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December 21, 2014

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Since the very beginning, AFAN’s Black & White Party has been a can-do thing

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Arlene Richie

Jaymes Vaughan and James Davis of Chippendales at the Rio, who are competing in Season 21 of CBS’ “The Amazing Race,” don purple cuffs and collars on Spirit Day on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012, to combat bullying and support LGBT youth.

27th Annual AFAN Black & White Party

Fruitloop Drag Queens perform during the 27th Annual Aid for AIDS of Nevada Black & White Party at the Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas Saturday night, August 24, 2013. Launch slideshow »

The first Aid for AIDS of Nevada Black & White Party was a VIP affair, if the acronym were to stand for Very Important Pantry.

The price of admission at B&W No. 1, in the summer of 1987, was a can of food for the AFAN food shelter. Or, many cans. Or, no cans, if you forgot to bring a can but promised to come up with a can later.

The food was collected at the new apartment of Bill Oldfield and Darryl Thomas, who also hosted the party at their new apartment near Green Valley Parkway and Warm Springs Road. Upwards of 25 guests showed up, and enough food was collected to fill the back seats of a few cars driven by party attendees. The next day, volunteers drove to the AFAN offices and filled up the agency’s kitchen pantry.

The party was a smash, relatively speaking.

“Back then, AFAN, as an organization, was less than two years old, and the event was Darryl’s birthday,” says David Parks, who today is a Democratic state senator. “We said, ‘Let’s have a party and instead of bringing gifts, we’ll bring contributions for the AFAN food bank.' That’s how it all started.”

That house party has blossomed into one of the year’s largest and most entertaining charity events in Las Vegas. Last year, 2,500 to 3,000 showed up for the event at the Hard Rock Hotel pool. Since its infancy, the Black & White Party has proven upwardly mobile, spending a couple of years at an apartment complex clubhouse, then to Green Valley Athletic Club before taking over resort venues.

The Palms, Cosmopolitan and Hard Rock Hotel have all hosted Black & White parties over the years. The Hard Rock Hotel, which is donating the Joint for the 27th Annual Black & White Party on Saturday night, is again the site for this year’s fete, which begins at 8 p.m. and is $35 for entry (go to the AFAN website for information).

The event is hosted by ex-KLAS Channel 8 anchor and current affable sort Chris Saldana and KLUC 98.5-FM radio personality Lauren Michaels, with a boost from Chippendales stars Jaymes Vaughan and James Davis. Those two are gaining traction in entertainment mediums not requiring body oil, as their single with Tanzer, “Light Up the Skies,” has made an appearance on the Billboard Dance charts. The guys will perform the song Saturday.

26th Annual AFAN Black and White Party at Hard Rock Pool

Launch slideshow »

Also scheduled to appear are vocal impressionist Veronic DiCaire of Bally’s, the cast of “The D Word” at LVH (and if there is a Vegas show that needs support, it’s that one), scary-effective Britney Spears impressionist Derrick Barry of “Divas Las Vegas” at the Quad, the cast of Luxor's “Fantasy,” vocalist Maren Wade, Mark Shunock of “Rock of Ages” at Venetian (ask him about his brush with Michael Irvin the other night at the Palms), Recycled Percussion of the Quad Showroom, tiny twirlers the Skating Aratas from “V – The Ultimate Variety Show” at V Theater at Miracle Mile Shops, and acts from “Vegas! The Show” at Saxe Theater.

All this lineup needs is an appearance by Charo, who thundered through the crowd a couple of years ago and about incited a riot. Also scheduled are artists painting on-site, live musicians and performance artists (sleight-of-hand, sword swallowers and the like), performances by Nevada Ballet Theater dancers, and an appearance by longtime AFAN backers Penn & Teller.

The Saturday night party is bolstered by a companion event earlier in the day, a pool shindig at Breathe Pool at the Hard Rock that is 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (admission is $5 for locals). The official after-party is set for 1 a.m., spilling into what we’ll call “The Loop” of alternative clubs on Paradise Road just south of the Hard Rock. FreeZone and Piranha are the official hosts of that event. The capper is the Sunday brunch beginning at 11 a.m. at 35 Steaks + Martinis at Hard Rock Hotel, which is $45 per person.

AFAN is also benefiting from a 20-percent, per-reservation from the Hard Rock for any hotel room booked through the weekend on the AFAN website.

This stew or parties and donation packages represents the most adventurous set of events ever for an AFAN Black & White weekend. Organizers are hoping to raise $150,000 to $170,000.

That’s a lotta cans.

“The way it has grown, is impressive, certainly,” Parks says. “I am absolutely thrilled to see what it has become.”

Parks, who served as AFAN’s board of trustees president for 15 years and was a board member for 25, has attended every Black & White Party.

Almost.

“I have not missed one event except for when I was in Taiwan, in 2002,” Parks says. “I had a choice: Do I take the trip to Taiwan or go to the Black and White? I took the trip to Taiwan.”

Parks and current AFAN President Marek Bute say that 2009 was among the more memorable in the history of the event. That’s because it was nearly washed out. Heavy rains and winds led to a late change in venue, from the Hard Rock pool to the Joint.

“It was horribly windy,” says Bute, attending the Black & White Party for the first time that year. “But it was one of our best events. There was a great energy about moving it inside.”

As they’ve shown over the years, AFAN and its party can’t be stopped. Now, if someone can summon Charo …

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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