A Philadelphia Legend on Life Without a Computer, Email, or Facebook

Halloween icon Henri David on running a business in the digital age.

digital footprint

Is it possible to live without a digital footprint? One Philly legend makes it look easy. Photograph by Gene Smirnov.

No Computer? No email? That’s no problem for Philly legend Henri David, who says you really need to get off the grid.

Philadelphia magazine: Have you really never had a computer?
Henri David: Nope. I was tempted once upon a time, but I’ve seen people get computers and go down the rabbit hole and disappear. It frightens me. In the jewelry store [David owns Halloween], we don’t use computers, either.

Does the absence of one hinder you at all?
Not in any way. Friends gave me a cell phone, which I only use when I travel and for photos. The day I got my cell phone, Stevie Nicks came into the store for her semi-annual shopping spree, and she had just gotten the exact same phone, so she took pictures and I took pictures, and she sent me hers and I had the guys send her mine. I don’t know how to do that.

Related: It’s Time to Call Bullshit on Innovation

I’m just trying to imagine my life without, say, email.
I write letters. I use a pen and a paper and a stamp. And I don’t have to lick the stamps anymore, which is cool.

Have you ever even seen Facebook?
Oh, people show me all these things. I just think it’s all really weird.

So I’m assuming that Halloween doesn’t have a website or an Instagram feed — things that are now more or less required in the fashion world.
Oh, goodness, no. People ask me all the time if we have a website. No. Well, how will I see the jewelry? I don’t know, do you think you could come to the store? It shocks me that people buy personal things like jewelry without seeing and touching them. … And I only take cash or checks. No credit cards.

But what’s behind all this, really?
I understand that computers can, say, store information, and that’s great. But what happens when you push the wrong button? Bad things. The electric company tells me I didn’t pay my bill. … I say, “Honey, I have the canceled check in front of me!” But no, I didn’t, because the computer says otherwise. Or maybe somebody presses the wrong button and I just don’t exist!

Published as “No Computer? No Email? No Problem.” in the January 2019 issue of Philadelphia magazine.