Houston dad Lance Zierlein dreams up TV-inspired costumes for his sons on Halloween, like this past favorite: Walter White and Jesse Pinkman from "Breaking Bad."
Lance Zierlein does not remember wearing a single cool costume when he trick-or-treated as a kid. But don’t think he’ll let that happen to his children.
To keep history from repeating itself, he’s going for Halloween glory with his sons.
“I was in football one year and I went right off the practice field and started collecting candy in my helmet in my football uniform,” said Zierlein, 42, a sports radio host and football writer in Houston. “I don’t even remember the costumes. I only remember eating all the candy.”
Zierlein, a father of five, is getting his second chance at costume redemption through sons Alec, 8; Mason, 6; and Sebastian, 4. He also has a 17-year-old son and a 22-month-old daughter who probably won’t wear a costume this year.
Baby Don Draper was a big hit for Halloween, 2009.
At Zierlein’s suggestion, his younger boys have portrayed some unlikely adult characters over the last few years: Dwight Schrute from “The Office,” a baby Don Draper from “Mad Men,” a baby Incredible Hulk, and last year, two sons played Walter White and Jesse Pinkman from “Breaking Bad,” AMC's very dark drama about a meth dealer. And no, Zierlein offers pre-emptively, his sons have never watched the show.
As he recaptures part of his childhood, Zierlein makes no apologies for the grownup get ups.
“My kids think it’s funny and I’m not forcing my kids to do anything,” Zierlein said.
While Lance Zierlein's kids are free to choose their own costumes, if they want to do one of daddy's ideas, he's got plenty, like this Dwight Schrute, from "The Office," from 2007.
“It’s a way for me to bond with my kids besides watching sports together and playing outside,” he said. “It’s something we share together. It’s our annual decision - whether or not they’ll do one of daddy’s costumes.”
Of course, he says, his sons can choose any costume they want. Sebastian, the former Jesse Pinkman, vetoed dad’s idea for him to be Tyrion Lannister from "Game of Thrones" this year, and is instead going as Darth Vader.
But if they decide to do one of daddy's costumes, Zierlein is ready to go. The more absurd, the better, especially as people start to ask Zierlein about his kids’ costume choices each year and he feels the pressure is on.
“Some years my kids will dress in standard Halloween costumes that we’ll get at the store, other times they say, ‘Dad, you can dress me this year?’” Zierlein said. “When that happens, I go straight to the television.”
The adult-character costumes began as a way for Zierlein to entertain and amuse himself and his friends when his sons were too young to have much a say in what they wore.
“I started off when they were young, kind of dressing them up in what I thought were ironic, funny outfits,” he said. “I decided to go with characters who are a little bit under the radar, a little bit subtle but a huge, stark contrast between a child and that character.”
As the boys got older, they began to like the attention they got, especially after their dad posted pictures online to his followers and fans.
The actor Aaron Paul, who plays Pinkman on “Breaking Bad” retweeted on of Zierlein’s photos from last year and Bryan Cranston, who plays White, mentioned the costumes on the TV show “Extra,” Zierlein said.
As they enjoyed the notoriety, the hunt for the coolest, most attention-grabbing costume has become a competition among brothers. “They all want to ‘win’ Halloween,” Zierlein said.
It’s difficult to judge who may win this year.
The former Dwight Schrute and Walter White, otherwise known as Alec, is going as Larry David. Zierlein has a bald cap and a wig he’ll combine to make a customized David look.
“I want it to look as realistic as possible so I’m going to make it myself,” he said. “It’s going to be the hardest costume I’ve ever have to do.”
Mason, the former Baby Don Draper, is a go for Ron Swanson of “Parks and Recreation.” Zierlein has a stick-on moustache for his son to wear and is planning to style Mason’s thick, dark hair into Swanson’s blow-dried bouffant.
"Trick or treat! Give me all the bacon and eggs you have." Lance Zierlein has a fake mustache ready to go for his son's Ron Swanson costume this year.
While Zierlein allows that he sometimes wonders if his boys are just following his ideas to please him, he’s really OK with them doing their own thing. He knows it won’t last forever, so he’s enjoying it while he can.
“They get to make the choice each year,” he said. “I’ve got great kids. They can do whatever they like. They like the attention for now but I’m sure they’ll grow out of it.”
And when that day comes, they’ll have plenty of fun pictures and stories. “I loved Halloween like every kid, but I didn’t have any memories,” Zierlein said. “These kids will definitely have some memories."
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