As clouds darted across the full moon, an odd assortment of characters slipped inside the ballroom at the Eastland Park Hotel in Portland. Who were these masked men and witchy women? Guests at the first-ever Ghoulwill Ball, of course, hosted Oct. 22 by Goodwill Industries of Northern New England.
The party attracted 200 costumed attendees and raised close to $10,000, all of which goes to support Goodwill’s job coaching programs for people with disabilities.
The local Goodwill affiliate borrowed the idea for the fundraiser from its sister organization in Austin, Texas, which has hosted a Ghoulwill Ball for the past four years.
In addition to giving people a pre-Halloween excuse to dress up, enjoy a few drinks and dance to the Bob Charest Band, the party highlighted Goodwill’s status as the local go-to costume shop.
“Halloween is our Christmas because a lot of people shop at our stores for Halloween and then they donate stuff,” Jane Driscoll, vice president of public affairs for Goodwill (who was dressed as a fortune teller), told me. “It’s a great way to connect shoppers with our mission.”
As usual, I was at the party with my notebook and camera in hand. But I had another duty that evening: Judging the merit of the night’s finery.
My fellow costume contest arbiters were party sponsors Matt Arbo, of Healey & Associates, (who was dressed as cowboy) and Jeff Lind, of Clark Insurance, (who was dressed as Napoleon Dynamite). Together we had the difficult task of deciding which of the guests would go home with $500 Visa gift cards for their creativity.
There was a lot to take in, and some of the guests had us seeing double.
For instance, there were two Cruella de Vil at the party. Peter Ficket assembled three black and white dresses to create a stunningly evil gown, and Gail DiBiase bought a coat at Goodwill and transformed it with a sinister zebra trim.
Everyone loves a baby, and both Michelle Fox and Sue Bennett donned pacifiers and bibs.
Since Portland is an eco-chic city, I wasn’t surprised to spot two Mother Natures at the ball. Terry Booth showed her green side with a Grecian-style dress and a blond wig, and earthy Kate Wagner wore a Goodwill dress covered in silk flowers (which was made by her friend Peter Ficket).
The party theme was Horror over Hollywood and many Tinseltown characters came out to play. Jean Harlow (a.k.a. Bev Freudenreick) was spotted, along with Sookie Stackhouse from “True Blood” (a.k.a. Mindy Heselton) and a zombie version of Audrey Hepburn (a.k.a. Jess Gilbert).
Rebecca Villar picked up a pattern at Goodwill that allowed her to alter a white wedding dress so she could play Christine to John Warwick’s Erik from “Phantom of the Opera.”
While Villar and Warwick were elegant in evening wear, Katie and John Lisnick went in the other direction to portray Maude and The Dude from “The Big Lebowski.” Katie wore a bathrobe and John wore a head-to-toe Goodwill outfit that featured a patterned sweater paired with printed pants.
Branden and Frankee Chapa found their cocktail outfits at Goodwill and, with help from the cardboard signs around their necks, came to the event as an out of work actor and actress.
Eventually the time came for me to step up to the mic and reveal the costume contest winners.
With the rowdy crowd shockingly quiet, I announced our pick for the category of Hollywood Knockout: Deb Fox, who was dressed as Julia Roberts from “Pretty Woman.” In the category of Best Group, we awarded the prize to Robert Barnes and Jennifer Libby-Barnes, who were dressed as life-sized Goodwill shopping totes. The Best Goodwill Find award went to Joel Marquis, who was wearing all Goodwill finds (with the exception of his wig and boots) in a clever “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” costume. The final award, for Best Overall, went to Tammie Keslake, who was dressed in a funky jelly fish costume she fashioned from a bodysuit and some scrap fabric, both of which she purchased at Goodwill.
In case you were wondering, I was dressed as “Frankenstein” author Mary Shelley. I carried the classic horror novel and wore a chocolate brown evening gown that has seen its fair share of parties in this town. And while I can’t say I purchased the dress at Goodwill, I can tell you that you’re likely to spot the gown on one of the retailer’s racks in the near future.
Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: