Philadelphia's most famous Halloween party brings a message of acceptance

"I'm gonna give a party, that's open to everyone," he said of his original idea 54 years ago.

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Friday, October 28, 2022
Philadelphia's famous Halloween party brings message of acceptance
Henri David's parties started as a safe space for members of the LGBT community.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- "We're surrounded by ideas," said Henri David of the mixture of antiques, fine jewelry and custom-created pieces in his shop, which is a magnet for Philadelphia regulars and celebrities alike.

"Stevie Nicks, Elton John, Dick Clark, Duran Duran...the Rolling Stones have been in here," said David reluctantly naming some of his celebrity clients.

The thousands of pieces in his shop aren't costume jewelry, but they're perhaps the inspiration for creative costumes, especially considering the jewelry store's name.

"The shop is called Halloween and has been for many, many years," he said.

The name was an obvious choice for David, since Halloween is his favorite holiday. It's also one he's become locally famous for hosting his legendary Halloween parties since 1968.

"I'm gonna give a party, that's open to everyone," he said of his original idea 54 years ago.

It started as a safe space for members of the LGBT community.

"People in the know said 'if this guy's giving a party, it's probably gonna be ok,'" said David.

The event has now become the major party for all in Philadelphia on Halloween thrown by a single person.

"It's the longest-running party of its size of its kind anywhere in the world as far as we know," said David who doesn't take any shortcuts on the setup.

"I'm giving you a runway, a spotlight, everybody gets their moment," he said.

David is known for his elaborate costumes and costume changes. He does a minimum of four outfits at the party.

"One year I did 13," he said. "Never again."

In the past, the party has drawn crowds that reached more than 1,000 people. It includes a costume contest with a variety of categories.

"I appeal to straight and gay always," said David of making sure the event is inclusive of everyone.

They all receive the same message from the party.

"A chance to be accepted. Be appreciated I should say," said David.

This year's event is at 9 p.m. Sunday, October 30 at the Sheraton City Center. Tickets are sold at the door with the same tricky ticket pricing for which the party is known.

"(Admission is) $25 if you're wearing a costume, $75 if you're not."

In other words, wear a costume. David said, if you don't have any ideas, start with your own closet. Something in there could give you inspiration. Also when it comes to a good costume, start from the bottom and work your way up-literally.

"Start with the shoes," he said. "You want to be comfortable."

It's a somewhat contradictory piece of advice, since David has been known to wear seven-inch heels as part of his costume! That's just one reason why he's the King of Halloween, and he's happy to have created a space where everyone can celebrate.

"It's the most fun you can have with your clothes on," he smirked. "How's that?"