Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Rob Cockerham; King Of Halloween

Watch for The King Of Halloween contest Tomorrow. Sponsored by Zimmerman Roofing, meaning there'll be a prize other than glory.

This is the full interview I did with Rob Cockerham of, part of which is in this week's News and Review. I don't bother to note when Rob is laughing because Rob laughs non-stop, except when I make a joke and then he's dead silent.

KLJ: Rob Cockerham are you the King of Halloween Costumes?

Rob: Probably not the king but, um, I’m in the royalty, I’m up there. I try really hard.

KLJ: How long have you been at it?
Rob: Since ’91 when I did my first big Halloween costume. I was going to school in Santa Barbara. [I went as] a kiosk. They had these kiosks all over campus, a six sided phone booth size building with bulletin boards on all six sides. I was covered flyers. People went crazy they loved it.

KLJ: Did people put flyers on you?

Rob: No. It was so fun. I was completely covered. I had a little slit for my eyes to see out. I could see that everyone who saw it started laughing

KLJ: What are you favorite costumes?

Rob: I loved one, Paparazi, in that costume I was a photographer but it was made up of other photographer's faces, plastic faces, all holding cameras, all bunched together. All the faces had cameras, I think 12 or 15 faces. The cool thing was all the cameras had flashes. You could unleash all the flashes, so it could give the experience of paparazzi to anyone who looked at the costume.

KLJ: How did you end up at the Industrial Light and Magic Halloween party?

Rob: I had a friend that worked there. They have very strict rules about whose allowed in but I convinced someone to take me as their date. It was my second year going. The first year I had a pretty good costume (see the fish picture above).
I got a good idea of the caliber of costumes theres. One guy came as Iron giant. He was on stilts with a head mounted above his he was about 9 or 10 feet tall.

KLJ: Did you have a good feeling about Paparazi? Did you feel like you were going to win?

Rob: Yeah. I did. Having the flashes go off, I really got the feeling I’d created something like I’d never seen before. I never had a toy like that or saw that on tv. I knew I was going to create a really cool experience for anyone who saw.

Did you worry that you'd give people siezures? Like that Japanese kid's show?

Rob: No, I should have bought anti-siezure insurance.

KLJ: So tell me about the contest.

Rob: They narrowed down to the top eight and then the audience decided by their applause who the winner was. I will admit the competition that year was thin, but I beat out some transformers for first place. It was just extraordinary.

KLJ: Were the ILM guys bent that an amateur won?

Rob: Yeah. That was kind of awkward actually.

KLJ: You should've asked for a job.

Rob: I think they have a regular old application process.

KLJ: That sucks, not magical at all. What other costumes have you enjoyed?

Rob: I really liked the California costume. I made an 8 foot costume in the shape of California out of foam rubber, with just my head poking out around Fresno.

KLJ: Why Fresno?

Rob: That’s just how tall I am.

How'd that go over?

Great response. People loved that one too.

KLJ: What do you do with these costumes when you're done with them?

Rob: Um, a couple different things. Sometimes I give them away. I sold the last two on e-bay. Some of them get destroyed in crowds, especially drunken crowds.

KLJ: That's a-lot of work for one night.

Usually I can milk it for 2 or 4 nights. Because I’m taking pictures of it, I’m really milking the project for more than one night.

How much work do you put in to each costume?

Rob: About 30 or 40 hours.

KLJ: Tell me a bit about this years costume. (Note, I want to be surprised like everyone else so I asked Rob NOT to tell me what his super secret costume this year is.)

Rob: It’s a great idea and thats what a good costume is all about. People like to dress up but more than that they like to have an idea that’s original and funny.
It’s better than paparazzi, but the effects aren’t as good. Everyone who see it loves and starts laughing and can’t believe I’ve done it.

How much money have you made selling your costumes and winning contests?

Rob: I got $50 for the Doctor Octogon costume [on e-bay]. I already won $250 in a costume contest for that one. The guy I sold it to wore it to a contest at the rage the next Halloween and he won $100.

KLJ: What do you spend on a costume?

Rob: I try to keep them under $100 in materials.

KLJ: So what's the plan for Halloween this year? You taking the kid out?

Rob: We’ll go out on the real Halloween. I’m gonna make her a robot costume.

KLJ: Any contests?

Rob: I’m going to the Zone’s exotic ball at cal expo.

KLJ: Oh man, isn't that "sexy" costume contest?

Rob: Well, it is pretty scantily clad but they also have a $5,000 costume contest. With a normal sized contest the prize might go to sexy drum major, sexy wet-nurse, sexy devil. When you get prizes that are that valuable the realy big extravagant costumes show up to complete. So that kind of knocks out any normal costume you might get at Evangeline’s.

KLJ: You ever wish you could just go pick up a cheap costume off the rack?

Rob: No, I’ll never buy a costume again.

KLJ: So what advice would y ou give to aspiring costume designers?

Rob: You want to appeal to as many people as possible. Use pop culture icons. And preferably something people really love.
It’s okay if you just have a bunch of coat hangers and tape and Styrofoam and paint it’s supposed to look homemade.
Even if you don’t know what party your going to be invited have something ready for when you do get invited.
About five years ago I didn’t get a costume, I stayed home to give out to give out candy and nobody came.
That advice is lame. Let me think of a better one...
Make sure you have at least one hand free… to hold a drink.

Well that's it folks. Plenty of advice and inspiration from Rob Cockerham, the King of Halloween. Rob's website is one of my favorites. If you're not already a fan be sure to check out You'll want to keep an eye on his site for the next week especially, to see if you can guess what his super secret Halloween costume will be and he has lots of pictures showing the process of constructing each of his past costumes.

Currently Reading /Listening To/ Watching: TV on the radio. Great album. I like it a-lot.


anjacara said...

this was great.
I started visiting his website when I saw him on boingboing with a costume. I have since spent a lot of time there. In fact that is where I found your website.
My favorie is the paparazzi costume. I would love to make one of my own since I work at a newspaper. I just never have the time. Reading this interview has made me pledge to make my own next year.
Thanks for getting me in the Halloween spirit (which is hard since it has been in the mid 80's where I live) I can't wait to see his super secret Halloween costume. and wish him tons of luck on the contests

Anonymous said...

I think his 2006 costume is the American Idol Judges.

M. E. H. said...


Anonymous said...

I'd like to point out that Rob's costume this year was my idea that I gave to him since I never dress up, and all I asked was that he give me a shout out. I've got to give him some shit about that.

KLJ said...

Well anonymous, you were right. He was the American Idol judges. Can't wait to see the pics.
I'll get the King Of Halloween contest pics up soon. I'm busy with a weekend of live shows at the moment.
And Mark,
Ha ha. Rob steals all his good ideas, surely you knew that long ago.