Butterflies dined al fresco with a skeleton. Cruella De Vil posed for photos with two hot dogs — neither those dogs nor actual canines harmed in her presence. A cow, a deer and several cats roamed freely. And at every turn there were goblins, gargoyles, headstones, cobwebs and a zombie or two, illuminated by eerie lighting or obscured by fog effects.
Such was the scene on the grounds of the Television Academy's plaza and Saban Media Center at its NoHo Arts District headquarters on October 30, when members gathered for the Academy's Halloween-themed Spooky Soirée. With the emphasis on treats rather than tricks, attendees feasted on Mexican, Mediterranean and other cuisine; selections included caramelized onion grilled cheese "RIP"-inscribed tombstone sandwich bites; meatloaf cupcakes with an "eyeball" mashed potato topping; and oversized syringes filled with "blood;" i.e., a pudding-like red velvet milk chocolate budino.
Guests could also sample a makeup menu at stations where makeup artists applied realistic-looking gashes, slashes and stitches; elsewhere, a photo booth provided a choice of backgrounds featuring dripping blood, bats and the Grim Reaper.
While in 2019 the Academy had presented a panel on television horror followed by a frightfully fun reception, the soirée was the first-ever Halloween party for members. With costumes suggested but not required, a definite hit was the ensemble fashioned by Keiren Fisher, (former Production Executives peer group governor), who channeled The Birds star Tippi Hedren as Melanie Daniels. Sporting a wig bedecked with life-sized prop ravens and a vintage coat plastered with feathers, she was approached regularly by partygoers requesting photos.
"I'm a real fan of the Academy, so I try to come to as many events as I can," Fisher said. "A lot of our folks said they were going to come, and they were going to dress up, so of course I felt like I needed to, as well."
Fisher's friend, Kat Murphy (Costume Design & Supervision), carried off a Frankenstein theme. "Every day is Halloween in costumes!" she pointed out. "This is the second Academy event I've been to — I'm a new member this year. And I want to come to as many as possible. This one's great. I'm having fun."
Wings were also involved — sort of — in Danny Arroyo's (Performers) costume: he portrayed Nightwing, the identity chosen by former Batman sidekick Robin when he moved up to superhero status. "I've always wanted to play Nightwing, in movies and TV, and I'm manifesting him right now," Arroyo said, shifting his weapon sticks to take the red velvet-filled syringe offered by a passing caterer. "I'm here to see people I hadn't seen in a long time," he added. "The Academy really went all out. It's a very spooky event, and the food is delicious."
Cindy Chao (Art Directors/Set Decorators), a production design Emmy nominee this year and last for A Black Lady Sketch Show, had just received a gash on her neck from makeup artist and prosthetics fabricator Chelsea Breeze. "I recently joined the Academy, and I love Halloween," she said. "I couldn't say no to coming to a Spooky Soirée. I didn't know anyone coming here, and it was great to have conversations with other new members."
Bella Cruz (Performers) and Alex Rozenblat (Television Executives) had not known each other prior to meeting in the check-in line, but they had already formed a bond — she emphasizing his creativity in dealmaking and he offering her support during a current professional hurdle.
"This is the career path and trajectory of a performer — there's no infrastructure for this. I'm on my own little journey, and there are bumps and bruises along the way," Cruz said. "And sometimes it's really great to be around people who can encourage you and inspire you. I was so fortunate to be standing behind such a person in line, who encouraged me. That makes a huge difference."
"She'll be a shining star at the end of this," Rozenblat said; for his part, as a longtime member, he attends events to meet new people and reconnect with others. "I really like the energy here. It's always been wonderful."
On the other hand, Chelsea "Cheech" Miele (Casting Directors) and Andrew Ward (Reality Programming) were good friends, coordinating their costumes as the aforementioned hot dogs and happily striking poses for the admiring members who wanted their photo. Still, maintaining positive self-views and affirming their places in the industry — both were small-town dwellers who dreamed big and made it to Hollywood — were on their minds this evening, along with, as Ward said, meeting people from various other walks of industry life.
"I love being surrounded by creatives, by people with a passion, who are part of making magic. I think it's important that we remember to leave room for that magic to happen to ourselves," Miele said. "To be surrounded by that in such a dark time, with the strikes or the world in general, where people can talk about what they're working on or their passion projects, is really inspiring. It's refreshing — even though I'm dressed up as a hot dog."
Catering for the Spooky Soirée was provided by Savore Cuisine and Events. Décor: Progressive Events. Lighting: Fourth Dimension Events. Makeup stations: Autonomous FX. Photo booth: Hollywood Photo Booth.