Henri David’s Halloween reigns supreme

Halloween — just like New Year’s Day — annually offers the citizens of Philadelphia every opportunity to dress as outrageously as they can, without folly or insult. LGBTQ Philly, in particular, should use the daytime and nighttime affairs of the holiday as a call to arms.

Where parading around or period-costuming — any costuming, really — are concerned, Henri David’s Halloween is the king. As of this weekend, the Pine Street jeweler and ballroom-party thrower has been jamming good the art of the Halloween Ball for 47 years. As always, David and his partner Paul Struck (along with team members who don’t know what the other is nailing down or hammering or sewing or knotting) will tinker with toweringly tall and richly elaborate costumes — furry, feathered, sequined, steel, wood, plastic and metal-laced — with the sort of secrecy given to military operations and “Star Wars” sequels.

“This is the 47th year of madness,” said David, who guaranteed he will be sporting three different costumes throughout the evening. “I need all the madness for the first look, to greet people. And my third outfit has to be outrageous but leave enough room on the stage for the contestants.”

Tickets for costumed partiers are $25 (or $60 for voyeurs), with tickets sold in advance at the store, 1329 Pine St., or at the door the night of the event, 9 p.m. Oct. 31 at Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel, 201 N. 17th St.

As always, David said the “crazies” will be out en masse at his soiree.

“I don’t know how they find me, but they find me, and every year they’re younger than the last crowd,” he said.

But this doesn’t mean David’s old-school followers will miss out on the thrills, spills, chills or smells of the Halloween holiday.

“It just happens to be that a third of the crowd is young — lots of art students — so I guess the right people tell the right other people. There are a million parties they can go to year-round now. I get the sense, though, that this is the one that matters.”

Beyond the usuals, however, David has added a crucial new costume category, one that “speaks to all of those damned Marvel movies that come out weekly”: a Best Comic-Book Character category.

“I’m seeing it more and more; they’re all representing their favorite heroes. People are really into it,” he said. “It’s not fair to put Spiderman next to your everyday pirate or princess.”

Don’t ask David, however, if any of his elaborate outfits will be geared toward the comics. He’s super enough as it is, he said.

“And funny enough without even trying,” he laughed. “Besides, I am not mimicking anyone, ever. I’m always just me and whatever comes out of my head.”

Then there is David’s “new big thrill” in his special celebrity guest judge: Philadelphia-based actor Carlease Burke. She’s been in more than 22 films, including “In Her Shoes,” “The Terminal,” “The Backup Plan” and “Get Shorty,” with television credits including “Key & Peele,” “The Closer,” “Days of Our Lives” and “The Young and the Restless,” as well as numerous commercials. Burke was nominated for the 2005 NAACP Theater Award for Best Actress and has performed her stand-up comedy routines across the country. In February, she will co-star in “Crowded” on NBC, alongside Stacy Keach, Patrick Warburton and Carrie Preston.

“Carlease is a talented, lovely human being I am thrilled to call a personal friend,” added David.

Columnist Stu Bykofsky, director of LGBT Affairs Nellie Fitzpatrick, Tess Tickle (Mr. Struck) and makeup artisan Jen Casale make up the remainder of the judging panel.

As for David, 47 years have neither slowed him nor blunted his bash.

“I’m 114 and I’ll do this until it’s no fun — fun being defined by how much the crowd likes looking at other people,” he said. “Look, I tell everyone, ‘You’re in Philadelphia. Look around.’ It is always amazing how much and how great everyone looks here. We don’t need New Orleans and New York. We have all that in Philly. And if you’re that lame and don’t think likewise, stay home.”