White Party :: Gods and Goddesses of Mount Olympus
Some people have never known a world without AIDS. For anyone younger than twenty-eight years of age, AIDS has been a fact of their world. That’s how long we’ve been fighting this one disease: twenty-eight years. And for the past twenty-five years, CareResource has been at the forefront of the fight against AIDS, each year hosting and promoting the weeklong White Party events in Miami, culminating with the "crown jewel" of the HIV/AIDS fundraisers: the annual White Party at Villa Vizcaya.
As one enchanted youth raved, "I’ve been to parties all over the world, but there’s nothing like this one. I almost didn’t come this year, because I came last year, but as soon as I arrived..." And here words failed. Instead, he opened his arms outward to the glittering scene surrounding him.
Every year, it amazes. No matter how often you’ve been before, you return to Vizcaya for White-and it envelops you. Your car lets you off at the Vizcaya entrance and as you start the walk up the dimly lit hammock toward the Italian renaissance palazzo, your resistance falls away. Visions in white surround you, speaking in hushed voices. You hear music. White lights dance. It’s a gathering of angels.
Mount Olympus was this year’s theme-and everywhere you looked, gods and goddesses were in evidence, many of them clothed in little more than strategically placed togas. It was a Greek thing-our kindred connection.
A gathering of angels.
The lavish gardens and illuminated fountains were punctuated with candlelit tables laden with sweets and delectables, such as chocolate peanut butter cupcakes (from Spanky’s) and lychee fruit cups. Carrot cake with buttercream, an abundance of cocktails-and merrily, the evening slid closer to Nero’s Rome.
Up atop the Casino, where croupiers manned gaming tables, Pamala Stanley (that’s right-"Coming Out of Hiding") serenaded fauns and gladiators with jazz standards, while women in white tie and tails and men in Marilyn’s beaded gown paused and posed for photos sent zipping around the world.
With ten acres to wander and preen like a peacock, Vizcaya is a sensualist’s delight. There’s something about the rococo setting that elevates everyone a notch; voices are more restrained and manners more in evidence. Case in point: CLICK god Omar Gonzalez turns to us, graciously offering his hand, and queries, "And you are???" Apparently, we were unrecognizable-until we removed our glasses and said, "It’s us, you big goof."
Other gods and goddesses seen wandering the grounds in elevated states of refinement were Hilton and Mel, Randy Bettis and Erin, Terry DeCarlo, CareResource head Ric Siclari, Babak Movahedi, George Coronado, Oren Nizri, Edison Farrow and Nestor Paz, Score principals Billy and Luis, Winter Party Chair Chad and Leo, Karen and Michelle, Michael Bath and Dave Cook, Jason Tamanini-as well as a host of ethereal and helpful volunteers who are always unfailingly polite, even in the face of naughty attire.
Jennifer Holliday Is A Dream With Your Name On It.
Local legend DJ Bill Hallquist played a seamless set that unequivocally put to rest the notion that Vizcaya is not a dance party. With an uplifting mix of propulsive beats and persuasive melodies such as PCD’s "I Hate This Part," and possibly the song of the weekend, Solange’s "Sandcastle Disco" (you know, the one that goes, "Ba-ba-ba-baby, don’t blow me away..."), Hallquist kept the dance floor packed with white satin knights and silver Kabuki revelers.
Perhaps the most anticipated appearance of the night was of the Broadway goddess, the original Dreamgirl, Miss Jennifer Holliday. Belting out her signature song, "And I’m Telling You (I’m Not Going)," Holliday gave us the original-and then, after a rousing "No Frills Love," she kept the crowd cheering with the Rosabel-mixed version of "And I’m Telling You." Looking like a divine vision, Holliday sang with the same ferocious passion and conviction that she’s exhibited throughout her illustrious career, hitting notes that were aimed straight for the heart. In between songs, she bantered with her "old" friend, Miss Elaine Lancaster-and championed the fight for LGBT equality. And when the wildly enthusiastic crowd refused to let her leave the stage, she treated them to "A Dream Out There With Your Name On It." With its opening lyric, "Stay strong, I tell myself," no other song could have been more appropriate for this bittersweet election year and the ongoing fight to cure AIDS.
At some point in the evening, someone said, "It’s a Miami thing. There’s something about this place." And indeed, there is something magical about Villa Vizcaya. For one night every year, on the last Saturday in November, CareResource’s White Party at Vizcaya heralds a time when the threat of AIDS has been vanquished-and beauty reigns anew.