Happy 50th Birthday David Albaugh (and the story behind that amazing surprise party)!

Would you believe I spent the better part of last week hiding in New England? It all started back in December when my fellow Terror Dave’s amazing girlfriend, Melissa, unexpectedly reached out to me. For those who read our recent posts from Erie, Pennsylvania, you may recall the purpose of that get-together was to celebrate David Albaugh’s 50th birthday (albeit two months early) since I was unable to make it out to Rhode Island in May.

Or at least that’s what I thought back at the time.

Just two weeks after formalizing that trip, Melissa’s message arrived asking for my assistance in throwing him a surprise party. Tracking me down took a bit of work on her part as I was in the midst of a “90 days without Facebook Challenge” and it’s not like she could ask David for my email address, either. I was truly touched by her efforts as well as the kind words that came with them. “You’re the first person I want to talk to about this as you’re so incredibly special to him,” she wrote. “The way he talks about you is so heartwarming to me, and I seriously doubt he’d consider it a birthday party without you there.”

I was very grateful for her sharing that with me. Best friendships are a rare gift that can be a challenge to maintain even when you don’t live a thousand miles away from each other like we do.  Melissa helped me see that despite the distance, we Terror Daves really have evolved into a family of sorts. Whoever this new woman was in David’s life, she gave me some much-needed clarity and I, in turn, would give her my full support. With the two co-conspirators officially aligned, it was time to see to it that David got the birthday celebration he deserved.

For the next five months, we hashed out all the details while selecting a theme. “Tarantulas/spiders” seemed a wise choice as David’s been an arachnid enthusiast since childhood and has his own bug site you should definitely check out HERE. It also seemed the perfect way to tie in David’s two main worlds – zoos and Halloween. Speaking of zoos, getting his co-workers at the Roger Williams Park Zoo to RSVP was something of a challenge and would likely have been a complete disaster without the aid of our insider pal, Jason Schoolcraft. Poor Jason, every time Melissa came to me with a concern (which was often considering what needed to be done) I’d usually run straight to him with it. Melissa was determined that David see just how loved he truly is and that we get at least fifty people. At first that seemed like a pipe dream but, in the end, we’d surpass it!

It seemed surreal when the week finally arrived and we both had knots in our stomachs. There were just so many ways he could accidentally find out and ruin the “surprise” element that we both really wanted him to experience. My anxieties even inspired recurring nightmares of me accidentally falling into Melissa’s cake…

…and let’s talk about that cake, shall we? I can only describe it as sheer spider magic and a pastry worthy of the Food Network Hall of Fame! Unless David is starting to get senile in conjunction with his now officially going “over the hill,” he’d best devote an entire post about this on that aforementioned bug site of his!

My creative contributions revolved around spider centerpieces and a special card I made on a three-fold presentation board. The HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAVID letters would be created with photos of him and his critters and guests would sign a spider die-cut with a metallic marker that I’d glue on.

Before leaving Chicago I packed up my car with party supplies which probably resembled David’s vehicle when he embarks on one of his “Bug Guy” presentations…only these spiders were all plastic! I secretly drove out to Rhode Island, arriving several days before the party. During that time Melissa and I met up once to work on things since she had to maintain her normal schedule with David and avoid raising his suspicions (and also work on that fabulous cake). I was totally cool with that arrangement since I had another project going on myself which will all be revealed in the next few posts. Of course, so far as David was concerned, I was still in Chicago. To further that illusion, I took a bunch of photos while working at my Brookfield Zoo the week before and then texted them to him the day of the party so he’d think I just took the shots and was still there working my normal shift. Melissa said she was in awe of my espionage skills and, truth be told,  I was starting to feel like a chunky James Bond myself!

Melissa and I met up at my hotel which had a kitchenette and served as David’s birthday headquarters. We worked on our projects while chatting away and she commented on how alike David and I were; our mannerisms, our machine-gun chuckle, and how we both bought ourselves the exact same MARVEL superheroes wallet the month before. That made me laugh because it reminded me of the year he and I sent each other the same Christmas card. Yes, folks, we Daves are very much alike, I’m just the gayer, more flamboyant version.

My room had a full refrigerator which made it ideal for hiding the cake but, other than that, I couldn’t stand the place. The bed was about as comfy as a rock garden and it had a weird smell that no one seemed to be able to detect but me…that is until David came over after the party and smelled it too. Check off yet another box in the “Daves being similar” department!

But I digress…

Spider cake…awaiting its final molt

As the event drew near I was practically the poster boy for manic depressive behavior. One minute I’d be a nervous wreck and the next overly sentimental and weepy thinking about how happy this was all going to make him. In fact one evening I started blubbering in my car while stuck in Providence traffic (which, believe me, is cause enough for tears). Honestly, you’d think one of my kids was about to get married or something. Emotions were clearly running high!.

At 4 o’clock in the morning, the day of the party, I stirred in my sleep and that brief moment where my conscious mind registered what day it was, woke me up so fast you’d swear I’d just binged on cocaine, coffee, and candy bars! I jumped up and nervously started pacing that stinky hotel room while wishing someone would walk in and shoot me with a tranquilizer dart. I mean, what if some idiot party straggler shows up at the same time he does and gives it all away at the last second? What if he notices familiar cars in the venue’s lot? And, even more importantly, why the hell didn’t I pack any alcohol on this trip?!?

Let’s get this party started, folks!

Melissa picked me up and we started getting things ready soon after. With time running out, I summoned Jason over so he could help speed things along and blow up the balloons. At this point it became apparent that Jason was reaching the end of his rope with us and our requests. By the 40th balloon, he looked like he wanted to bonk me over the head with the helium tank! Actually, he and I hit it off quite well and will be teaming up for a Dave & Jason visit to Days of the Dead Indianapolis this July!

The guests started arriving around 5:30 pm which was good because it gave me the opportunity to socialize with them and ease the tension.  I was particularly happy to meet one of David’s oldest friends, Meredith, as well as his brother, Steve and his family. I’ve heard so much about these people over the past eight years they honestly didn’t feel like strangers to me at all when we finally had an opportunity to interact.

David showed up promptly at 6 pm and I could tell he was genuinely surprised! I was hoping I’d be the last person he’d see (so I could provide him with a second surprise) but got confused as to what door he was entering in from and ended up being the first one he’d see instead. Doh! Oh well, our main objective of him being surprised was a success despite the incredible odds and, at the end of the day, that’s what really mattered. All that worrying and pacing had clearly been for nothing though I still needed that damn drink!

Guests prepare for David’s arrival

“SURPRISE!!!!”

Of course, the party itself wasn’t the only shock we had in store for David. We contacted New England horror hostess, Penny Dreadful (who’s no stranger to this site) and she graciously rearranged her schedule to attend. She even performed a special rendition of “Monster Mash” for the birthday boy that was nothing short of amazing!

Melissa also had one of David’s favorite superheroes, Deadpool, show up. He made a grand entrance and then, after hamming it up in typical “merc with the mouth” fashion, asked for David’s autograph!

Melissa enlisted the services of her pals at funfotos2go to capture guest pictures in hilarious ways using a green screen and props! Anyone who knows me knows there are few things I enjoy more than hamming it up for the camera and I thought this really added a whole new dimension to the party!

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The only uncomfortable moment was when this nice guy (and fellow Svengoolie fan) Joe Cardillo and I were doing a photo op with David & Melissa. To counter the two love birds, I thought it would be funny if I hugged Joe and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Well, in trying to hold the pose for the camera (which appeared to be having some sort of delay), I ended up smooching that poor man for what seemed like an awfully long time. In fact, the last time I kissed someone like that I had to buy them dinner first. Worst of all, when the picture came back they somehow missed the whole thing! Thank heavens I’d just brought Joe a freshly signed rubber chicken from Svengoolie or he’d of probably decked me!

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After everyone ate their yummy Italian meal (David does love his pasta) Melissa lit the candles and led everyone in singing “Happy Birthday.” It was the ideal role for her as she can actually sing. Usually, at these type of things, it’s like when I was kid attending our local Catholic Church. The Priest always had the worst voice and was the loudest one! Thankfully that wasn’t the case here, thanks to this talented songstress!

After everyone sang, David made a wish and blew out the candles!

Then things took on an almost tragic turn as the cake-cutting began. I honestly hated seeing that thing get demolished but, trust me, it tasted as good as it looked.

Even from my distant vantage point in Chicago, I could see that Melissa was the best thing that’s ever happened to my best friend! She also throws a mean party as proven by everyone having the time of their lives! Kudos Melissa! I should also mention that the night’s musical selections were pitch perfect thanks to their DJ, and good friend, Todd Mackalinaw! I heard several people commenting on how awesome he was and they weren’t exaggerating.

The final event was a montage of video testimonials which I’m hoping to turn into a YouTube clip and add to this post later. Melissa is in the process of getting those out to me so David can have a DVD copy as well.

After most of the guests left, we party-planners and contributors all took a nice strong shot (FINALLY) while toasting the man of the hour!

Toast to David 1

Toast to David 2

After the party, David went back to the horror hotel with me. A couple months prior to my arrival, Melissa convinced him to take the next day (Monday) off so he could “help Joe (yes, the same “Joe” I was practically making out with in the photo booth) move.” This was really all just a ruse so he and I could spend my last day in New England together before beginning my fifteen-hour journey back to Chicago on Tuesday morning. Her going to all the trouble of concocting that story so we could hang out one last time this year really meant a lot! We ended up going to a dinosaur related locale and that story will be featured on my own site Dave’s Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Pit Stops soon!

As for the party, I think it was absolutely befitting of the man it was celebrating. He was surrounded by the people who loved him the most along with plenty of representatives from both his monster and zoo worlds! And so today, May 25th a.k.a. the actual date of his birth, I’d like to wish my fellow Terror Dave and best friend a VERY HAPPY 50th  BIRTHDAY and a fantastic year ahead!

David, I hope whatever you wished for before blowing out the candles comes true…although after seeing you and Melissa together I’m kinda thinking it already has.

Much Love to you bro!

Dave Fuentes 

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