There were many guests at my sixth birthday party. Among those in attendance were Mickey Mouse, Fred Flintstone, and the rock band KISS. Actually, KISS was present in name only, their logo plastered across my t-shirt in a rather unusual and ill-advised form of product placement advertising. Then again, perhaps it wasn’t that inappropriate; the fact that KISS t-shirts were available in my size suggests that there was plenty of money to be made in even the youngest demographic.
It feels strange to refer to the other guests, the other children present at my sixth birthday party, as my friends. I have no idea who any of them were. There are no names or fond memories attached to the blurry, frozen faces laughing in this Kodachrome moment from the past. Friends from that age seem almost inconsequential, casual relationships dictated more by classrooms and neighborhoods than any innate desire to bond with others. We probably had very little in common. Otherwise, I might not have been the only one endorsing Knights In Satan’s Service so publicly at my birthday party.
My fondness for KISS had no basis on musical taste. Posters of Gene Simmons breathing fire and walking on foot-long spiked platform shoes in studded leather garb hung on my bedroom wall, yet I owned none of their albums. The closest I ever came to listening to their music was watching the television special KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park. I can only assume that my parents encouraged this fascination because of the cuteness factor inherent in a kindergartner running around in a KISS t-shirt making Gene Simmons devil faces.
Despite my affection for the flamboyantly costumed rock band, there were no KISS related decorations at my sixth birthday party. Instead, the centerpiece of the event was a large cake in the shape of the wholesome and kid-friendly Mickey Mouse. The Disney theme did not extend far beyond the cake, however, as the plates and cups all featured Fred Flintstone. I guess that is the one benefit to catering a party for children; they don’t put much emphasis on coordination or consistent presentation as long as there is cake, ice cream, and a pile of gift wrapped goodies.
The Mickey Mouse cake turned out to be a huge hit, although not quite in the way it had been intended. The cake looked great sitting on the table, but after the candles were blown out and the cake was cut, the removal of a portion of Mickey’s ear exposed a dark, rich, red interior. I do not know who was first to point out the blood-red filling’s resemblance to freshly cut flesh. Whether a giddy child or a mischevious parent started it, it was not long before we were all joining in, a group of six year olds laughing and giggling as we gleefully screamed that my parents had killed Mickey Mouse. As we rejoiced over the ritualistic vivisection of a cartoon icon, a party balloon in the other room suddenly popped, inspiring someone to shout out “Oh no! They got Goofy!”
My parents did little to discourage our behavior, and so our sugar-fueled imaginations kept us ranting about cartoon character safaris until parents finally started arriving to remove my party guests one by one. The party may have long since ended, but I will never forget the touching image of me and my friends celebrating Mickey Mouse’s mutilated, frosting-covered corpse.