Gold Coast Red Dress Party - Harley Davidson Collins
Note: This article was published for the 6th Annual Red Dress Party in July, 2002.
In a tribute fit for a queen, men and women wore red dresses to the Sixth Annual Red Dress Party at the Gold Coast on July 14th. What began as a vow between two bartenders suffering from HIV has become an annual West Hollywood event.
Bob Hastings, owner of the Gold Coast, takes this time to remember his employees who initiated the event. "We had two bartenders who worked here, Mark Ferguson and Yves-Claude, they were both HIV(+) and had gone through many procedures in regard to their illness and were in and out of the hospital," he said. "They had made a pact that when the first one passed away, the other would go to their memorial wearing a red dress."
Mark Ferguson (pictured left) was the first to pass away from his complications of HIV.
"When Mark passed away Yves-Claude was out of town and was unable to attend his memorial service," Hastings said. "So when Yves returned I said we could have a party with everyone wearing a red dress."
Hasting said the turnout at the first red dress party was "phenomenal" and that the people who did not wear a red dress wore something red. "The bar was a sea of red," Hastings said.
Greg Woodell was Mark Ferguson's best friend.
"We had a limo with his friends wearing a red dress (10-14 of them) for the memorial," he said. "Mark wore a costume to work every Sunday, usually based on a current event ---- One time he did a Nancy Kerrigan with bandages and on Mother's Day one year he came to work dressed as a pregnant mother. People came to see what he'd be wearing."
Woodell said Mark would visit people suffering from HIV in the hospital dressed as a nurse in drag to lift their spirits.
"The bottom line is that this was Mark's way of poking fun at life," Woodell said. "He wanted people to laugh at themselves and life and helped a lot of people in doing that."
Yves-Claude died of HIV-related complications a couple of years after the first red dress party, but not before he was able to witness, first-hand, the pact he had made with his friend blossom into an annual event which regulars of the Gold Coast, West Hollywood residents and visitors alike, have grown to enjoy as a celebration of life.
Dennis La Brecque, manager of the Gold Coast, comments on the event:
"The Red Dress Party has evolved into having a life of it's own. I am sure he (Mark) would be so happy to see all these people in Red for many different reasons, but it's the spontaneous fun of it all that he would love the best. This has become one of the most anticipated events at the Gold Coast. People are eagerly looking forward to the Red Dress Party because it is an original, unique and special tribute with a guaranteed good time."
To view pictures of 2002's Red Dress party, click!