What began as a vow between two bartenders suffering from HIV has become an annual West Hollywood event, which was joyfully celebrated last Sunday, July 19th, at West Hollywood’s popular bar Gold Coast. Bob Hastings, owner of the Gold Coast bar, fondly reminisced about his former employees and friends to the Los Angeles Beat.
Recalls Hastings, “We had two bartenders who worked here, Mark Ferguson and Yves-Claude. Both were HIV positive and had gone through many procedures in regard to their illness, as they were in and out of the hospital. They made a pact that when the first one passed away, the other would go to their memorial wearing a red dress.” Mark Ferguson was the first to pass away from HIV-related complications. Said Hastings: “When Mark passed away, Yves-Claude was out of town and unable to attend his memorial service. So when Yves returned, I said we could have a party with everyone wearing a red dress. The turnout at the first Red Dress Party was phenomenal. The bar was a sea of red!”
Greg Woodell also shared his cherished memories of his best friend, Mark Ferguson, for The Los Angeles Beat. Said Woodell, “Mark wore a costume to work every Sunday, usually based on a current event. One time he did a Nancy Kerrigan, complete with bandages. One year on Mother’s Day he came to work dressed as a pregnant mother. People came to see what he’d be wearing.” Woodell noted that Mark would visit people in the hospital who were suffering from HIV, dressed as a nurse in drag to try to lift their spirits; to make them laugh. Observed Woodell, “The bottom line was that this was Mark’s way of poking fun at life. He wanted people to laugh at themselves and life, and he helped a lot of people in doing that.”
Approximately two years after the first Red Dress Party, Yves-Claude also died of HIV-related complications. Notwithstanding, he was able to witness the pact that he had made with his friend blossom into an annual event which has now lasted almost two decades and has come to be a celebration of life and love, which was immensely enjoyed last Sunday by West Hollywood residents and visitors alike.
All photos by Lenny Trujillo