Rob McFarland joins LA's citywide Halloween party and discovers his last-minute costume is far from fancy enough.
Even by Los Angeles' standards, we were a motley crew: a dancer from Fame in hot-pink tights and ankle warmers; a Lady Gaga wannabe in an electric blue leotard and silver wig; a Playboy bunny girl; a horned she-devil; a Queen of Tarts; a Dracula with a 1.5m-high inflatable Elvis quiff and me - a surfing pirate nerd.
Admittedly, a surfing pirate nerd isn't the obvious choice for a Halloween fancy dress costume but it was the best I could do with limited supplies. Everyone else had sneaked off to a costume-hire shop earlier in the afternoon so I was left to conjure something from the contents of my suitcase.
As I pulled on my board shorts, straightened my bow tie and adjusted my pirate's hat (I never leave home without one), I had concerns.
But later, as we strolled down Sunset Boulevard, any apprehension about looking out of place soon evaporated. It was Halloween. We were in LA. The entire city was in fancy dress.
For the past 24 years, West Hollywood has held an increasingly ambitious Halloween street party on Santa Monica Boulevard. It's now the largest event of its kind in the world, attracting around half a million people.
Before hitting the parade we went out for dinner, which proved to be more difficult for some than others. Dracula was regularly parted from his inflatable quiff courtesy of low door frames and Lady Gaga's wig was moulting at an alarming rate.
Even in the restaurant, everyone was in costume. We were waited on by ghoulish monsters and the rest of the patrons were an eclectic mix of superheroes, vampires, ghosts and villains.
Unfortunately, nobody had the slightest idea who or what I was. When I explained for the fourth time to someone that I was a surfing pirate nerd, she looked me up and down with evident disdain and said: "Really? That's, like, so lame."
After dinner we joined the crowd swarming to Santa Monica Boulevard and within minutes I'd spotted four more Lady Gagas, three Katy Perrys, a dozen Chilean miners, a Roman gladiator, two Edward Scissorhands and a sumo wrestler.
It was an orgy of exhibitionism. Superman posed for a photo with Batman. Alice in Wonderland flirted with Genghis Khan. The Mario Brothers skipped past holding hands. Halfway along, a bewildered looking man from the Guinness Book of Records presided over an attempt to set a new record for the most people simultaneously doing the Rocky Horror Show's 'Time Warp' dance (they got it: 8239).
The party raged into the next day's early hours and as we wearily stumbled back to our hotel, I spotted my favourite costume of the evening. It was a giant Clippy, the annoying Microsoft paperclip office assistant, with a speech bubble saying: "It looks like you're trying to take a picture. Would you like some help?"
I took a photo and congratulated him on his costume, to which he replied: "Thanks. And what are you? Some sort of dorky pirate surfer dude?" It was close enough.
Getting there: Qantas flies to Los Angeles via Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
When to be there: Wednesday, 31 October, 6pm-11pm.
Where you'll go: Along Santa Monica Boulevard from Doheny Drive to La Cienega Boulevard.