What to expect at this year’s Black & White Party

Melody Sweets of “Absinthe” and Mark Shunock of “Mondays Dark.”
Photo: Jon Estrada

In 1986, Darryl Thomas and Trip Oldfield decided to throw a dinner party celebrating the former’s birthday at their Henderson apartment, but in lieu of gifts, attendees would bring canned food for those impoverished from their fight with HIV/AIDS. It was dubbed the Generic Black & White Party, inspired by the characterless and colorless labels of store-brand canned food back then.

Thirty years later, Thomas and Oldfield will be honored with 12 other longtime AFAN supporters with the “Right to Wear Red” at the not-so-generic Black & White Party, its name now more reflective of the exclusive black-and-white—but hardly black-tie—dress code.

The affair, more of stand-and-socialize shindig than a sit-and-watch fundraiser, returns to the Strip this Saturday. It will feature noshables from 10 different Aria eateries (including Sage, Bardot Brasserie and Carbone), top-shelf adult beverages, performances from shows like Baz and Human Nature, celebrity appearances and a silent auction. Mark Shunock (Mondays Dark) and Jim McCoy (aka Auntie Norma Layman) host the event, and all proceeds benefit the HIV/AIDS community AFAN serves in Southern Nevada.

Despite the noteworthy legacy and evolution of Black & White, one might wish for the day when we no longer need it. But should a cure for HIV/AIDS emerge, there will be an even greater reason for festivity.

“One day, I want this to be a party of celebration of the disease no longer being here,” says AFAN’s Garrett Pattiani. “I always hope the Black & White party goes on.”

30th Anniversary Black & White Party August 20, 8 p.m., $50. Aria, afanlv.org.

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