Every fall, Halloween costume shops sprout like dandelions in the spring. Want a huge spider for your front door? A Darth Vader costume? A witch, a ghost, a vampire?
Courtesy Brian McCabe
Ra Ubasti makes a pair of fangs at NPR's New York studio. She says she has always been fascinated by tribal rituals of teeth filing and scarification, but she fell into making fangs.
In one store near New York City's Times Square, I came across an artist who makes custom-made fangs. And in this year of vampire obsession, that means much more than just two canines.
Ra Ubasti, 28, works in a little room in the back of Halloween Adventure. She says she has always been fascinated by tribal rituals of teeth filing and scarification, but she fell into making fangs. She made her friends a few sets — and suddenly a business took off. These days, she makes all different kinds, many of them based on the ones you see in the movies. There's the beast set, the feral set, the Brooklyn set, Interview set.
"The most classic vampire look, like most people think of when they think of a creature of the night, is Bela Lugosi, Dracula, two fangs on canines," she says. Movies like "Lost Boys, Vampire in Brooklyn, stuff like that, that's usually four teeth showing. In Interview with the Vampire, they have like six teeth."
Ubasti brought her equipment to NPR's New York studio to make me a pair of fangs. I'm going to get the simplest and cheapest set: two canines. It costs $80.
Soon, the studio sounds and smells like my dentist's office. She uses acrylic, starting with a little ball that gets molded to my teeth. "Close," she says. "Now, open back up." There is the sound of drilling. At first they look pretty awful — this is what she calls the potato wedge phase — but she fits them to my teeth over and over again.
"How does it feel?" she asks. "Comfortable? Tight?"
Courtesy Brian McCabe
Margot Adler gets fitted for a canine set of custom-made fangs.
"It feels big," I respond.
She works meticulously until they look and feel right and then she polishes them.
Ubasti has strict directions: No eating or sleeping with them on. Drinking is fine, but nothing with a lot of coloring like Hawaiian Punch or blue-colored sodas. You don't want blue fangs.
Ubasti says she gets a range of clients — from burlesque performers to party kids. People think "that the overwhelming majority of the people I cater to are Caucasian because you see movies, you see the folklore," she says. But she says most of them are Latino — though she's not sure why.
She says she won't do fangs for teens unless they get their parents' permission; she doesn't want them doing weird stuff with pointy things in their mouth.
The saddest thing she comes across is people who call her up in desperation with real — not theatrical — dental problems.
"Werewolf, walrus, I got you," she says. "But normal eating? No." She tells them to contact a health care provider.
An hour or so later, we're done. When I see them, I laugh. They are not bad, and I can even talk normally with them on. They'll be great for Halloween.
Ubasti says if you live in a city, there's a whole other advantage to wearing these fangs. Late at night on the subway, if she is ever accosted by men saying inappropriate things, she just opens her mouth and smiles sweetly. "On the train platform," she says, "it gives you that edge. No pun intended."