"In a clever attempt to promote the upcoming R-rated puppet movie, “The Happytime Murders,” STX Films and the Jim Henson Co. have created the InkHole, a pop-up tattoo parlor and speakeasy with an open bar, a comedy club, a casino and a peep show.
Open till Monday night in Hollywood, it’s a surreal — and decidedly not family-friendly — place where you can have a drink with eight adult puppets and learn real quick that felt is fabulous. (The event is free, and you can RSVP here.)
Adam Fogelson, chairman of STX Films, said the experience (suited for ages 21 and up) is right in line with the adult-minded antics of “The Happytime Murders.” Starring Melissa McCarthy, Joel McHale and Maya Rudolph, the puppet mystery-noir comedy drunkenly crashes into theaters Aug. 24.
“[The pop-up] came from an authentic belief that Henson puppets, with some exceptions, by design are adults that behave appropriately for and around children as their job,” Fogelson said. “When they’re off the clock, they are adults too.”
The film’s profane, sexually explicit trailer shocked some viewers who might have thought the movie was geared toward children. It is not, as evidenced by its tagline: “No Sesame. All Street.”
That marketing strategy prompted the parent organization behind “Sesame Street” to sue out of fear that children would associate the childhood brand with the R-rated film. STX fueled the fire by releasing a statement by puppet Fred Esq., a lawyer for STX Entertainment.
At Thursday night’s press preview for the pop-up, the raunchy shenanigans were already ramped up. Upon entering the make-believe saloon, actors catch you up to speed on the strange puppet killings.
“What kind of person would kill innocent puppets?” the anonymous mystery woman asks while bringing you into what looks like a normal, semi-clean tattoo facility.
The assistant tattoo parlor manager, a puppet named Bruno, yanks your chain for a bit and then hooks you up with a personalized, airbrushed temporary tattoo. He then gives you a secret obscene code that unlocks the door to where the real fun awaits.
The InkHole's "Happytime Murders" pop-up is a hybrid of a speakeasy, tattoo parlor and bar.
The InkHole's "Happytime Murders" pop-up is a hybrid of a speakeasy, tattoo parlor and bar. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Wandering through, you might get to enjoy the infamous Rotten Cotton girls, two of eight puppets who are eager to show you a good time. Be careful not to take the maple syrup shots they push on you; otherwise, you might have to Uber home.
Sugar is to puppets what alcohol and drugs are to humans, so scattered on the floor of the hidden Sugar Den are copious amounts of candy wrappers, crushed Pop Rocks, sugar paper “ecstasy” and syringes filled with Coke (soda, relax). If you’re extra nice to Midge the sugar junkie, she’ll give you extra grape-flavored Pop Rocks to take home, but you didn’t hear it here.
By playing a round of Blackjack with pit boss Jack, you’ll learn he’s vulgar and is always on a sugar high. Ladies, keep your purses close, because if a raid takes place and the lights go out, you might end up losing it and in handcuffs provided by undercover cops.
To add an extra kick to the exhibition, a hot-pink, topless puppet maids van drives the perimeter of Hollywood, a joke on Los Angeles’ actual topless-maid vans.
If you’re up for more debauchery, head over to the X-rated adult video store filled with DVDs, posters and props pulled right from the film’s actual puppet-porn shop.
STX’s Fogelson said his team wanted to foster an atmosphere that mirrored an alternate Henson reality in which puppets and humans coexist. He has been a longtime fan of Henson’s creations and is a close friend of Henson’s son Brian, the director of “The Happytime Murders.”
Fogelson said the Muppets have always been packed with adult-oriented themes, and he feels the late Jim Henson would get a kick out of the InkHole. He also said Brian Henson strongly believes that these puppets are adults, so why shouldn’t they get a realistic nightlife experience, just as an adult human would?
“It’s not just convenient or adapted,” Fogelson said. “It’s been a [mind-set] of the Henson Co. that most people are not aware of.”