Ever since Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster first made themselves known in movie land in the early 1930s, the entertainment capital of the world has successfully spooked the daylights out of gothic horror fans. What has made Halloween a favored day of celebration in L.A. is the continued popularity of film and television projects about vampires, ghosts, zombies, werewolves, demons and other supernatural elements of the macabre.
In fact, event planners say the annual tally of planned festivities for All Hallows’ Eve now overshadows the number of Christmas parties organized in the City of Angels. Each year on Oct. 31, more than 500,000 merrymakers attend the West Hollywood Halloween Carnival, the largest street party of its type in the world. Meantime, other neighborhoods throughout L.A.’s urban sprawl unearth smaller events, as lawns turn into mock graveyards, plastic spiders engulf homes and party people groove out to those virulent sounds of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
Event planners say consumers dish out between hundreds to several thousands of dollars on a single-night event, depending on how extravagant they want their party to be and whether they prefer a professional to handle all the fuss.
Some clients want a simple affair with a few props, finger foods and background music,” said Bob Levine, president and CEO at Bob Gail Special Events. “And others want to completely transform their event space into an over-the-top production that utilizes huge amounts of a theme and animatronic props, elaborately costumed entertainers, spectacular lighting, costumed live musicians and themed food and drinks.”
Assuring that your Halloween party is successful takes a bit of forethought, including adding safety preparedness. “Make sure you have fire extinguishers available and enough security to manage your party effectively,” advised Levine. “Also, always have a fully-stocked first aid kit available.”
Levine, who has been in the event planning industry for some 36 years, offers a few more helpful pointers on how to put together an impressionable Halloween celebration.
Indoor/Outdoor Halloween Party
“There are so many techniques to give an edge to an event when it comes to audio-visual effects,” said Levine, who founded his long-standing company with his wife, Gail. “Moving gobos could make it look like spiders are crawling on the walls and ceiling. You can also add some other dramatic effects to make your guests see lightning and hear thunder.” Should Mother Nature choose to contribute a bit of unexpected reality to your outdoor event, party planners suggest to have in place a back-up plan that includes reliable shelter. “Even though the weather in Los Angeles is typically beautiful in October, it is important to have an alternative option should the weather take a turn for the worst,” cautioned Levine.
Adult Halloween Party
Levine urges organizers of adult Halloween engagements to think outside the box. “There are so many different creative alternatives to the run-of-the mill goblin and ghoul,” said Levine. “You can plan an event around a circus gone awry or take a cue from Hitchcock and stage a scene inspired by [the suspense/horror film] ‘The Birds.’” Levine stresses alertness and prudence in all potentially hazardous situations. “Halloween is so much fun, but it can be dangerous if not approached with care and caution. And, of course, always promote that guests assign a designated driver,” he warned.
Family-Oriented Halloween Party
“Encourage your guests to theme their costumes for each family. That way, they remain cohesive, even if you have different activities planned for adults and for kids,” said Levine. “For one of our annual events, we have a full-scale maze with interactive costumed characters hidden inside, which the kids love. The adults, meanwhile, have a cocktail party inside with live music.” Levine added if dancing is the order of the evening, he recommends playing such catchy haunted house-inspired tunes as Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me,” Dusty Springfield’s “Spooky,” Bobby Pickett’s “Monster Mash,” the Eagles’ “Witchy Woman” and Ray Parker, Jr.’s “Ghostbusters.” “Time Warp,” a song featured in the film adaptation of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” is also recommended.
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Children’s Halloween Party
“With so much access to technology, kids have really already seen so much,” said Levine. “Keep the party interactive. You can do a Twitter or Instagram costume contest to keep the kids engaged in the event, so their holiday spirit stays intact.” Levine recommends that parents consider designing their own and their child’s costumes for the sake of individuality. “The beauty of Halloween is that anything goes from ghouls to fairy tales,” he said.
Food and Beverage
“We strongly believe that food and beverage should be reflective of the event itself,” said Levine. “If you are planning a zombie-themed party, make food that is shaped like appendages and limbs.” Other ideas include creating blood soup, which utilizes a tomato-based mixture and musk sticks, transforming mashed potatoes into french-fried eyeballs and freezing red jello inside a clean latex glove to mold a refreshingly delicious gory hand. In addition, search for easy and quick recipes for brain cookies, frog’s eye salad, kitty litter cake, vampire blood shakes and related gruesome brews that are as tasty as they are healthy.
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Sharon Raiford Bush is an award-winning journalist who covers topics of social interest in greater Los Angeles. Some news articles she has authored have been archived by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Sharon also contributes to Examiner.com.