The year 2015 marks the first I’ve started planning my Halloween costume 10 months in advance. Past costumes include your average zip-up police officer getup, Playboy Bunny, Super Girl, Neytiri from the movie Avatar, Black Swan, a creepy black-and-white skeleton and an even creepier hot pink skeleton. But this year, I wanted feathers. More than anything, I wanted to become a Victoria’s Secret peacock.
For the past three years, I’ve spent the eve of Halloween parading around Planned Parenthood’s Safe Sex Halloween Bash at Michael’s On East. I’ve sat on the décor committee, stuffed PP’s famous “shag bags,” helped kick off the event pre-party at Darwin’s, attended the wrap-up luncheon, updated my sex education and fallen head over heels for Christina Fraser—who is co-chairing the seventh annual SSHB: “Paranormal Prom” with Sarah Wertheimer, Laura Daniel Gale and Karissa Mayer—and her mind-blowing party tricks and treats.
Something deep down inside of me wanted to outdo every costume in Sarasota, so I got to work researching DIY peacock costumes and ordered a zillion 40-inch-long peacock feathers, the thickest and sturdiest cardboard I could find and 50 glue sticks from Hobby Lobby. Then I set out for Victoria’s Secret. I spent days and nights arranging and gluing feathers, burning my fingers several times during the process, spray painting, attaching elastic straps and trying on, and finally, my masterpiece was ready.
On the eve of the bash, Amanda Picken, who is rocking red lipstick on her gorgeous Jessica-Rabbit-shaped lips like a champ, swings over to transform herself into a pinup girl and we’re off. Our No. 1 goal after arriving at Michael’s On East is to beeline it to the bar for a champagne toast, but my feathers have caught the attention of a woman frantically waving me down from her table inside the restaurant so she can snap my photo through the window. And so my celebrity status begins.
We click-clack from the eerie purple courtyard into the fabulous Michael’s On East Ballroom, which the committee spent 18 magical hours converting into Safe Sex High’s Paranormal Prom. We head through a hallway of beat-up, haunted lockers, but a stampede of costumed hooligans causes us to miss the evening’s signature shot, “The Liquid Nerd,” being handed out by the Safe Sex High cheerleaders Ambiance and VooDoo. As my feathers are getting slightly manhandled, I spy, with my little eye, Orange is the New Black prison escapees Renee Phinney and her sidekick, Jennifer Smith, along with several Super Men, Super Woman, Cat Woman, the Top Gun cast, witches, doctors, Spock, vampires, Frankenstein, pirates, Miss Living Dead and one petite banana.
“We all had so much fun helping make Christina’s creative prom vision come to life!” Sarah Wertheimer tells me.
Safe Sex High is home to the Condom Cavaliers, with DJ Imminent dressed as the school’s mascot. To mimic an old gym prom, a wooden dance floor was used with the typical tulle drapes and balloons. The committee ripped up and shredded tulle drapes over the dance floor to add to the zombie-ghost theme and also brought back the large skull disco ball that Christina hand-created herself.
“The dance floor is rocking!” says Eduardo Anaya. “It’s one of the only events where guests take off their inhibitions at the door.”
The team created an insane balloon arch at the photo booth, an education section featuring safe sex quizzes and condom tutorials, a video section with sex education videos from more than 50 years ago and “The Feariodic Table of Hellements Science Lab” and a candy bar. (There’s always a candy bar!)
Lights and rolling fog are helping to create the perfect spooky energy out on the dance floor, and I find a spot just in time for Midnight Show, produced by LDG Productions, and watch as the Safe Sex High School band, The Zomboyz and Prom Queen Miss Beneva Fruitville take center stage. Drummer Spikey Van Dykey is supposed to be miming the songs, but just can’t resist and is actually playing the drums.
“It took my cast and me three hours to get into our zombie make-up,” says Laura Daniel Gale, who has produced the Midnight Show for the past three years. “Make-up artists Grace Haitz and Heather Haitz transformed eight of us.”
Laura chose the Midnight Show theme based on the Paranormal Prom theme and cast several girls from her Black Diamond Burlesque troupe and friends who support Planned Parenthood.
“Last year’s Midnight on the Bayou was my favorite Midnight Show, with a New Orleans-style funeral procession into a resurrection into a funeral ceremony,” Laura says. “This year, I wanted an undead prom court that was jealous of the beautiful queen.”
The committee even kept the menu to theme by offering classic cafeteria items, but presenting them in a more sophisticated and tastier way thanks to Phil Mancini and Michael’s On East.
“We even had some cafeteria décor, including my zombie school chef chewing on a rat, which has gone missing,” Christina says. “This is the only time Phil lets rats around his food.”
Christina’s husband, CJ, accompanied her to the bash dressed as her giant spider prom date. CJ, who is 6 feet, 4 inches, made the costume out of PVC pipe, had a (leg) span of six feet wide and basically stayed in one spot the entire evening unless Christina escorted him around. He couldn’t fit through the doorways, but he still had a blast.
The bash, which benefits the family planning and prevention services of Planned Parenthood, welcomed 400 people this year and sold 50 tickets at the door— a record number. Proceeds are estimated to be about $40,000.
We make our exit with two handsome Top Gun boys. And rumor has it that by the end of the night, that cute little banana managed to secure a date with a member of the handsome Top Gun crew.