October 28, 2011

Ben Cooper's Frankenstein

On a sunny autumn day, circa 1974, young Steve Spatucci posed in front of his family’s North Arlington, New Jersey home in his brand new Ben Cooper Frankenstein costume. “In the second photo,” Steve remembers, “I'm wearing a base of green makeup, with red lips and scars to simulate the mask. I made my Mom do this, just in case the mask ripped off, so I would still remain unrecognizable — at least in my mind!”

Created in 1937 by a theatrical costume designer, the Ben Cooper company quickly became one of the biggest party costume manufacturers in America. Operating out of Brooklyn, Cooper flooded five and dime stores at Halloween-time with inexpensive “full costumes” consisting of a silk-screened tunic, originally in fabric, eventually and famously in vinyl, and a thin plastic mask. Classic cowboys, pirates and generic devils shared shelf space with licensed movie and cartoon characters, superheroes, caricatured celebrities, and essential monsters such as Dracula, the Werewolf and the ever-popular Frankenstein Monster. Cooper also offered props, makeup "disguise sets", rubber masks and cheap toys, notably the crude painted rubber figurines called “Wigglers”.

The Cooper company collapsed in the late eighties, its assets bought out by Rubie’s Costumes Co. in 1992. Today, vintage Ben Cooper costumes are collector’s items for nostalgic Monster Kids who fondly remember the cheap vinyl smocks and the garish, paper-thin plastic masks worn with an elastic headband.

Steve Spatucci, who so generously shares his Halloween Frankenstein photos with us, grew up to become a prolific illustrator and designer whose multiple activities include several fun, monster-related websites!

Steve Spatucci’s website.

A 1980 Ben Cooper catalog, on Plaid Stallions.

A Frankenstein Wiggler, on Weirdo Toys.


Bad Ronald said...

I remember this costume, mostly because I was baffled as to why they had Frankenstein's face on the costume when it came with the all identifying mask.

Aunty Belle said...

Fun trivia. Too bad the company is out of business.

Elizabeth said...

Boy! I remember BEN COOPER..not too fondly, I'm afraid. I grew up with a mother who sewed, and with a childlike love of draping white sheets. Out of those things, plus an eyebrow pencil and an atrocious permanent wave was Elsa Lanchester's BRIDE born! Happy Halloween!

wich2 said...

Ronald, I'm with you -

Even as a kid, I HATED having the character's pics on the chest of the costumes!

It ruined it looking like "the real one."

Happy Halloween,

Frank said...

Yeah I cant believe there was no mask lol