Any Excuse for a Party!

updated 11/20/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/20/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

Talk about raise-the-dead parties: More than 6,000 witches, warlocks and weirdos got a three-day jump on Halloween by jamming into author Anne Rice's 19th-century New Orleans mansion for the Memnoch Ball/Coven Party '95, a monster mash inspired by her latest spooker, Memnoch the Devil. Rice (right) held court with Kirsten Dunst, who played the kiddie bloodsucker in the film of Rice's Interview with the Vampire, while her ghoulish groupies (far right) enjoyed psychics, live bands and finger foods (not real fingers). "I love this," Rice told guests. "I'm so glad you all came." Didn't Dracula used to say that?

Gun lovers had a three-day blast in July at the ninth annual Charlton Heston Celebrity Shoot in Irvine, Calif., where Beverly Hills, 90210's Ian Ziering and date Nikki Schieler (left) joined 450 others for some friendly shooting. Ziering's team lost the handgun competition to a squad featuring actor Richard Roundtree (below), before Second Amendment buffs like Paul Sorvino, Tom Selleck and event chairman Joe Mantegna kicked back with 12-ounce steaks, skewered shrimp and ice cream. Luckily, no neighbors complained about the noise.

High doorways were a must at this wigged-out Houston fund-raiser. Some 450 guests paid $100 a head on May 6 to compare creative coiffures, among them the two-foot-tall, crystal-draped chandelier worn by dress-shop owner Sharon Weiss. Art patron Diane Marks (far right) went with a yard-high, faux-hair wedding cake, complete with tulle tufting and tiny bride and groom. "It weighs a ton," she said. "Balancing it is tough."

Rounding up the right guests can be ruff, but caterer Sean Driscoll, co-owner of Glorious Food, unleashed the ideal mix of 60 people and 30 dogs at a May 9 Manhattan benefit for the Humane Society of New York. "This is the first time I've thrown a party for four-legged animals," said Driscoll. "Often for two-legged animals, but never four." Well-groomed dachshunds, spaniels and terriers enjoyed waiter service and gourmet treats (above), including cookies shaped like cats and mailmen. "They eat all their dinner and go home early," observed one human. "They're the perfect guests." Except, of course, for any party poopers.

Take gallons of soap, mix with water, then add 600 bodies—and you have a foam party at the Amnesia nightclub in Miami's South Beach. Every Thursday (like this one in October) hipsters get hip-deep in gallons of suds dumped on the dance floor from an overhead chute. "It's outrageous!" said one celebrant, badly in need of a rinse cycle. Ah, good, clean fun.

Most kids get a hat, some balloons and maybe a clown. Not Chase Lanting of Palm Beach, Fla. For his 6th-birthday party on Oct. 22, his parents staged a full-fledged military maneuver. "My parties have never been cake and ice cream for 10 kids," said his mom, Robin, 33. "They've always been a big deal." For this one she recruited six Florida Army National Guardsmen who, in fatigues and face paint, pulled up in real Humvees and staged a mock hostage rescue of Chase and his dad, Bill, 34, a property buyer for a hotel chain. Three uniformed barbers offered crew cuts to any of the 63 children who, like Chase (top left and top right), weren't too shy to get shorn, while Chase's gal pals got to play nurse (top center). Waiters in sailor suits served Army chow like chipped beef, but a planned helicopter raid was nixed by Palm Beach police. The highlight—or lowlight—came when Guardsmen gave Chase a replica of the Purple Heart medal (right), a stunt that drew hostile fire from critics. More fallout from the siege: The Florida National Guard is investigating its participation, though Robin says, "These men were great role models for those kids." She also insists her elder child is no army brat: "He's very happy and well-adjusted. He has a sincere appreciation for uniformed personnel." Next up: Aladdin-themed extravaganza for Chase's brother Parker, who'll turn 4 in January. Anyone know where to buy a flying carpet?

It's the Super Bowl of merriment, and February's Mardi Gras in New Orleans was the wildest ever: 11 days, 22 parades, a record 2,318 tons of garbage. Hometown boy John Larroquette (top left) donned a gold brocade outfit for the Krewe of Bacchus parade, a four-hour spectacle. "I feel like I could slay a few dragons in this thing," he said. Calvert DeForest, formerly Larry "Bud" Melman (top right), lobbed beads from his Krewe of Orpheus float, where he remarked, "I'm afraid of heights. I just hope I don't fall off." On firmer ground was Delta Burke (above), who with husband Gerald McRaney (right) strolled into the Convention Center for the postparade ball. "There is nothing like Mardi Gras," said McRaney, unperturbed by swarming crowds and a shooting incident. "I feel safer here than in L.A."

Aaaaaaaaand they're off! Not the horses, but the trendsetters who every year turn the Run for the Roses into a Dash for the Drinks. The 121st Derby was no different, attracting a strong field of celebrities to several mint-julep-drenched pre-race affairs. One of the ritziest was the May 5 Barnstable Brown party (which benefited the American Diabetes Association), held at the swank Louisville home of socialite Patricia Barnstable Brown and her husband, David. More than 500 guests ponied up $400 each to mingle with filly fanatics John Goodman (who duetted with Roger Clinton), Dennis Hopper (a regular) and Joan Rivers (top right), who showed up with her dog Spike. Loni Anderson (center), in keeping with the Babes in Toy I and theme, hung out with Thomas the Tank Engine and a trainload of dolls, while All My Children's Susan Lucci (below) drew stares and salutes as she sauntered up to the starting gate.

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