Flashback: Miami's First White Party, Circa 1985

October 31, 2013 | by julia ford-carther | Talk of the Town

miami white partyCyndi Lauper performs at the White Party at Villa Vizcaya (now Vizcaya Museum and Gardens) in November 2007. (photo: Jr. Davis/Photolink.net)

In the mid-’80s, Miami—like the rest of the world—struggled with a new health epidemic: HIV/AIDS. In 1985, prominent Miamians Frank Wager and Jorge Suarez felt compelled to do their part, and with support from AIDS organization Health Crisis Network, planned a fundraising event to raise awareness of a disease that was also affecting them on a personal level. Through grassroots efforts, Wager and Suarez welcomed 1,600 white-wearing guests to the enchanting Vizcaya Museum and Gardens on Sunday, December 1, for the inaugural White Party.

Since then, the charitable bash has attracted national attention, top talent, and celebrity attendees, from Ru Paul and Madonna to Calvin Klein and Cyndi Lauper—seen here at her 2007 performance. Now in its 29th year, the popular event is part of a larger weeklong fundraising effort, White Party Week; has given rise to sister parties across the country from Palm Springs, California, to New York City; and remains one of the most renowned events in the gay community, drawing angelically clad revelers from every corner of the world.

On Saturday, November 30, the White Party returns to Soho Studios in Wynwood for its second year at that venue, and top international DJ Offer Nissim will cater to the event’s increasingly younger demographic. “He’s a very big international DJ from Israel and is probably the DJ with the largest following that we’ve had at White Party,” says Joseph DePiro, public relations and marketing manager at Care Resource, the nonprofit behind White Party Week. “We generally see about 2,000 to 2,500 people attend the White Party, and this year we’re expecting probably twice as many.” With an estimated 11,000 attendees throughout the week, Care Resource expects to raise $500,000 to serve those affected by HIV/AIDS, as Wager and Suarez’s legacy lives on.

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