Anne Rice fans know what it means to celebrate Halloween in New Orleans

Ah, Halloween.  The pumpkins.  The fake blood.  The costumes!!!! The CANDY!

And then there are the vampires.

No vampire fan worth her wood at stake is not an admirer of Anne Rice and her treasury of written word.

Rice–beloved daughter, mother, icon, literary sweetheart of New Orleans–recently celebrated her birthday.  I will not share this lady’s age, but I can tell you that she was born October 4, 1941, in New Orleans. If you’d like to wish her a happy belated, you can like her  on Facebook and become one of her People of the Page. Her birth name, as many of you know, is Howard Allen Francis O’brien.

Anne will be celebrating the release of her newest Lestat book, Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis, on November 29.  (I’ll be posting my pre-debut book review soon!)

Photo courtesy of Penguin and Random House

If you’ve ever heard of the annual Anne Rice ball and wondered if you should attend, well, I am here to tell you.  DIS YOU GOTTA SEE!

We New Orleanians look forward every month to another reason to celebrate, and Halloween is only second to a little thing we like to call Fat Tuesday.

The most exquisite costumes to be found ANYWHERE  in New Orleans (and that is a ghostly spangled mouthful) are showcased during the gala event hosted by Anne Rice’s Vampire Lestat Fan Club and held every Friday on or just before Halloween.

Anne Rice Fan Club Gallery:
Chris Swearingen, wife Mary Dugas, and daughter Ari Swearingen.  Doesn’t Ari make an AMAZING Claudia?

This photo, along with so many beautiful photos of ARVLFC events through the years, was taken by Becky Plexco of Enigma Arts Photography.

“People started celebrating Halloween as adults in New Orleans because of Anne Rice and the ARVLFC Ball over 26 years ago,” shared ball volunteer Mary Dugas. “Now the whole world does it and doesn’t even know why….”

Costumer, seamstress, graphic artist, and my dear friend, Dugas has been attending the annual event since 1993. The annual ball features a different theme each year based on Mrs. Rice’s books. The 2015 theme was Gathering of the Ancients. Even though New Orleans featurs world-famous events like the House of Shock, Voodoo Music Fest, and Boo at the Zoo, the Travel Channel named the ARVLFC ball Number 2 of the Top 10 Vampire Destinations of 2013.

The first Anne Rice Ball in New Orleans I attended was in 2004. The event was magical!  Anne stopped after her speech and told me my costume was beautiful! Gown by Majestic Velvets, Clovis Carleton and Mary Dugas. Ever after that glistening 2004 night I have volunteered for the yearly event, post Hurricane Katrina and beyond.

Dionne Charlet - I attended my first Anne Rice Ball in 2014, and Anne stopped to admire my dress! October 2014.
Dionne Charlet – October 20o4.

Keeping up with all of the Halloween week events in New Orleans is anything but a Big Easy – haunted tours, haunted wax museums and mortuaries…you can even follow haunted APPs to thousands of locations in the city. This past Saturday, Crescent City residents and tourists experienced the most awesome Krewe of Boo parade…ever, and now it’s time for those last-minute costume additions we make ready before the annual Friday-before-Halloween must: the Anne Rice ball!

This year, the theme is “Midnight in the Savage Garden of Blood and Evil.”

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The event runs from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m.

Per Anne’s former personal assistant of 15 years, Sue Quiroz, “On Friday, October 28th The Midnight in the Savage Garden of Blood and Evil Ball begins with Skinz N Bonez spinning its magical drumming inviting everyone into the Republic. Lestat will introduce the next act which is Pandora Black who is releasing their new CD. Varna will rock your socks off and the fabulous DJ Seraph has a special guest he will introduce for your dancing pleasure.”

This is not your average Southern belle of a ball.  It’s a rock opera gone vintage via fangdom in the spirit of the Queen of the Damned.

Tickets can be purchased from ARVLFC.com or by clicking on this blue line.  If you’ve never been to the Republic New Orleans, you are in for a trick of a treat. Here is the view from the balcony at the Republic, this year’s G0th-tabulous venue.

I asked my dear friend Sue to elaborate on how the October 2016 theme was selected.

“I was emailing with Anne,” explained Quiroz. “I asked her opinion on what I should name the Ball. She gave me a couple ideas and we agreed on Midnight in the Garden of Blood and Evil…I just added the Savage since I had asked to use Savage Garden Ball a few years ago and she said no…so I got to use the Savage Garden this year. It is mentioned a lot in [the book] Prince Lestat.”

Though Anne will not be attending this year, she was in attendance the past 3 years. It was a joy to see how Anne could light up a venue! She is a true New Orleans lady, soft spoken yet commanding; petite and larger than life at the same time.

You can find me standing alongside my handsome Al – now my husband – top left in the feature photo of Anne with Nicolas, Lestat, and Armand of  Ancients and friends just before Al proposed to me onstage at the ball in 2013! Photo courtesy of Becky Plexco of Enigma Arts Photography.

I was forever dubbed “The Velvet Curtain” by original fan club member Ritchie Champagne for standing in my black velvet gown as one of Anne’s two volunteer bouncers. My Alton and I allowed fans through to sit with Anne by her assistant Beckett’s permission.

Here is a video of the 2013 Vampire Lestat Coronation Ball, including Anne’s address to her fans, beautiful music and costumes, and Al’s proposal to me!

This blogger was lucky enough to interview Anne for Where Y’at Magazine last October. You can follow this link to the article featuring specially-requested poetry by Anne as she describes New Orleans in her own words.

An Interview with Anne Rice

If you are aching to start your Halloween festivities early, you are welcomed to purchase a ticket to the celebration of the upcoming restoration of the Karstendiek Family tomb in historic Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. hosted by Save Our Cemeteries and Anne Rice’s Vampire Lestat Fan Club.

Per Quiroz, “Save Our Cemeteries is selling tickets to the after dusk second line tour of Lafayette Cemetery to help restore the ‘Lestat tomb.'”

Save Our Cemeteries elaborates. “The Karstendiek Family tomb is also known as the “Vampire Lestat Tomb” because of the inspiration famed author Anne Rice drew from the tomb’s unique attributes and its striking resemblance to the tomb featured in the movie adaptation of Interview with the Vampire. ”

“The fee is $50,” continued Sue, “and is tax deductible. Go to www.saveourcemeteries.org for tickets – it’s at 5:30pm till about 7:30. A second line will be performed by Skinz N Bonez along with three of their songs. There will be a cemetery tour and red wine will be served in complementary wine glass. And more…bring your camera!”

Sue met Anne during the Queen of the Damned book signing at the Garden District Book Store in New Orleans. During the 15 years Sue worked for Anne, she helped to organize events like the ball and even traveled with Anne to book signings and exotic locations.

In the video below by local photographer and author Deborah Burst, Sue talks about this year’s ball and cemetery tour during a very special “virtual tour” (okayed by Anne of course) of the Rice Family Tomb. As the video details, this is where Mrs. Rice’s husband, the talented poet and artist Stan Rice, and beloved 6-year-old daughter Michelle are buried.

Burst, is the author of several photo books including Hallowed Halls of Greater New Orleans, explains the details of the tomb and beautiful stained glass window inside.

In the above video, Mary Dugas discusses a way fans can help Louisiana flood victims.  The people affected by the flood have lost what they hold most dear in every way imaginable. Dugas realized a way to help was to gather lost items for those who costume for a living to put on Mardi Gras, Halloween, and other Louisiana events including the Louisiana Renaissance Festival.  If you’d like to donate costumes, sewing notions or machines, a monetary amount, you can go to Seaux Help on Facebook.

You can help support local businesses and the New Orleans economy by coming to the city for Halloween and attending any of our local venues, including the Thursday cemetery tour and the Friday night Midnight in the Savage Garden of Blood and Evil Ball.

Anne Rice with Karinia Draculina in 2015.  Photo by Melanie Paulina used with permission by Draculina.

“This is my third year going to the Anne Rice Ball,” said ball volunteer Karina Draculina. “It is a time to reconnect with old friends, embrace our vampire lore and culture, and visually feast on all the resplendent costumes. I am going as Claudia this year, and my friend Mary will be Madeleine, both characters from Interview With the Vampire. Come find us to say hi when you arrive at the Ball!”

Anne Rice has signed 15 copies of the official Midnight in the Savage Garden of Blood and Evil Ball poster. A lucky 13 of these are still available for $75 each by sending an email to Sue Quiroz at SueQuiroz@gmail.com.

Coming to the Ball? Look for Al and I at the gate!  We’ll be taking entry tickets this year. Once more, tickets to the 2016 Midnight in the Savage Garden of Good and Evil Ball can be purchased online at ARVLFC.com.

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