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Kim Jong-Il is so 2009. And not just because the North Korean dictator is now poised to hand over the keys to the country to his son.
Last year Halloween trick-or-treating routes were packed with shuffling, sunglasses-wielding impersonators of the Dear Leader and perky Sarah Palin imitators. This year, expect to see that duo replaced by outrageous Lady Gagas and ... perky Palins. (Okay, some looks seem to be forever.)
"Snooki will also do well for females," notes Todd Kenig, the 46-year-old CEO of perennial costuming hot spot Ricky's NYC. "But Gaga will beat her by far. It's very easy to buy a wig, glasses and fun stuff. She's blowing Snooki out of the water."
It's also easy enough to buy a ready-to-wear outfit Kenig dreamed up and named The Angry Steward. This costume comes replete with a navy-colored flight attendant shirt and tie, a bandage and a patch that's made to look like the gay pride rainbow flag. Yes, Kenig was inspired by the famously grand exit JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater made this summer, following an altercation with a passenger.
(Quick recap: Slater announced his departure on the plane's PA system, grabbed two beers and leaped down the emergency chute. This week he pleaded guilty to attempted criminal mischief -- he's facing a year of probation and counseling. On the box containing The Angry Steward costume, there's an airline-like diagram detailing "How to Properly Evacuate Your Job.")
At other costume shops characters from movies as disparate as "Avatar," Saw," and "Napoleon Dynamite" are doing brisk business this year. Cory Parker, assistant manager at Spirit Halloween in Conroe, Texas, says rock star and video game character outfits are also doing well.
Overall, this will be a big year for costumes of all stripes -- the National Retail Federation is predicting that 40.1 percent of the population is dressing up this year, about 7 percent more than last year and the most since 2003, when the NRF began monitoring Halloween retail trends.
At HalloweenHallway.com, which operates 7 seasonal pop-up shops in the Chicago area, they are happy to cater to Snooki-lookers, but also try to help customers use their imagination.
"On the one day that you can dress up as whatever you want, do you really want to go as everyone else?" the company's managing director, Brian Bowers, says. "And, more importantly, do you really want to go as Snooki?"
While the answer to that seems to be an overwhelming yes, Bowers says 30-something urban professionals are also considering nostalgia-fueled costumes such as Mrs. Potato Head, Gumby and the Smurfs.
Going as a Smurf makes a certain amount of sense -- they were so small! and so blue! -- but what type of person is taken enough with an airline attendant, they snap up the costume weeks before the big night?
Ricky's NYC's Kenig isn't surely exactly (most Angry Steward sales are online, not in the physical stores) but he isn't complaining about the results -- in the first 24 hours that the costume was available, 180 were sold. That's enough to rival last year's most popular ripped-from-the-headlines Halloween gear, which included a Kate Plus Eight wig and a Bernie Madoff look. The latter came with a mask, a prison jumpsuit, a bulls-eye on the back and a mallet with which to whack the mark.
Kenig says most people, when they first encounter costumes like The Angry Steward, "are amazed that there is a costume for those people -- it's more an absurdity to them, than it is cool."
That sure doesn't stop them from buying. Ricky's operates 26 stores on the east coast, mostly in New York and New Jersey, and might expand to California next year.
Of course all the Palins, Snookis and Slaters in the world are not about to unseat those well-ventilated looks that only seems to get more popular with each passing year.
"We have a lot of younger folks looking for risque costumes, " says Spirit Halloween's Parker. "Actually, we have a lot of older folks looking for risque costumes, too."