AFAN Black & White Party Lights Up The Joint Once More


Epic fundraiser returns to Hard Rock Hotel this summer…

A lot of party-goers will be pleased to know that AFAN Black & White Party is back to its old stomping grounds for 2019. Last year’s move to Daylight Beach Club at Mandalay Bay probably wasn’t the success that organizers had hoped for. Attendance seemed to be lacking over previous installments and the overpowering heat did nothing to encourage attendees to stick around. Plus, it was a freaking marathon hike to the venue.

Guests fill The Joint for Black & White Party

The Joint concert venue at Hard Rock Hotel, along with a neighboring ballroom space, is perfectly tailored for the combination party/convention/performance/fundraiser event that everyone has come to know and love. There is ample free parking via two garages, providing easy in-and-out for those wearing elaborate costumes. And mercifully, it’s air conditioned!

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AFAN stands for Aid for AIDS of Nevada, the oldest and largest AIDS service organization in the state. Founded in 1984, the organization provides direct client service programs, food programs, prevention and education programs and community outreach. Their mission is to do so while promoting dignity and improving the quality of life of the individuals they serve. 100% of the proceeds from this event stay in Southern Nevada.

Guests don their best black and white, Credit_ Te Ann Lakeotes

The Black & White Party, now in its 33rd year, encourages attire in just those two colors, wearing as much as you want or as little as you dare. Expect outrageous fashions, group ensembles and themes galore. The 21+ gathering is decidedly “adult” in nature, so much of the live entertainment will skew in that direction.

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Emcees Greg Chase and Norma Llyaman have great energy together and are loved by the Vegas LGBTQ community. Announced performers include the casts of both Chippendales and Magic Mike Live, Australian quartet Human Nature, Westgate’s SEXXY, Rio’s WOW – World of Wonder, Little Miss Nasty, Tenors of Rock, Legends in Concert and Celestia. Longtime AFAN supporters Penn and Teller will be on hand as well.

General admission ($35) begins at 9pm on Saturday August 10th. Food will be provided by Pink Taco, Oyster Bar, BonaBatiste, Caked Cupcakes, Dunkin’ Donuts and The Hard Rock Pastry Department. Refreshments of the liquid variety will be poured by Tito’s Vodka, Ambros Banana Whiskey, Malibu, Beefeater, Altos Tequila, and The Long Drink Gin.

Strip entertainers perform at Black & White Party

VIP ticket-holders ($85) will be admitted one hour earlier and gain access to a reception of intimate entertainment, two drink tickets, champagne toast by Moet & Chandon, a complimentary souvenir photo by Most Organic Productions, and “VIP-only” bar access. Extra perks include photo ops and interactive décor from ByDzign, LV Photo, and Balloons with a Twist.

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The dance floor should be a swirl of black and white bliss thanks to the music of DJ Axis. Nearby Piranha Nightclub will host the official post-event festivities. And don’t worry about partying too hard. LYFT rideshare service has offered discount round trips to attendees by using promo code “BWPARTY19”, good for 15 percent off two Lux Black Rides.

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33rd annual Black & White Party will take place inside The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel Casino Saturday, Aug. 10 from 8pm to 1am. Tickets start at $35 and can be purchased at afanlv.org.

Photos: AFAN, Piranha Nightclub via Facebook

 

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Alex O’Connor – Sin City Superman


Getting to know the hardest-working bartender in Las Vegas…

Much like the beacon atop the Luxor, the lights and excitement of Las Vegas are known to draw the ambitious and hopeful. There are limitless opportunities for a person with skill, drive, and personality to make a name for themselves. That’s what brought mixologist Alex O’Connor here four years ago. And this Sin City Superman has never slowed down.

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I first met Alex O’Connor three summers ago under the misters at O’Shea’s Casino outdoor bar. Despite the stifling heat, the handsome bodybuilder was all smiles and charisma, serving out cold beers with a healthy dose of anecdotes and advice for Vegas newbies. It was his multi-tasking abilities and respectful attitude toward the customers that made me sit up and take note…not that a six-foot-three behemoth is likely to go unnoticed.

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Jump ahead to last winter, and I spot Alex behind the bar at Share, a now-shuttered gay nightclub on Wynn Road. Clad only in boxer briefs and a smile (sigh….), he was once more gathering crowds while serving drinks in a fast-and-furious fashion. That’s exactly what makes Alex O’Connor the happiest – heightening the customer’s experience however possible.

Alex O'Connor

It turns out that Alex works in LOTS of places on and around the Strip. In addition to O’Shea’s, he’s been on the payroll for Drai’s Beachclub /Nightclub, the Center Bar at Hard Rock HotelJewel Nightclub at Aria Resort, the pool bar at Treasure Island and private functions on the side.

With a schedule like that, it’s difficult to imagine how anyone could get proper sleep, let alone keep up a physique like his.

“During the week I try for at least 3-4 hours.  On the weekends, I’m lucky to get an hour nap here or there between doubles.  I pretty much plan my days around my work schedules and going to the gym as well. I love to put my headphones on and hit the LVAC. My size is dictated by my work schedule. If I have leftover time, rarely, I leave it for errands”.

When I asked Alex how he got to be so disciplined, he told me it was self-taught. Family difficulties motivated him to move out on his own while he was a junior in high school. He worked full time and supported himself in his North Haven Connecticut hometown while still going to high school. But he’d already been working at a country club since the age of thirteen, a job he kept and expanded on for several years.

Alex O'Connor

Alex’s first experiences behind the bar were as a bar-back, helping keep things stocked and neat. Eventually, he became a full-fledged bartender and attributes his organizational skills as a secret to fast service. He likes to arrive far in advance of a shift, making sure everything is “just right” and where he wants it.

Alex says that some bars are much more stringent than others when it comes to monitoring the less-significant health code requirements, like the positioning of the ice scoop or keeping a bottle opener in the back pocket. While he recognized the importance of health department regulations, some are harder to adjust to…and it tends to be the minor ones that slow down his ability to keep the drinks flowing:

“We’re charging premium prices in the places I work. The customers deserve premium service to go along with it. It’s my job to give them what they want with a minimum of wait time…so they can get back to having fun”.

Nobody wants to give or receive slow service but think back to the number of times you’ve stood at the bar, seemingly ignored and passed over time and time again. Sure, it happens inadvertently, but Alex has some tips:

“Having your order and money ready will get the quickest service.  Especially in the high volume venues, this is imperative. I like to make what the customer will enjoy.  If they don’t know, I ask what spirit they enjoy and go from there. Generous tipping doesn’t hurt, either”.

Lightning-fast service is what got Alex hired for his first gig at Hard Rock Hotel’s infamous Rehab Pool Parties. He sent in an audition video of himself, rapidly slinging drinks during a peak period, to Rehab’s manager. One fortuitous plane flight later and O’Connor was trading a longtime gig in New Haven for the Las Vegas party scene. He enjoys working at all types of establishments, including LGBTQ clubs like Gotham Citi in New Haven and the former Krave of Vegas.

“I’ve worked in gay clubs for over ten years. I love the busy seasons, whether it be the holidays or convention time.  The busier the better”.

Alex O'Connor

With his name currently on at least three payrolls, Alex doesn’t get back home to Connecticut very often. But when he does, he picks up shifts at his old stomping grounds in New Haven. He literally works seven days a week, 365 days a year, making this young man the hardest-working bartender in Las Vegas. He clearly loves what he does and refuses to slow his pace.

When asked what form of Kryptonite can bring down this Sin City Superman, Alex quipped “Stealing my protein bars will ruin my day.”

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This article previously appeared in a different form on another website.

Photos: Sammasseur, Alex O’Connor