Since 1968, jewelry designer Henri David has been throwing the most talked-about Halloween party in Philadelphia — and one of the biggest in the country. The Henri David Ball now attracts over 3,000 guests annually, from casual party hoppers to professional costume designers.
Was the 1968 party called the Henri David Ball?
No. It’s odd. It’s never been called the Henri David Ball. People just started calling it that. And I couldn’t argue, because they kept coming. The first one was 300 of my best friends. I lost my shirt. But they all said, “We had a fabulous time, you have to do this again!”
When did you make it an annual event?
It was just so much fun, I kept going. I always loved costuming. I would spend months getting something ready, and there was nowhere to wear it. You go to some bar with cigarettes burning holes in your costume. So I thought, “Why don’t I rent a room?”
Have you ever taken a year off?
No. There were years it was close — years I didn’t have a penny.
How do you attract such enormous crowds without advertising?
Word of mouth is really the best thing. The Ball is about people who like to see costumes and be in costumes. And I treat the serious costume people the best way ever, because I give them a runway and two spotlights, and everybody has their moment.
Does it ever start to feel like a job?
It’s a lot of work, because I’m my own worst critic. I can’t skimp on anything. But that night, once the people start streaming in, I’m the happiest kid in the world. People call saying, “How will we find the ballroom?” Sweetheart, just follow the crowd.
What’s in a name?
“Halloween” is the name of Henri David’s jewelry store at 1329 Pine St. However, the shop does not have a Halloween theme; Mr. David simply named it for his favorite day of the year. Tickets for the Ball may be purchased there or at the party.