After a year of Covid hiatus, Halloweenie, LA’s iconic queer costume charity event, returns to the Belasco Theatre. Benefiting Project Angel Food, this self-described “party with a purpose” was founded in 2006 by gay power couple Fred and Jason Arens. Their decision to host the inaugural Halloweenie was inspired by a colleague’s philanthropy.
“It goes back to our friend Tad Brown,” said Fred, in the backyard of their Franklin Village home, affectionately referred to as Casa Frason, which served as a venue for the first Halloweenie. “He was a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Center, and he had us over for dinner to meet some of the clients serviced by the Center. We were so inspired by the work they were doing, we wanted to do something.”
“And we had already planned to host a Halloween party anyway,” added Jason. “We were like, let’s make our party a fundraiser. So we charged everyone $15.”
“I think we raised $3,000,” Fred chuckled. “We were so excited.”
Over the past decade and a half, this initial $3,000 has snowballed into over $2.5 million, benefiting The Los Angeles LGBT Center, Gay Men’s Chorus LA, and now Project Angel Food. By 2009, the event outgrew the Casa Frason backyard, migrating to various venues over the years, including the Henry Fonda Theater, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, and most recently the Belasco Theater, which intended to host last year’s Halloweenie before it fell victim to the Covid pandemic. The resurrection of gay LA’s premier Halloween party is reflected in this year’s theme: “Lifting Spirits.”
“In the past few years, Halloween has had a dark edge to it,” explained Jason. “We were filled with so much rage, and hatred with the Trump years. Fighting back, raising hell. Now we feel hope, so we’re lifting spirits. And who does that better than Project Angel Food? They’ve been lifting spirits for years.”
To learn more about what this year’s Halloweenie funds were benefiting, we visited the Project Angel Food building in Hollywood to kiki with their executive director Richard Ayoub.
“Project Angele Food was founded in 1989 in response to the AIDS crisis,” explained Ayoub, standing in front of one of the organization’s many delivery trucks. “Marianne Williamson wanted to make sure people dying of AIDS weren’t dying alone, and weren’t dying hungry. In those days it was ten people being served, twenty, thirty. And when they hit a hundred it was a big deal. Today, we are serving 2,400 people. Eight out of ten of our clients tell us we’re their only food source.”
While Halloweenie is lifting spirits for SoCal’s LGBTQ+ community this year, Project Angel Food has been lifting spirits since the AIDS crisis of the 80s.
“Project Angel Food was created during a pandemic,” said Ayoub. “This is a pandemic. So if there was ever a moment that we need to rise to the occasion its this moment. We were born for this moment.”
For more info on this Party with a Purpose, check out the Halloweenie FB page.