How To Make A Machine Gun Leg

Don’t mess with me or I’ll make the bottom half of your leg disappear.

When Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s "Grindhouse" hit movie theaters in 2007, I walked out of that theater knowing one day I would figure out how to dress like Cherry Darling for Halloween, machine gun leg and all.  Clearly the issue with this costume is not so much in the fabrication of a machine gun as it is in the the faked disappearance of a limb from the knee down.  How the hell do you vanish a leg from knee to toe?

Easy!  Just follow these simple steps:

1. For five years, think about how much you want to dress up as Cherry Darling with the machine gun leg, each year deciding it’s absolutely impossible.

2. On the fifth year, tell a bunch of friends who really believe in your craftiness about your machine gun leg idea.  Make sure to assert the level of awesomocity and impossibility so they will get super pumped up about it, refusing to let you off the hook.  These folks must be able to regularly remind you that no costume will ever be as cool as a half naked, machine-gun-legged zombie killer; especially when you call two weeks before Halloween, begging them to just let you drop the leg thing and dress like Katy Perry.

3. Sit and stare into space for hours, trying to figure out how you’re going to make your massive right calf disappear, before you do what you clearly should have done in the first place.  Consult the internet.

4. Google “Cherry Darling Machine Gun Leg,” and see that — WHOA.  Someone has done this before.  And ohmigod it looks amazing!  But how did she do it?

5. Oh, right.  SHE’S AN ACTUAL AMPUTEE.  You are going straight to hell.

6. Notice that said amputee, Lacey Henderson, a gorgeous, totally inspiring woman who posed as Cherry Darling at the ‘07 San Diego Comic Con, has actually created a site specifically devoted to faking the amputee machine gun leg. Scour the site, stealing the tricks of all those who have come before you.

7. Start to gather materials.  Search eBay for a too-realistic toy machine gun, all the while feeling like a dirty criminal.  Spend far too much time and energy choosing your fake firearm.  Should you get a gun that lights up and makes noise?  Probably.

8. Scour Etsy for sellers who use PVC and faux leather and grommets in their handmade garments, and commission the talented Olga of Decadent Designs to make you a custom Cherry Darling outfit that will give you slightly more coverage than you would be offered by a red and black Ziploc sandwich bag.

9. This is the hard part — casting the leg.  Does your father by any chance happen to be a foot doctor?  If not, may I suggest you go back in time and make sure he goes off to podiatry school?  Once you’ve arranged it so that your father fixes feet for a living, raid your father’s supply closet full of surgical tape and hard casting materials.  Then, sucker one of his associates into casting you from knee to thigh on his lunch break.

Here’s how the casting has to happen: Change into a pair of bike shorts, and, instead of pushing your right leg all the way through the leghole, keep your leg bent, allowing the spandex of the short to press your calf/heel to the back of your thigh/booty.  Then you wrap an ace bandage tightly around your waist, pulling the leg closer into itself.

Then, with a compression sock acting as a barrier between your leg and the casting tape, have the doc (or a friend who doesn’t mind working with messy fiberglass) build the cast around your leg while it is bent together.  Leave a small opening at the bottom through which you will eventually push the butt of your massive toy gun.

The panda headband isn’t crucial to the process, but I like to think it helps.

When fully dry, pull off the cast and wedge the gun through the hole by the knee.

Secure the gun to the “stump” using more casting tape.

Revel in your craftsmanship.

Once the leg is built, the only problem that remains is figuring out how you’re actually going to wear the thing on All Hollow’s Eve.  The answer is, very carefully.  And to strap yourself into the cast on the big night, you’re probably going to need a team of devoted friends to help you through the process.  I recommend recruiting at least two special helpers — one to help you pull the cast on while you desperately try to keep your balance, the other to capture the madness on film.  I don’t know how I could have pulled this off without my friends Lauren and Mara to hold my hand (and leg) along the way.

Bending back the leg.

Pulling on the inner stocking.

Pushing up the cast.

Eh, voila!

That wasn’t so hard, now was it?  Okay, yes it was.

Occasionally you will also need your friends to, say, to carry you from one end of your apartment to the other. 

Because if you hadn’t already guessed — this is not the most mobile of costumes.  Ladies on the Cherry Darling costume site had recommended attaching a rubber cane tip to the end of the machine gun for extra grip while walking, but there was no motherloving way I was going to try and put all my weight on that $16 toy gun while strapped up like a contortionist.  I love Halloween, but I’m not actually going to die for it.

Still, Lauren and Mara helped put me in position for a super awesome Cherry Darling photo shoot so we could capture the success of the illusion.  Lauren got behind the camera and Mara was in charge of “styling,” i.e. pulling my skirt down when my own foot threatened to push it up over my head from behind my body.  The session took about thirty minutes to complete, which is about about the point at which my right ankle started to lose circulation and my left butt cheek began to scream for the heavens.  It’s okay — I’ve always wanted a super fit left buttock.

I wouldn’t recommend anyone stay with her leg strapped to her behind for more than thirty minutes anyway.  Snap a few awesome pictures, enjoy the momentary spoils of all your planning, and then reward your hard work with the blessed gift of standing.  Walking.  Feeling your lower extremeties.

I do have to say, now that Halloween is over I’m a little nervous about how I’m going to top this costume next year.  What can I do that will be equally as impressive?  Feign full invisibility?  Achieve actual flight?  But I guess I’ll worry about that come next October (okay, August).  For now, I’m just content to have kicked a little ass.