by Tom Finkel
The atmosphere at Left Bank Books' Harry Potter midnight release party on Friday was like the opening weekend of a Star Wars film, the finale of The Sopranos, an anime convention and the last Beatles performance rolled into one.
Kids bear-hugged books as they scored them, then strolled along the thousand-person, two-block-long line and displayed their first editions like trophies. Some, apparently unaware that the ending had leaked on the Internet three days prior, rushed out of the store and immediately began studying the final pages.
According to a Left Bank employee, attendance was about 3,000. The festivities shut down several blocks in the Central West End, and included everything short of a full-scale quidditch match, including sponsor tents with Potter-themed gimmicks like Butter Beer from Fitz's, Ben and Jerry's Honeydukes, Wizard's Chess and (my personal favorite) the oft-photographed Harry Potter Port-a-Potties, a sign that mysteriously disappeared sometime before midnight.
The highlight, however, was the costume party, which drew children and adults with way too much time on their hands. Finalists included a Sirius Black who might very well have stepped off the set of Pirates of the Caribbean, a Bellatrix Lestrange who could have doubled as an Ozzy Osbourne groupie, and the winner, a kid who bore such an uncanny resemblance to real-life Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe that I shudder to think what it's like at recess for him the other 364 days of the year. Also spotted were a fully outfitted Crookshanks the cat, a Dumbledore who probably recycled his costume from last weekend's Pagan Festival at Tower Grove Park and enough teenagers in plaid schoolgirl miniskirts to produce a Britney Spears music video anthology.