwave, made me come back into the living room to watch. A jester with a yellow face and blue drool dripping out of his mouth and a yellow and blue suit to match his yellow and blue hat, a perfectly two-tone villain for kids more used to watching rainbow-colored bear cartoons. I confessed to my mom that I’d been watching him; I talked about him over plastic toys in Sunday school. And then he proceeded to salivate all over the rest of my scary movies for years to come. For example, what most people don’t know is that he delayed production and really pissed off Hitchcock because he kept rearranging the motel’s taxidermied birds at the last second, all so he could frame Anthony Perkins’ shadowy high cheekbones just right. And when the maggots broke out in that ballet school and the witches sent them all to sleep in the practice space with walls made of bed sheets lit up in codeine burgundy, you can see his silhouette making out with a ballerina; she’s pressed against him tight and pulling on the flops of his hat. He got the chainsaw started too, for Bruce Campbell’s sequel of a right arm. No one else could get it going, but all he had to do was hook a fingerful of blue drool out of his mouth and rub it slowly along the chain. Lubed it right up. Roaring! And Drew Barrymore was going through a method-acting phase when she paid the Grinner a hundred-dollar bill of her own money to hide behind the counter and sink his molars into her calf while she was on the phone for the opening scene. That look was critical for the whole franchise. The eyes scrunching and teeth shining as she realizes there may not be a way out of this, and it was all him. He even freaked out on Bruce Willis. Was so upset that he cried sticky blue tears as he berated the man, saying his lack of energy wasn’t fair to Haley Joel Osment, who was thrumming in his authenticity, a natural-born pro at showing the interplay between children and the unliving. He didn’t see much work after that.
And it’s not much better now. Forced into the role of a low-volume suburbanite with a dry mouth. Slowing down the checkout line at Publix, apologizing to strangers as he thumbs through the gossip magazines, not sure which one will pair best with his M&M’s and Mountain Dew. And when he’s finally back home, lighting a cigarette in the backyard under vinyl shade, about to enjoy his snack of artificial colors, he sees the blue hummingbird sucking blood from between his fingers with its little beak needle. Happens every weekend lately. But today, he doesn’t even try to scare it off.