If you were born before 1980, you know who Ben Cooper is and how “he” relates to Halloween. I can still remember the excitement of going to the store and seeing boxes stacked seemingly to the ceiling, the information of what each box held stamped on each one. The clear cellophane windows that showed the familiar eyeless faces of cartoon, television, & movie characters. From Jaws to Father Murphy, each immortalized in cheap plastic masks & vinyl suits.
There were two titans in the children’s retail Halloween costume game back then, Ben Cooper & Collegeville with Ben being to larger shareholder of the two. They had licenses for all sorts of characters, movie stars, & even musical acts. Anyone who was anyone at school had a Ben Cooper costume, you always felt bad for the kids with homemade costumes as amazing as they may have looked. There’s nothing like a Ben Cooper, with the face-slashing staples holding the elastic band on the mask & the smell of the fire-retardant vinyl jumpsuit.
I had the blessing to have a couple of Ben Coopers & a Collegeville or two way back when. My most favorite was the Collegeville KISS Gene Simmons costume. What was so special about this costume was the mask itself as it had “real” hair! I wished I had kept it but after Halloween it was worn & played with until it ultimately got wrecked & thrown in the trash. To get one today will set you back a good hundo ($100) or so in okay condition while a mint condition in box will run about 3 times that. Nostalgia is good, but I don’t want to spend a lot to relive it. For some cool vintage photos of both Collegeville & Ben Cooper costumes, check out this post over at Plaid Stallions
Here’s what the Gene Simmons costume looked like (found doing a GIS search for “KISS Collegeville Costume”: