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White Party HIV/AIDS fundraiser evolves, moves Friday night to Miami Seaquarium

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

After 27 years, White Party — the granddaddy of HIV/AIDS fundraisers — is ready to evolve.

The big bash, centerpiece of a weeklong festival that draws thousands worldwide, moves Friday night from its longtime home, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, to Miami Seaquarium. Care Resource, the South Florida HIV/AIDS agency that benefits from White Party has dubbed this year’s event “Evolution.”

“We’re building something for the first time,” Care Resource Executive Director Rick Siclari said. “We have to be honest, we’re not against the backdrop of Vizcaya, which was so beautiful. You could dress the place up and nothing went wrong.”

Siclari said the new waterfront White Party “has amazing potential” and that attendees will be surprised when they see the new location.

“It isn’t anything you think of when you think of Miami Seaquarium,” he said. “We're going to be on the other side where you have a panoramic view of Miami. The production values will be just over the top. Nothing like folks have seen at any other parties.”

Last year, Miami-Dade County-owned Vizcaya told Care Resource that it would cost nearly $60,000 to rent the house and gardens for the 2011 party. The nonprofit balked, saying too much money would go to rent the locale and not enough to Care Resource, which provides medical care to people with HIV and/or AIDS.

Seaquarium, at 4400 Rickenbacker Causeway on Virginia Key, is charging Care Resource about $10,000. “We’re already starting out about 50 grand ahead,” Siclari said.

White Party Week profits provide 5 to 7 percent of Care Resource’s annual operating budget, more than $10 million, according to Siclari.

“This is our biggest chunk of unrestricted agency funds available to us,” Siclari said, adding that nearly all other grant money to Care Resource comes with stipulations on how the dollars can be spent.

White Party was created in 1985, co-founded by gay businessmen Frank Wager, Jorge Suarez, Michael Terenzio and others as a fundraiser and AIDS awareness event for Health Crisis Network, a fledgling Miami-Dade County service agency that eventually evolved into Care Resource, according to event historian Bill Mathisen.

The Thanksgiving weekend event quickly became the place to be for trendy gay men on the then-new international party “circuit.”

White Party’s move from Vizcaya marks the first time the event won’t be there, except for in 1992 when the gardens were wrecked by Hurricane Andrew and the fundraiser moved temporarily to The Biltmore in Coral Gables.

Also, Care Resource is shifting White Party from Saturday to Friday night.

“Yes, it’s risky, but our data tells us that whoever’s attending from out of town is here by Friday, Siclari said.

Half of the attendees are from out of town, the other half are local. Last year, about 8,000 men and women participated in White Party Week events.

“Everybody is still in search of the next different thing,” Siclari said. “It’s clear we have to keep this thing fresh and changing.”

Gay travel editor Ed Salvato says the change will be a good thing, but perhaps painful for the surviving founders of the Vizcaya event.

“There’s such an emotional element to it,” Salvato said. “Those guys lost friends. They partied their brains out to save brothers.”

But, he added, “after two iterations of this, people won’t even remember Vizcaya.”

South Beach promoter Chris Aguilar — born the year of the first White Party — looks forward to the move.

“A lot of people are not aware that the Seaquarium hosts a lot of really good events. It’s a good environment. It’s not the Beach. It’s not Brickell. It’s a completely different environment,” Aguilar said. “I attended a Kiwanis party there. It was beautiful. Amazing.”

Several animal-rights protesters have complained that the all-night party might keep Lolita the Killer Whale from getting a good night’s sleep.

Siclari assures that White Party will be acres away from where Lolita and other animals are kept.

“We are animal-rights activists in our own right,” he said. “We take care of people.”

More information

The 27th annual White Party Week benefiting Care Resource, South Florida’s largest HIV/AIDS service agency, runs Nov. 23-28.

For information about events and tickets, visit www.whiteparty.org.

Details about Women’s White Party events are at www.womenswhiteparty.com.


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ah yes...giving $10,000 to a serial abuser of marine mammals in order hold a fancy party makes you "animal rights activists." welcome to the era of obama the nobel peace prize-winning imperialist, everyone just gets to pass off blatant hypocrisy as rationalization.

For a group of people that should understand what it is like to battle for the rights of a minority you should not be helping to fund places like the Seaquarium.

And the issue is not about Lolita getting a good nights sleep, she does not sleep. It is about the damage done to the delicate ears of Orca and Dolphins alike. 'Acres away' can still do irreversible damage and even kill depending on the volume of music and the direction of speakers etc.

To call yourselves animal rights activists because you look after humans would imply you believe humans and animals have the same rights - therefore you should afford the animals of Seaquarium the same consideration as you would a hospital or senior home (EG). To not do this makes you no better than the corporations who exploit and ultimately kill these wonderful creatures!

Just a correction - the White Party was the brainchild of Frank Wager, Jorge Suarez and Michael Terenzio, three wonderful men.

Amigay, thank you. I've updated the story.


The fun part is to check the newspaper the next day and see how many drug overdoses there were for the night. Yeah, that's responsible.

The way the Miami Herald panders to Arthur Hertz,owner of the seaquarium (aka Seaprison),where Lolita the orca has been held for 41 years in a tiny tank doing humiliating tricks in unsanitary and cruel conditions is appalling.And now this....just when you thought it couldn't get any worse,they will be blasting loud music right next to these extremely sensitive animals and torturing them some more.The disgust I feel leaves me speechless.

These Social mis-fit, perverted Fruitcakes need to take their act to an island in the Bahamas.

It is sad to see the issue of Lolita and other cetaceans at the Seaquarium either misunderstood or not taken seriously. Cetaceans auditory systems are so sensitive that sounds have been known to kill them. This is not an issue of getting a good night sleep, this is an issue of her well being. Although I support to cause, the location of the event is beyond disappointing.

Genetic research indicates that HIV originated in west-central Africa during the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. AIDS was first recognized by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1981 and its cause, HIV, identified in the early 1980s. Antiretroviral treatment reduces both the mortality and the morbidity of HIV infection, but these drugs are expensive and routine access to antiretroviral medication is not available in all countries.

I would like to suggest a documentary - Breaking the Silence: Lifting the Stigma of HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia.


You can't call yourself animal activist if your party inside a seaquarium.

Several animal-rights protesters have complained that the all-night party might keep Lolita the Killer Whale from getting a good night’s sleep.

Siclari assures that White Party will be acres away from where Lolita and other animals are kept.

“We are animal-rights activists in our own right,” he said. “We take care of people.”

Keep Lolita from getting a good night's sleep? You really said that? Try reading about the two dolphins in Switzerland who just died because of a party. This is the reason people are objecting to this. Furthermore, considering the theme of the party, I would have thought that for a group that has faced such adversity getting to this point, they might have had a bit more compassion for those animals that are also misunderstood around the world!

'they partied their brains out to save brothers'...and what little left, if any, is used to put marine mammals under extreme duress. nice blow job, folks.

You need to go back to Vizcaya... Anywhere but a Seaquarium where you WILL be hurting the dolphins and Lolita.

"Several animal-rights protesters have complained that the all-night party might keep Lolita the Killer Whale from getting a good night’s sleep."

A GOOD NIGHT"S SLEEP!!! (EDUCATE YOURSELF... Is is not sleep that is a concern. Very disrespectful!)

Siclari assures that White Party will be acres away from where Lolita and other animals are kept.

(Acres away!!! Really? That is NOT true)

“We are animal-rights activists in our own right,” he said. “We take care of people.”

(You obviously have no regard for life other than your own...)

I gave several hundred dollars to gay rights organizations this year. I have regrets after reading this article. Next year, I'll give my money to groups that help animals instead. The flippancy of the comments about the animal's welfare show a lack of empathy. I'm always confounded when black people slam gay people, or gay people mock animal rights and so on... Seems like discrimination would make a group be more sensitive to another's plight. But I guess not.

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