According to the Internet, Gentle Reader, my blog is entirely about angry ghosts, abandoned buildings, death, QUILTBAG politics, and my ex-husband. While this amuses me, this is not entirely what I set out for. For example, there aren’t nearly enough posts about costumed events or fancy parties. We’re going to do our best to improve that, while still bringing you all the Angry Gay Ghosts &c. that you know and love. You’re welcome.
In the winter of 2008, the Fabulous Party Association had been going strong for several years, and we had outgrown our beloved Hale’s Pass. Our signature event, the Formal Holiday Historical Costume Ball, had become popular enough to draw people from Seattle to our humble hamlet, and we had the audacity to start charging for tickets, beginning with the FHHCBV: The Victorian Technological Exposition*. Since Steampunk was just starting to take off in the region, we were terribly excited to be a part of a burgeoning costuming movement.
For our events, Miss Ward and I would spend at least six months making arrangements. Shopping for venues, carefully arranging playlists for music, selecting the guests – or, in this case, promoting our event, applying for permits, and on and on. Three or four months before the VTE, we released our promotional material:
Tickets went on sale, and the word spread like wildfire. We began crafting a number of steampunk devices for the occasion, and also began work on a short, silent, film, The Madcap Adventures of Professor Cogsworth in the Year 1950!†
I put a computer into an old console hifi cabinet, and made a computer monitor from leather and brass. We made another cabinet and some brassy bits into a device to announce the arriving guests and their assumed names to the hall, and Miss Ward purchased a working Wimshurst Machine and an antique medical battery. Miss P. – with permission – lovingly displayed some of Justin Gershenson-Gates work, and we modified an enormous, ancient, projection T.V. to look more Victorian. Further, we created a working automaton, the Mechanical Bandleader, seen here in the balcony:
When it was finally the weekend of our event, a number of disasters befell us, mostly during transport: the Thinking Engine’s monitor came loose from the console while we were moving it, and broke; the Cabinet for Display of Pre-Recorded Images suffered a falling tree-limb right through its circuit boards, and on and on and on; the film was not quite ready to be shown. We were beginning to get a trifle worried. We set up as best as we could with our numerous set-backs.
We were able to completely cordon off the kitchen area, as well, which was useful, as in the past we’d had our kitchen staff complain of guests wandering in. While this was still and issue, it was less of one than in the past.
We were also thrilled to have a split-level venue, allowing us to have dancing and games down below, on the dance floor, while those who preferred cocktails and chat could sit above and watch. Further, this allowed us to get overhead shots of the dance lesson, and subsequent dancing. But wait a moment – our dance instructor failed to arrive! Luckily, the very first strangers who purchased tickets, Mr. Phair and Miss LaViollete, were ready and willing to take her place. Here is the delightful overhead shot of their leadership:
Some people enjoyed the dancing so much that they continued dancing long after everyone else.
As we sent our servers around with trays of the newly-released and U.S. legal Lucid absinthe, we indulged in one of our favorite period party games, the Human Knot. Essentially, you gather everyone into a large group, and then you join hands with two people across as far away from you as you can reach. The group then tries to disentangle itself into a large circle.
We had also just discovered the Victorian fad of post-mortem photography. Naturally, we set up a portrait station where people could have their portraits taken, with all sorts of variations on the theme. We even provided a vintage baby-doll (with christening gown and tiny coffin accessories!) to those who might desire them. We’d then double-expose and provide prints for sale, to help fund our organization. Here’s an example:
All in all, it was a delightful evening, and as the guests slipped away, they were a-rumble with gossip about what our next possible themed event might be.
* We consulted a number of leading authorities in the field on all sorts of aspects, and very nearly booked Abney Park for this function. They were most polite, and were willing to work for very reasonable prices, but we didn’t really have room for them to sell their merchandise, so the deal fell through.
† A note on Cogsworth, which will get its own post, eventually: It premiered months after the party, but after its premiere, I was recognized by Diana Vick as the Professor at the Mercury. The conversation we had that night directly‡ led to the creation of Steamcon.
‡Well, indirectly. It was definitely connected, though.